The town of Ivrea, in the Piedmont region, has a unique carnival celebration with medieval roots. The carnival includes a colorful parade followed by orange-throwing battles in the center of town. The carts are presented with a parade through town about a month prior to Carnival. The orange battles take place on Sunday through the Tuesday of Carnival.
The tradition of throwing oranges has its roots in the mid 1800s. Even earlier, in Medieval times, the battle was fought with beans.
Twice a year the feudal lord gave a terracotta pot of beans to poor families who threw the beans onto the streets to show their contempt. Beans were also used as ammunition at Carnival time, to be thrown for fun at unsuspecting enemies. In around the 1930s and 1960s, along with confetti, sugared almonds, lupin seeds and flowers, girls on balconies began to throw oranges at the floats in the carnival parade, to attract the attention of young boys.
Throwing the oranges soon turned into a duel, then into a real head on battle between those throwing from the balconies and the others from the street. Only after the Second World War the battle took the form we know today, following set rules.
Nowadays the battle still takes place in the main squares of the city between teams on carts (symbolising the tyrant’s guards) and hundreds of orange-throwers on foot (the rebellious commoners).
There can be no doubt that this is the most spectacular moment of the whole event, clearly depicting the fight for freedom, the symbol of Ivrea Carnival. Together with all the historical events in the Carnival at Ivrea, the orange battle constitutes an incredible cultural and goliardic heritage, making the Carnival one of the most important on the national and international scene. Throwing oranges is also the event in which most people can be involved: anyone can do it by becoming a member of one of the nine foot teams or of one of the groups throwing from a cart.