When is Ivrea Carnival?
The 2021 Battle of the Oranges dates have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The Battle of the Oranges! Ivrea Carnival is a pre-Lenten carnival that takes place on the Sunday until Tuesday prior to Lent.
What is Ivrea Carnival?
Carnival of Ivrea also known as the Carnival of the Oranges, is one of Italy’s most colourful and historic carnivals that is steeped in tradition. Ivrea Carnival is held annually before the onset of lent in the Piedmontese town of Ivrea.
The carnival dates to the Middle Ages and is a symbolic representation marking the freedom of Ivrea from oppression, starvation and tyranny. Ivrea Carnival is not only one of the most unique festivals in the world but also one of the oldest carnivals in the world.
Famous in Italy, the historic Ivrea Carnival is recognised as an ‘Italian event of international importance’. Ivrea is described as a special area in Italy that has an abundance of art, history, architecture and natural beauty.
Carnival first took place in Ivrea in 1808 because the cities French administrators decided to combine all the rowdy celebrations that were occurring around the city and turn them into one large carnival celebration.
Where is Ivrea Carnival?
Ivrea is both a town and commune of the Metropolitan City of Turin, which is located in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy. It sits on the road leading to the Aosta Vaalley, straddling the Dora Baltea and is regarded as being the centre of the Canvaese area.
The Battle of the Oranges
What is the Battle of the Oranges?
Ivrea is a quiet, ancient Roman town, full of hard-working people. Tourists come to visit grand castles, locals play football, it is your average North Italian town. However, for 3- days every year the normally quiet town divides into nine tribes for Europe’s biggest food fight!
The townsfolk put on helmets and protective gear and hurl massive amounts of oranges at one another, in an aggressive manner, in attempts to ‘kill’ the other teams, in what is known as the Battle of the Oranges.
The Battle of the Oranges is the highlight and most famous event at the Ivrea Carnival, that commemorates the civil war that occurred between the people of Ivrea and the Royal Napoleonic Troops, which broke out the day after hated tyrant Raineri di Biandrate, was slain.
The Battle of Oranges is Italy’s largest food fight that sees over 500,000 pounds of oranges thrown throughout the city’s main streets and squares, symbolising the people of Ivrea’s right to self-rule. The Battle of the begins on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday.
What is the history of Ivrea Carnival?
What are the origins of Ivrea Carnival? Well Ivrea Carnival can be traced back to ancient events that occurred during the Medieval and Napoleonic periods, as well as during the Italian Risorgimento, that occured to underline a popular rebellion against tyranny, and how the town achieved their subsequent freedom.
The main protagonist of Ivrea Carnival is a young heroine named Violetta, who was the daughter of the local Miller. She is the carnival hero, because legend has it that she was the brave young lady that killed the hated tyrant Conte Ranieri di Biandrate.
The tyrant had created a law that meant he had the right to spend the first night with every bride in the city. However, Violetta rebelled against the Conte, and on her wedding night she chopped of his head and waved it triumphantly from the balcony.
This act sparked a huge rebellion in Ivrea that ended the towns oppression and the hated Biandrate family rule being destoryed. The town expelled the family from the city, which then became governed as a free municipality.
Protesting with Beans
In fact on the morning of the Battle of the Oranges there is another tradition where there is a free distribution of beans by the parishes of the town. This charitable tradition comes from medieval times when beans were considered a precious food and portions were distributed to the poor.
Today, there are around eleven bean feasts throughout the city to honour this tradition. It offers a delicious warm sustenance to the townsfolk in winter and strengthens the ties between people living in the city.
The origins of the Battle of Oranges began when beans were thrown to symbolise the contempt the poor felt due to an evil Tyrant that ruled over the town and only provided poor families with just two measly pot of beans twice a year to starve of their hunger.
Hence, the beans were thrown to express their outrage at such an offensive gesture. Over the years this evolved, and people started to throw sugared almonds, confetti and flowers.
It has been speculated that the town started to throw oranges because of the excessive amount of citrus fruit that was being produced in the region of Nice.
The Nine Tribes of Ivrea
The Battle of Oranges is fought between nine different teams who are divided by district. The teams go around on foot and represent the townsfolk who revolved against Napoleons Troops. Each team has its own colours, clothing and symbols that are plastered on banners and flags.
When the battle commences its is the responsibility of your team to defend its territory against the imaginary tyrannical Napoleon troops.
Each of the nine teams have their own established location within the city; the Ace of Spades who are the oldest team has their pitch established in the main town square which it shares with the Aranceri of Death team.
Ottinetti square is home to the Scacchi and the Scorpions of Arduino teams while the Borghetto Tuchini throw from the right bank of the Dora Baltea. The Black Panthers, the Devils and the Mercenaries fight in Piazza del Rondolino and the last group called the Credendari Aranceri can be found in Freguglia square.
