words by Michelle Fabio

Every year at the end of February, the small northern Italian town of Ivrea comes under fruit attack during the Battle of the Oranges. Thousands come from far and wide to take part in the annual Carnevale di Ivrea, and it’s safe to say that no one leaves untouched by pulp.

Participants are divided into teams in carriages, who ride through the town and represent the emperor’s men, and teams on foot, which stay on the ground and represent the commoners. All, of course, are in full costume and armed with arance.

The Carnevale d’Ivrea dates back to the Middle Ages when beans were used, thrown by the poor back at the feudal lords who had gifted them. Sometime within the last hundred years, oranges began to be used instead, first thrown by young girls from balconies to get the attention of the boys they liked.

As for how the festival got started, it is undeniably linked to a woman named Violetta, whose character still features in the festivities today, and the concept of freedom from imperial power; the details, though, vary according to the source.

You, too, can volunteer to be part of the Battaglia delle Arance and will be placed on one of the teams; if you’d prefer to watch, be sure to wear a red hat, which marks you as a spectator.

Check out some of the action in Ivrea:

Find more information about the Carnevale d’Ivrea at http://www.carnevalediivrea.it (also in English).