Had enough of Mardi Gras already? Too many plastic beads stuck at the bottom of a kitchen drawer? Time to look for another spring festival then. If you happen to be taking a trip anywhere near Piedmont region of Italy next spring the Battle of the Oranges is well worth checking out.
Once a year the usually reserved people of the Piedmont town of Ivrea go a little bit crazy. As the culmination of a week of Carnival the locals spend a day engaged in an all out war in which oranges are the weapon of choice.
The “aranceri” – orange throwers – number at least 6,000 every year ranging in age from six or seven to men and women in their seventies who have been competing since they were children themselves. The aranceri wear a variety of brightly colored costumes complete with masks and are divided into nine teams. Some teams compete on foot while others launch their missiles from horse drawn carts. By the end of the battle the streets of Ivrea are a pulpy, sodden mess and there are always at least a few minor injuries to the combatants.
The “Battle of the Oranges” dates back to the Middle Ages, but its exact origin is not quite known. One explanation offered is that it mimics the days when angry serfs threw beans at their masters in the streets. The other, far more dramatic but popular explanation involves Violetta, a beautiful miller’s daughter, who by feudal law, would be forced to spend her wedding night with the local marquis before joining her new husband. The story goes that to save her honor for her fiancée she beheaded the marquis and set off a huge class riot in the streets of Ivrea, which is what the fruit battle commemorates.
Whatever the true beginnings of the “Battle of the Oranges” really were, the locals participate with great humor and gusto. Bystanders are encouraged to wear a red hat to indicate that they are not active fruit bearing warriors, but with hundreds of them flying around its pretty difficult to avoid an orange juice bath altogether.
Images Via Semantico's Photostream