Ivrea – a small town in Piedmont, in the past the most import computing center in Italy, today it is looking for an idea to restore prosperity. Usually quite, rather sleepy place, explodes with emotions during the last days of carnival. Every year from Sunday to Fat Tuesday an unique battle of the oranges (battaglia delle arance) takes place.
Feudal lord's guards on horse-pulled trucks ("aranceri sui carri da getto"), loads of rebelled people against hated tyrant - aranceri a piedi (orange throwers on foot) and omnipresent oranges: in air, on the ground, in one piece, smashed and served as freshly squeezed juice... Not to mention about an amazing mix of good fun and aggression. It's how I can describe just in few words how a big fight using hundreds of tons of citruses.
The carnival of Ivrea is a kind of show narrating a real revolt that happened in Middle Ages, enriched with some elements of legend. According to the local myth a beautiful miller's daughter (La Mugnaia) named Violetta was taken by force to the Baron's castle. When hated tyrant claimed the right of the first night, newlywed woman got him drunk and killed him. In that time her appearance in the castle window with his head in hand stared the rebellion and nowadays in the evening before the battle the official presentation of Violetta (whose identity is kept secret till the end) on the balcony of the Town Hall building kicks off celebrations.
La Mugnaia became local heroine and she is a real star in a colorful procession (il Corteo Storico) marching on the town's streets simultaneously to the battle. The miller's daughter - in golden carriage, dressed in a traditional white wedding dress salutes cheering crowd, throws candies and small mimosa branches. The General - another important character of the celebrations, Napoleonic authority representative, supported by general staff - assures a smooth running of the event. In the parade can't be missed the orchestra, kids dressed in traditional renaissance costumes (Abba') or the representatives of town authority, for example.
The performance is watched by the sea of red heads. Spectators, passers-by, tourists and town residents – everybody is wearing a characteristic, similar to a big sock, Phrygian cap (berretto frigio) on head. In Europe during the French Revolution it became the icon of freedom, and today it protects against the cold ... and oranges – people with a red hat on head can't be attacked by aranceri.
The origins of the carnival of Ivrea dates back to 16th century, but officially it has been held since 1808. In that time Piedmont was under Napoleon occupation and that's why in procession there are such figures like the General or representatives of French army. The tradition of miller's daughter started in 1858, and the battle of the oranges, in an organized form, born in the mid 20th century. And despite a big risk of being injured in a battle and the cost of privilege to throw oranges (aranceri on foot, for example, need to pay about 90-100 € for 3 days), it attracts a mass of townspeople and tourists. This year the show starts on March 1st in the evening, the first battle will take place on Sunday (March 2nd) and throwing of oranges will continue till Tuesday (March 4th).
Put on your mask!
Find out more about Carnival in Piemonte: masks, traditions, desserts...
Discover Ivrea, too, the city with one of Italy's most exciting Carnival
I’m Polish blogger and freelance journalist tasting “la dolce vita” by traveling around Piedmont. As Italia is my passion since the childhood I’m happy having the chance to discover the kingdom of great cuisine and probably the best wines in the world, but also charming little towns and interesting history. My blog Bel Piemonte (available also in Polish and in Italian) was born to show the beauty of this region and to encourage others to discover this part of the Apennine Peninsula.Website: www.belpiemonte.com/en/