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  • Battaglia delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges)

    By Anthony Parente

    Battle of the Oranges
    © Fondazione dello Storico Carnevale di Ivrea
    For three days the northern town of Ivrea, which is in the province of Turin, Piedmont, turns orange as they celebrate the Battaglia delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges). This is just one of the many festivals that takes place throughout Italy during Carnevale, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. What makes this festival just a bit crazier than the other celebrations throughout Italy is that the people literally throw oranges at each other.

    As the story goes this three-day event commemorates the 12th Century revolt by the townspeople against the tyrant Raineri di Biandrate. It was the eve of Violetta's wedding, who is the miller's daughter, when the evil Marquis Raineri intended to use his droit du seigneur. The droit du seigneur is a medieval right that the lord can use to be the first to sleep with the bride under his jurisdiction. Much to the Marquis surprise Violetta fought back by taking his sword and cutting off his head. Once the townspeople heard what had happened, they stormed the castle and unleashed years of pent up frustration against the tyrant's rule and declared an end to the oppressive regime.

    To honor the courage of Violetta and the townspeople, Ivrea transforms itself into a battlefield where the weapon of choice is oranges. Nine tribes (representing the villagers) are given designated areas as they await the horse drawn carts with guards (representing the Napoleonic troops) wearing protective headgear and armed with plenty of their own ammunition (oranges). Once the cart is in range the battle begins. Oranges are hurled through the air hitting the guards as they retaliate often hitting the villagers in the face. This is not an event for the weak of heart, but to those who represent their tribe it is a badge of honor that they proudly wear. This battle rages on for three days and at the end one of the nine tribes is declared the victor by judges who rate them on performance, sense of fair play and how they decorated their area.

    Yes, the carts are pulled by horses but one of the rules in the competition is that the horses are not targets. Each of the groups are very well organized and they adhere to the strict rules of the event. To learn more about the Carnevale in Ivrea and see all the events that the town has to celebrate this occasion visit the Storico Carnevale di Ivrea.

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