Battle of the Oranges

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The Asso di Picche, founded in 1947 and wearing a black Ace of Spades on red, is the oldest of the nine pedestrian teams of orange throwers that partake in the Battle of the Oranges. Here they battle against one of the approximately forty Aranceri Carri da Getto - orange-throwers in carts.

The Battle of the Oranges is a festival in the Northern Italian city of Ivrea, which includes a tradition of throwing of oranges between organized groups. It is the largest food fight in Italy.[1]

History of festival[edit]

Stockpile of ammunition for the upcoming battle

The festival's origins are somewhat unclear. A popular account has it that it commemorates the city's defiance against the city's tyrant, who is either a member of the Ranieri family[2] or a conflation of the 12th-century Ranieri di Biandrate and the 13th-century Marquis William VII of Montferrat.[3] This tyrant attempted to rape a young commoner (often specified as a miller's daughter[4]) on the eve of her wedding, supposedly exercising the droit du seigneur. The tyrant's plan backfired when the young woman instead decapitated him, after which the populace stormed and burned the palace.[5] Each year, a young girl is chosen to play the part of Violetta, the defiant young woman.[1][6]

Every year the citizens remember their liberation with the Battle of the Oranges where teams of "Aranceri" (orange handlers) on foot throw oranges (representing ancient weapons and stones) against Aranceri riding in carts (representing tyrant's ranks). During the 19th-century French occupation of Italy the Carnival of Ivrea was modified to add representatives of the French army. Another adaptation of the story has the oranges used to symbolize the removed testicles of the tyrant.

The oldest rituals of Ivrea Carnival include a large bonfire and are similar to ancient celebrations linked to the end of winters and the rise of the new.


A carriage pulled by four horses that will be used in the battle

The core celebration is based on a locally famous Battle of the Oranges that involves some thousands of townspeople, divided into nine combat teams, who throw oranges at each other – with considerable violence – during the traditional carnival days: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The carnival takes place in February: it ends on the night of Shrove Tuesday with a solemn funeral. Traditionally, at the end of the silent march that closes the carnival the "General" says goodbye to everyone with the classical phrase in dialect "arvedse a giobia a ‘n bot", translated as "we'll see each other on Thursday at one", referring to the Thursday the carnival will start the next year.[7]

Miller's daughter[edit]

One of the citizens is elected Mugnaia (miller's daughter). Legend has it that Ivrea was once ruled by an evil duke (identified by historians with Guido III, against whom the population really arose, demolishing his castle, in 1194). After the miller's daughter (la "Mugnaia") Violetta got married, the duke claimed his droit du seigneur, the right to spend a night with each newly wed woman, and forced her into his castle. Once in the duke's rooms, Violetta used the opportunity to cut his head off, starting a revolution that eventually brought to the destruction of the castle. Today the carriages are said to represent the duke's army and the orange throwers the revolutionaries.[citation needed]

Originally beans were thrown, then apples. Later, in the 19th century, oranges came to represent the stones thrown at the king's castle in order to demolish it. The origin of the tradition of throwing oranges is not well understood, particularly as oranges do not grow in the foothills of the Italian Alps and must be imported from Sicily. In 1994 an estimated 265,000 kilograms (584,000 lb) of oranges were brought to the city, mainly coming from the leftovers of the winter crop in southern Italy.[8]

The teams[edit]

The historical foot "arancieri" teams that participate in the defense of Ivrea against the Tyrant's carted henchmen are 9:

  • Aranceri Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades): red and blue jersey with black neck scarf. Their symbol is a single spade and their home ground is the main town square which they share with the second oldest throwing team. Created in 1947.
  • Aranceri della Morte (Death's Arancieri): black jersey, red pants. Their symbol is a white skull. Created in 1954.
  • Aranceri Tuchini del Borghetto (Revolutionaries of the Borough): green jersey, red pants and a black crow in a white field on the back. Created in 1964.
  • Aranceri degli Scacchi (The Chess): chequered black and white jersey with an orange tower as their symbol. Created in 1964.
  • Aranceri Pantera Nera (Black Panther): black jersey with a black panther on a yellow field on the back. Created in 1965.
  • Aranceri Scorpioni d'Arduino (Arduino's Scorpions): yellow jersey, green pants and a black scorpion as their symbol. Created in 1966.
  • Aranceri Diavoli (The Devils): red and yellow jersey with a red devil. Created in 1973.
  • Aranceri Mercenari (The Mercenaries): maroon jersey, yellow pants. Their symbol is a yellow star with maroon swords. Created in 1974.
  • Aranceri Credendari: blue jersey and yellow pants, the Palace of Creedence and the town arms as it's symbol. Created in 1985.

Attending the event[edit]

There are a handful of routes that are allowed for spectators. The first is to hide behind the nets that are draped around the buildings, this is by far the safest choice and is highly recommended for those planning to attend with children. For the more adventurous spectator you can simply stay on the battlefield throughout the whole battle. This choice has to be made with certain considerations the biggest of which rogue oranges that have missed their targets and are on a trajectory right towards the middle of the battle where the spectators are located. Despite what one may expect the armored "palace guards" are not the ones that you have to be wary of when spectating, but the throwers on the other side of the chariots who are attempting to hit the guards. Every spectator is encouraged to purchase and wear, at all times, the Berretto Frigio/Phrygian Cap/red hat for "protection." Wearing the hat signifies that you are part of the revolutionaries and will protect you from getting oranges directly thrown at you,;[9] however, as previously mentioned, if you are in the battlefield the hazard of getting hit by oranges is still a very real and essentially guaranteed occurrence. Spectators are not allowed to throw oranges as long as they are wearing their Berretto Frigio, however because of the nature of the event spectators can get away with certain amounts of throwing.

The caps also serve a separate more cosmetic of a purpose according to locals. The sea of red caps adds to the festivities and the visual effect of the event as a whole.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Italy's Biggest Battle of the Oranges". Der Spiegel. 2008-06-08. Archived from the original on 29 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  2. ^ "Battle of Oranges at Italian carnival". Odopo. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  3. ^ "The Carnival of Ivrea: Sights & Activities". Italy Traveller. Archived from the original on October 12, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  4. ^ Bredt, H.; et al. (2005). Italië. ANWB Media Boeken. p. 239. ISBN 978-90-18-01951-8. 
  5. ^ Kiefer, Peter (2007-02-19). "In Italian town, civics lesson from annual orange battles". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  6. ^ Simonis, Damien; et al. (2006). Italy. Lonely Planet. p. 244. ISBN 978-1-74104-303-7. 
  7. ^ "Marcia funebre ; Storico Carnevale di Ivrea". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  8. ^ Citizen from Ivrea
  9. ^

External links[edit]

Media related to Carnival of Ivrea at Wikimedia Commons