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Ivrea Orange Fest

March 3 9 2011 Ivrea Italy

Everyone has heard of La Tomatina, the famous and crazy Spanish tomato food fight, but far fewer are familiar a fight of a different fruit… oranges.

A little medieval town called Ivrea, about 40 minutes north of Turin in Piedmont, Italy, comes alive at the end of winter every year when it’s historic carnival commemorates the rebellion of the people against a tyrant who ruled the town in the middle ages. The highlight of this festival is of course the Battle of the Oranges.

This orange battle 3000 people strong is a little more civil than other food fights with 2 opposing groups rather than a crazy free-for-all. The bad guys are the teams in carriages symbolizing the tyrant’s guards and they battle against the orange throwing foot-patrols representing the rebellious commoners.

The Carnival of Ivrea draws on legends from the 12th-century, there are varying stories on the origin of this crazy event however, most of the stories agree on a nasty tyrant who attempted to control his town his revolting citizens.

This battle of oranges dates back to the Middle Ages when beans were once used. Twice a year the evil lord gave a pot of beans to the poor families who, out of anger, hurled them into the streets. Eventually the beans were replaced by oranges (that were an exotic and expensive commodity back then) that were thrown from balconies by young women who fancied the young men who were riding in the parade of carriages below. The boys naturally returned fire and the battle began.

During the carnival the streets come alive and the town is bursting with the scent of oranges, local specialties are served in the streets like fagioli grassi (fat beans), or cod with polenta, and amazing carnival pastries. Italian wines are flowing including white Erbaluce, sparkling Barbera and the sweet Passito di Caluso.

The carnival begins in March but starts in earnest early in February 2009. A torchlight procession leaves the Town Hall with the Mugnaia and orange-throwers. After that the battles commence in the town squares.

Ivrea has an interesting history for those that visit – it has been said to be the headquarters of the first post Roman – Kingdom of Italy in around 1000 A.D, and more recently was head quarters to typewriter giant Olivetti.

Either way a visit to this little town during this very big festival will certainly be an unforgettable holiday experience!

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