Ivrea Orange Throwing Carnival

02 September 2010 Written by   Published in Piemonte Itineraries
Preparing for Battle at the Ivrea Carnival Preparing for Battle at the Ivrea Carnival all images Copyright © Delicious Italy


Battaglia delle Arance di Ivrea - Trailer.mpg

The carnival of Ivrea is one of Italy's most spectacular thanks to one enterprising ingredient - the Battle of the Oranges. Three days of build up and offically sanctioned and tighly organized violence when the squares and piazze are turned into battle grounds between 9 competing teams and 3000 people.

The origin of the madness goes back to a legendary people's revolt against Count Ranieri of Biandrate and is based on liberty and freedom of expression. It really is a genuine experience and something I had always wanted to participate in since we began Delicious Italy. The invite came in 2014 and was 4 days, not only braving the oranges, but seeing all the preparations behind the scenes, from the preparation of the horses pulling the carts to the tradtional food and wider festivities. Read my full report of the Historical Carnival of Ivrea here.      

Preparing the beans at the Ivrea Carnival 

Beans on Carnival Day

Before the battle on the Sunday of Carnival, the populace are fed with free beans, perhaps to sustain them during the rigors of battle.The signal for the festival to begin is the holding aloft of a child by each of the 4 quarters of the town. Although not as dangerous as running with the bulls at Pamplona, on a cold day it has been known for many of the oranges to freeze like golf balls.

The origins of the festival go back to the twelfth century when there was a popular uprising against the tyrant Count Ranieri. He had claimed first night's rights with all new brides and ran into the wrong person. A newly betrothed miller's daughter, Violetta, beheaded the amorous count and showed his head from his bedroom balcony. This sparked a popular revolution of the people which founded the roots of today's orange battle.

The Mugnaia

Every year there is a new Mugnaia (miller's daughter above) chosen who is the heroine of the festivities and is accompanied by a corollary of characters that represent the historical heritage of the town including: the General and his staff, soldiers, musicians and more than 1,500 masked characters that perform in historical parades and pageants throughout the period. Then, 400 tons of oranges are used as ammunition as rival factions battle in a satirical but well-fought re-enactment of the peoples revolt against their lords many centuries ago (these orangey battles begin on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 2:30 in the afternoon).

There are more than 40 carri (decorated horse drawn carts) that carry 12 paying throwers (who represent the castle) through the 5 piazzas of the city where over 3,500 rebellious warriors representing 9 teams attempt to overwhelm them with their vicious orange throwing techniques. The winning team is determined by a jury who takes into account the decorations of the piazza (each team gets a half of a piazza to decorate) and the fury and accuracy of their orange throwing talents.

 Ivrea Carnival

Ready to go?

The streets, walls and participants take on the color of the squashed and splattered fruit. Events draw to an end with the final burning of the scarli (which are large wooden poles) and a codfish and polenta feast in the Borghetto area of the city plus, during breaks in the ceremonies, there are dishes of fat beans being handed out (a tradition which dates back to 1325).

The population of the town (25,000 residents) quadruples for the event and it's impossible to drive through the streets as most of them are closed for traffic control or to allow the carri to pass by. Most hotels are booked a month in advance but a night's stay is really not necessary to witness the battles.

If you want to submerge into the fabric of the people and the true meaning of the events then a night or two stay is very much recommended. This celebration is a very deep and integral part of the people's life here and the time you take to understand it will be well worth your while. As violent as it is, there is no Carnivale more honest and welcoming than this one.



with additional text by Dan Hostetler

Philip Curnow

Buongiorno, I co-founded Delicious Italy in 2000. We have always aimed to support local incoming tourism initiatives, as well as provide a trusted reference for anyone seeking information and contacts for a vacation or visit to the Italian regions.