The historic Carnival of Ivrea, this is how the Battle of the Oranges was born

When we hear about the Historic Carnival of Ivrea it’s impossible not to think of the furious one battle of the oranges, during which orange throwers decked out like warriors from times gone by exchange brutal blows in the streets of the Piedmontese city. This year, the battle of the oranges goes from February 11th to 13ththat is, for three days until Shrove Tuesday, and counts approx 9200 orange trees and 52 wagons for the citrus fruit jet. As is easy to imagine, this tradition involves a certain number of injuries: this year, for example, there were 127 injured during the first day of the battle.

But this event isn’t just a citrus-based fight, it’s a fascinating mix of re-enactments historical And legend which has its roots in centuries-old events and which over time has been enriched with the traditions of different historical eras.

Let’s see together the origins and events that characterize one of the most spectacular carnivals in the world today Piedmont and our country.

The customs of the Ivrea Carnival

Although the origins of the Ivrea Carnival can be traced back to Middle Agesduring which the festival involved the different districts of the city in rivalry with each other, today we can find in the complex structure of the entire event references to multiple historical moments, ranging from an even more remote past to the events of domination Napoleonic.
With the intention of celebrating thecity ​​identitythe values ​​of freedom And independencethe different events that make up the Carnival are the result of the historical memory of Ivrea.

Some rituals still celebrated today harken back to very ancient times propitiatory customs. I am an example there Hoewhich involves the last spouses of each city parish and involves the overturning of a clod of earth with a spade and hoe (to symbolize remote peasant traditions) to wish prosperity And fertilityand theBurning of scarlitall wooden poles covered in heather and set on fire by the Abbaoriginally the priors of the city parishes and today played by children representing each district.

Towards the 19th century the Carnival was enriched with new connotations, halfway between historical memory and legend, with the birth of a new figure, today one of the main protagonists of the whole event, that of Miller. This figure is inspired by the legend of Violet, forced to give herself to an evil local tyrant who was later beheaded by the young woman herself. This act of rebellion sparked a popular uprising, today a symbol of freedom and the fight against oppression.

Other costumes of the celebration, such as those of General and of State Greaterdirectly recall the past Napoleonic occupation.

How the Ivrea Carnival takes place

It should be clear at this point that the Ivrea carnival (i.e. the city of Ivrea) is characterized by a multitude of celebrations with different origins and different meanings.

The beginning of the whole event is marked by the Epiphany, during which a procession of fife and drum players parade through the streets of the historic center to announce the start of the celebrations.

On the third to last Sunday before Lent the ceremony ofRaising of the Abbaswhich sees the presentation of young representatives of the districts to the city and which involves some of the key historical figures of the carnival, such as the Generalit Major state and the Deputy Grand Chancellor.

During the Thursday fat (i.e. the last Thursday before the start of Lent), Carnival comes into full swing and the figure of the General is symbolically invested with the power over the city of Ivreaat the request of the municipal authority during Napoleon’s occupation (the General in fact wears the historic uniform of the Napoleonic army) and follows a procession which, having reached the upper part of the city, brings homage to the bishopric.

The following Saturday, the figure of the heroine of the Ivrea Carnival, the Millerwhich after being welcomed by the jubilant crowd, parades through the streets of the city in celebration on a golden chariot, accompanied by the band and all the figures of the Ivrea carnival.

Then the famous one takes place Battle of the Oranges and the Carnival closes in the following days with the rites of the Zappata and the Burning of the Scarli.


The battle of the oranges: how it takes place and what it represents

Among the most well-known and evocative events of the carnival, especially for those coming from outside, there is the Battle of the Oranges.

During the historical procession, this playful clash takes place in the streets of the city in which they face each other with oranges nine teams of shooterssayings orange growers, who move through the streets of the center on foot or on large horse-drawn carriages. The orange throwers on foot, much more numerous, fight a face discovery And without protectionswhile those on the wagons adorned with the colors of local folklore, wear heavy protections and helmets integral.

The battle rages on for Three days – from Sunday to Shrove Tuesday – in the main squares of the city and is followed throughout by a special commission which at the end of the Carnival will award a prize to the teams that most distinguished themselves in battle.

The origin of this curious tradition is not very clear. Some legends date it back to the Middle Ages, when the citizens of Ivrea were offered a paltry sum by the local ruler. bean alms: offended by the gesture, the citizens would have thrown the beans into the street from their windows. During the nineteenth century, it seems that the custom of throwing beans to recall the ancient gesture of protest was replaced by that of throwing oranges. The orange groves on the ground would therefore represent, according to this hypothesis, the people in revolt against the abuses of tyrants.


What happens to the oranges: the controversies over the battle

The practice of throwing oranges has been harshly contested in recent years because it is considered a gratuitous waste of food.

Actually the oranges thrown during the brutal clash they are not edible and they would in any case be destined for pulping, consequently there is no food waste. Furthermore, at the end of the Carnival the whole city is carefully cleaned and the organic remains and remaining citrus fruits are collected, recycled and used to create the compostused as fertilizer natural.