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The Battle of the Oranges 2013: Italy’s Biggest Food Fight

Get ready for the Battle of the Oranges 2013! Italy’s largest food fight is a colorful, messy, historic, entertaining festival that takes in the days leading up to Fat Tuesday in the medieval town of Ivrea in the Piedmont region, in February each year. (This is the headquarters of Olivetti, the typewriter manufacturer.) What exactly happens during the Battle of the Oranges? It’s actually quite structured, organized chaos if you will. Nine teams, some representing rebels and others representing authority figures, throw oranges at each other with violent ferocity.

The history of the Battle of the Oranges is rather racy and violent and is also loaded with class and gender symbolism. Legend has it that the festival goes back as far as the 12th or 13th century and commemorates the rebellion of a fair commoner, a miller’s daughter, who decapitated a local tyrant after he attempted to rape her on the eve of her wedding. The village stormed and burned the tyrant’s residence, in celebrating of its liberation. Every year, a young girl from the region is chosen to play the part of the commoner, who has come to go by the name Violetta. (Fortunately, whoever plays Violetta is protected from the worst of the orange crossfire!)

Participants once threw beans, and then used apples and finally, late 19th century, began using oranges. Some say the projectiles symbolize the tyrant’s head. It’s impossible to sort out the myth. One fact we can confirm: Some years, the battling teams go through over 500,000 pounds of oranges.

The Battle of the Oranges is one of those Italian festivals that figures on many people’s Italy bucket lists. Tourists do not get to participate in the actual fighting but they can align themselves with one of the nine teams. At the end of the three-day battle, there’s a funeral procession. There’s even a T-shirt that reads “I Survived la Battaglia delle Arance.” Several years ago, Saks was selling a Prada handbag commemorating the Battle of the Oranges for the princely price of $1,750. (Apparently, they sold out of the handbag, it’s no longer available.)

Please let us know if you are attending the Battle of the Oranges 2013!

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By Priscila (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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