Ivrea (Piedmont)

The Essential Guide to Ivrea

Most times of the year, Ivrea, a Piedmontese town of about 25,000 residents, 45 minutes north of Turin, is quiet. 

It’s filled with understated history. As the former empire for Olivetti, it was home to a world-renowned typewriter and mainframe computer factory in the ‘50s and ‘60s, which is now a museum and office buildings. Strolling across its arched stone Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) and the Dora Baltea River follows a path first laid in 100 CE, originally constructed of wood, and rebuilt in stone in 1716. 

But arrive in Ivrea — a Roman settlement founded in 100 BCE  that was inhabited as early as the Neolithic era — in February, and you’ll find chaos and a sea of orange pulp, juice and peel. That’s when crowds gather for the city’s Orange Festival — a centuries-old food fight where teams compete with oranges as ammunition. 

When to go

Aside from the Orange Festival, Ivrea has a local, friendly atmosphere with winding alleys, stone-covered hilly streets and castles under restoration. Visiting at the end of October and into November is a chance to try Piedmont dishes such as risotto with porcini mushrooms and fresh truffles, and in the winter, you might see the city blanketed with snow. 

As with the rest of Piedmont and throughout northern Italy, Ivrea has cold winters and hot, humid summers with temperatures averaging from -2°C (28°F) in the coldest month (January) to 28°C (83°F) in the warmest month (July). Snowfall is most common in December and January, when Ivrea receives an average of an inch daily.

How to get there

An hour south of the Aosta Valley, Ivrea can be a stopping point on the road to the popular ski region. It’s also about an hour and a half west of Milan. 

By train

Ivrea’s main train station is well-connected to Milan and Turin. For schedules, fares and booking information, go to ItaliaRail.com.

By car

If you’re arriving by car from Milan, take the A4 Autostrada followed by E25 to SP80 and the Albiano exit. From Torino, follow the A5 and take SP82 and Strada Statale 26 della Valle d'Aosta to your destination in Ivrea. 

By air

To reach Ivrea by air, fly into Milan or Turin. Trains run from each airport into the city, and then you can catch a train to Ivrea. You may want to consider traveling by car for the most flexibility. 

Getting around Ivrea

Ivrea’s main square, the epicenter of the Orange Festival, is a 10-minute walk from the train station, while the Olivetti museum is about a five-minute walk from the train station.

Best things to do and see in Ivrea

Antique Olivetti typewriter
Antique Olivetti typewriter in Ivrea / Photo: Fortunato Violi via Shutterstock

Archivio Storico Olivetti (Olivetti Historical Archive Museum)

Ivrea was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2018 as an example of city planning and architecture for a 20th-century industrial city. To understand the scope of Olivetti’s impact, it helps to see what the company produced. A small museum overviews typewriters, calculators, fax machines and the first computers from the 1980s. Walking through the rooms reveals not only the history of Olivetti but technology before mobile devices. 

Olivetti architecture tour

Olivetti was purchased by the Italian telecommunications company TIM in 2003, but many office buildings, factories, libraries and homes built for Olivetti’s employees are still standing and can be toured. A highlight is the company’s lavish former headquarters, where a Murano glass ceiling decorates the lobby. Seeing how Olivetti once commanded the city is like viewing a precursor to today’s Google or Meta campuses.

Museo Civico Garda

Ivrea’s ancient roots are showcased at the Museo Civico Garda. Its archaeological collection includes tableware, funerary stelae, mosaics and tools from the Roman and late Roman periods. Temporary exhibits often tie into the history of Olivetti, such as a display featuring Giorgio Soavi. The prolific Italian writer worked in the company’s Special Design Office in the 1950s, producing desk calendars, limited edition graphic items and books.

Ivrea Cathedral

The site of a 4th-century Pagan temple has had many façades, rebuilt in Romanesque, then Baroque, and finally in its current Neoclassical style. Inside the cathedral is a Roman sarcophagus, which is said to hold the relics of Patron Saint Bessus and the tomb of Irish ecclesiastic Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh, who is reported to have died in Ivrea at age 37 after following the Via Francigena pilgrimage route from Rome.

Tasting Ivrea

Tajarin pasta from Piemonte
Tajarin pasta / Photo: Luigi Bertello via Shutterstock

What to eat

Torta Novecento (900s cake), created in Canacese, about 20 minutes outside of Ivrea, is a chocolate-flavored sponge cake with a chocolate filling. Try the original recipe, patented in 1964, at Pasticceria Balla in the historical center of town.

Polenta e Merluss (polenta and salt cod) is served the day after the final Orange Festival battle. The dish is made with dried salt cod and an onion sauce and served over a steaming plate of polenta. See it cooked in huge quantities leading up to this major feast day.

Tajarin (flat-long egg pasta) was first rolled in the 15th century in Piedmont. Eat it topped with porcini mushrooms and fresh tartufo in the fall. 

What to drink

Punt e Mes (A Point and a Half) is a vermouth originally from Turin, which balances sweet and bitter. Sip it as an aperitivo as you would Campari served in a Negroni or an Americano. Aside from Punt e Mes, Vermouth aficionados will find a wide range of options at bars in Ivrea and across Piedmont.

Bicerin, which means small round glass, is another drink with Turin origins, but this one is nonalcoholic. Espresso is topped with a layer of hot chocolate and then milk or whipped cream. Served in a clear glass, with each layer visible, it's often ordered for breakfast alongside a pastry. 

Top events and festivals in Ivrea

Ivrea Orange Festival
Ivrea Orange Festival / Photo: Paolo Bona via Shutterstock

Orange Festival

To see the action-packed side of Ivrea, don't miss the Orange Festival. In 2024, the festivities will kick off on January 6, leading to the main event on February 13, the day before Ash Wednesday. The multi-day festival generally follows the same timeline to coincide with Lent. It's best to review the schedule in advance and plan, and a website lists upcoming dates.

Olivetti homes tour

In September each year, Ivrea residents open their homes to the public for an insight into the Mid-Century designs that Italian architects once created for Olivetti’s executives and other employees. Welc-Home to My House  is typically the last weekend of September, and reservations are required through the event website.

Guide last updated by Liz Shemaria, November 2023

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