“Fighting” the Royal Napoleonic Troops
The Napoleon Troops are also played by some locals who go around on horse drawn carriages and play the role of the feudal armies, pelting you and your family with oranges. The townsfolks fight back as hard as they possibly can, throwing oranges back at the troops, and this goes on and on.
Oranges fill the air, and for days on end, oranges whiz through the air hitting people on the back, face, head. The Battle of Oranges is a rowdy event and not for the faint hearted you may end up with a few ‘war’ bruises at the end of it, split lips, and black eyes are not an uncommon sight.
The orange throwers on horses drawn portraying Napoleons Troops carts are split into 35 carriages each with two horses and 19 quadrilles. They head into Ivrea’s town squares for several minutes which starts up the battle against the teams on foot.
The Horses are the stars of the show, and don’t worry, they are always treated with care and love.
Meanwhile all throughout the city streets while the battle rages, there are numerous other carnival events occurring like parades, floats, folk and music groups performing that come from all over Europe.
Everyone Can Join the Battle of the Oranges
Everyone can join in the Battle of the Oranges, but you’re not forced to compete, you can simply go and just observe the craziness. To avoid getting hit by an orange, there are a couple of ways you can go about it.
There are several areas around Ivrea where you can watch the battle behind some large safety nets that have been set up. This allows you to be close to the action, but safe from harm.
Another option is that spectators can wear a red cap called the Beretto Frigo which translates as don’t throw. It means that no one is allowed to throw an orange at you, but if you’re on the battlefield it doesn’t rule out a few oranges coming your way from the friendly fire.
The End of War and Town Funeral
After the three days of carnage and just a sea of oranges covering the whole town, the battle of the oranges is declared over by one of the Teams Generals. The fighting finishes and what follows is a massive mock funeral for those ‘lost’ during the battle.
While Ivrea Carnival looks like utter chaos, there are rules to the Battle of Oranges. Judges will observe the contest and select a winning team based on its attitude during the fight, its sense of fair play, and its decorating efforts.
The prize for winning the Battle of the Oranges is Pride! Italian Pride!
How to get to Ivrea?
- By plane: The closest airport is Turin Airport, also known as Turin-Caselle Airport which is about a 50 minute drive to Ivrea. From there you can easily make your way via train, bus or car to Ivrea. To get a quote for a flight click here.
- By Train: You can take the Turin-Aosta line from Torino Porta Susa to Ivrea which will take around an hour.
- By Road: There is a bus leaving every two hours from Fermata 10001 station in Turin to Fermata 11242 station in Ivrea. It is the cheapest transport option and takes around 2 hours. A taxi from Turin to Ivrea will set you back around US$100.
You could also rent a car from Turin and easily drive there by taking the A5 to Strada Statale 565, and then taking the Ivrea exit. Calculate how much it will cost you to rent a car here!
Where to stay in Ivrea?
Ivrea is a small town but it has several small hotels, B&Bs, private apartments that you can stay at. You can also try and find some accommodation in the areas surrounding Ivrea. Book early though because this is a hugely popular carnival and the tourists far outweigh the room availability! It’s better to reserve a room and cancel later if your plans change, then try to find a good last minute deal! Check out some accommodation deals here.
What to do and see in Ivrea?
This picturesque Italian village while not a major tourist destination is filled with many interesting sights. Starting from the Piazza Castello you can explore the town and visit Ivrea Castle, an impressive structure with its four angular cylindrical towers and central courtyard that was completed in 1395.
After the castle you can explore the Bishop’s Palace which is very ancient, its construction date is unknown but it was home to Bishop Warmondo in the 10th century. The palace holds a collection of buildings from various periods but they all have their medieval architectural features like Bisop’s Tower.
Visit the Ivrea Cathedral, with its three naves, that preserve several features dating back to the Cathedral of Warmondo. Beneath the cathedral is a crypt that dates back to the 12th century. In the crypt is an ancient Roman sarcophagus which belonged to Quaestor Gaius Valerius Atecius from the first century BC, which is well preserved, as well as three tombs from ancient Bishops of the city.
Visit the Ivrea Civic Museum which has an impressive selection of Eastern and archaeological art. If you pass along the Corso Massimo d’Azeglio you will find a country road that leads to the Roman Amphitheatre, which dates back to the Late-Imperial Roman Age. Another worthwhile attraction is to visit the 15th century Church of San Bernardino with its frescoes that depict events from the “Life of Jesus”.
Recently the World Heritage Committee placed the industrial city of Ivrea onto the UNESCO World Heritage List! So you can admire its industrial architecture you can do that as well. A worthwhile trip to make from Ivrea is to visit the beautiful Lake of Viverone which is a popular tourist destination and a place where numerous remains from the Bronze Age have been found. For more information about things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more check out Viator
Or if you are lucky enough to have a longer vacation then do because nothing seduces like a slice of the good life, or la dolce vita, than a trip to Italy! Check out Tour Radar which has hundreds of different itineraries for amazing Italian vacations!
Before you go!
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