Italy has some of the best festivals. They are always epic affairs filled with colorful parades, food, and deeply rooted traditions. However, one Italian festival stands out for its unusual celebration method, a gigantic food fight with oranges.
The Battle of the Oranges has been a tradition in Ivrea since the 12th-century. Supposedly, according to the Historic Carnival of Ivrea Foundation, it is the oldest carnival in the country.
The origins of the festival began with an assault. The local marquis attempted to rape a miller’s daughter, but she fought back and managed to kill her attacker. After news of the incident spread, the townspeople revolted and raided the marquis’ palace. Since that time, Ivera celebrates the revolt every year.
The battle takes place over three days ending on Fat Tuesday. One local woman is selected to act as the miller’s daughter from the legend. Afterward, participants divide up into nine teams, with one team acting as the Aranceri, orange-throwers, who represent the marquis’ armies. The other teams are the revolting townspeople.
All of the participants are dress up in medieval costumes before each group retreats to their established territory in town to begin the battle. The Aranceri ride on horse-drawn carriages in the areas claimed by the teams to fight every few minutes.
On the last day of the festival, one of the team leaders calls a ceasefire. Awards are given to the best teams, while the town celebrates another successful year with a parade through the streets.
Almost 400 tons of oranges are shipped in for the festival. It’s unclear how oranges came to play a role in this tradition. Some say the battle reenactments used beans until the 19th-century. During these events, women began tossing oranges to the men they liked who would throw them back if the feeling was mutual. This symbol of affection was eventually adopted as the weapon of choice.
This celebration is not without its risks. According to United Press International, 165 injuries were reported in 2012. 13 of those required hospitalization. However, those who wish to escape the carnage wear a red hat to symbolize they are not a participant.
Despite the high risk of injury, this festival draws about 100,000 spectators every year. Nobody can resist the citrus-flavored carnage that awaits.