Carnevale di Ivrea: The Battle of the Oranges
March 2 - 4, 2014
It’s a familiar story: commoners rise up against an oppressive ruler. At the Carnevale di Ivrea, however, the battle isn’t waged with guns and swords—oranges are the weapon of choice. Every year, the tiny northern city of Ivrea in the Turin province stockpiles 500,000 kilograms of fresh oranges for Battaglia delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges), a re-creation of a historic fight between townsfolk and a ruling tyrant. Teams wage a full-on fruit war, and not even a red-capped declaration of sovereignty can protect you from getting juiced.
Legend says that some time between the 12th and 13th centuries, Ivrea’s lord attempted to rape the daughter of a miller on the eve of her wedding, exercising his droit du seigneur (right of the lord) to take the virginity of his serfs’ daughters. In a twist of fate, the plan backfired, and the rebellious young woman decapitated him. With one brave strike of her sword, she set the town free from his oppression. The townspeople battled against the lord’s henchmen, who were elevated in horse-drawn carts while they were on ground level.
Today, this struggle between the classes is represented by “the lord’s followers” in carts wearing jesters’ outfits, and “commoners” on their feet in sporting uniforms. The miller’s daughter, Violetta, is represented by a woman dressed in white and a crimson-red headdress, who throws yellow flowers and candies to her admirers. The oranges represent the tyrannical lord’s head, but for centuries it was a “battle of the beans.” The modern festival evolved from the way flirty local girls dropped oranges from a balcony to get the attention of boys they were interested in; if the feeling was mutual, the boys would reply with an orange of their own.