Get Your Vitamins at the Battle of the Oranges Ivrea Italy!
Winter in Italy means citrus. It is one of the best times of year to take a break from your Italian sightseeing and have a delicious, tangy, freshly squeezed, glass of orange juice. (A Tour Italy now tip – ask for a Spremuta when you visit the bar)
The Annual Battle of the Oranges is another way the Northern Italian town of Ivrea, located near the chocolate capital of Turin, consumes the winter citrus bounty. This historic event, dating back to medieval times takes place during the Carnival period. Carnevale happens all over Italy, not just the very well known celebrations that occur in Venice, with major celebrations happening forty days before Lent.
The history of this exciting event dates back to 1194 and is a little murky. The most popularly held belief holds that the Conte Rainieri di Biandrate, who was the town of Ivrea’s ruling count, made a decree that was named “the right of the first night” granting him the right to sleep with every new bride in the town. Violetta was the daughter of a local miller and when her night with the count arrived, she had a different plan in mind. She refused to honor the decree and instead chopped off the Count’s head with a sharp dagger. Violettas’s bold action sparked a revolution by the citizens of Ivrea who fought their oppressors by throwing stones and winning their liberation.
Now this battle for liberty for the townspeople of Ivrea is fought each year with oranges in place of the stones. The oranges of the Ivrea battles represent the head of the marquis. A young woman is chosen to represent Violetta. Dressed in white, she is called “mugnaia”, meaning “miller” and tours the city, throwing flowers and candy to the crowd.
With roughly 3,000 participants, the battle is fought between groups of men on foot called the Arancieri a Piede, who represent the people of Ivrea revolting against the tyrant count. They are divided into the following nine teams and represent five main Piazzas in the town.
I Diavoli (the Devils) This is one of the most famous of the teams, and they wear a red tunic and a yellow scarf.
Aranceri Morte (Death) This group comes from the San Grato neighborhood and wears a black tunic with red pants.
Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades) Made up of players from the Ivrea football club and wear a red and blue uniform featuring the ace of spades emblem.
Scacchi (Chess Piece) taking their name from the original orange-throwers who were 16 in number, like the number of pieces on one side of a chess board. They wear a black and white checked tunic with an orange scarf.
Scorpione d’Arduini (Name of an old King) This teams wears a yellow tunic with a scorpion on the back.
Mercenari (Mercenaries) symbolized by a five pointed star, this team wears blue jeans and a patterned scarf.
I Credendari Aranceri (the Believers) the most recent team to be founded and wear yellow and blue.
Pantere Nera (Black Panthers) The last team to participate, this group wears blcak with a yellow striped scarf.
I Tuchini del Borghetto (Crow) Tucchini is a word from Piedmonte dialect meaning all united and this group takes as its symbol a crow. They wear red and green.
The Arancieri a Piede, battle the Aranceri da Getto, who represent the aristocracy. There are forty different teams of citizens of Ivrea, wearing pads and with their faces covered by masks or helmets and who ride aboard decorated horse drawn carriages.
Another very important element of the festivities is the Phrygian cap, Berretto Frigio in Italian. Dating from ancient Roman times and an important symbol of the French revolution, this long red stocking hat is now worn to symbolize freedom from tyranny and the pursuit of liberty. It is worn by participants who are not throwing any oranges and therefore no one will throw oranges at you.
On the last night of Carnival (Martedi Grasso) there are bonfires in each of the neighborhoods and a final gathering in the Piazza Ottinetti where people say farewell until the next yaer with the traditional Piedmonte saying “arvedse a giòbia a’n bòt” (good-bye till Thursday at one)
The event ends on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, with the cooking of a traditional dish of Polenta and cod (Polenta e merluzzo) served in the Piazza Lamarmora.
Another very important tip from the team at Tour Italy Now. Don’t want to get pelted by oranges and covered in sticky juice? There are viewing spots around town where nets are set up to watch the action in relative safety. and make sure you have that red hat.
Want to get an idea of the festivities? This video of the Ivrea Orange Festival from a few years ago, is a good start.