Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnivale… all of these are different names for the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Depending where you are from, depends how you celebrate the holiday. This year, I traveled to the little town of Ivrea to participate in their Carnevale celebration, ‘Battaglia delle Arance’ (battle of the oranges).
Yes. You heard that right, this town devotes an entire day to have a food fight… A dream come true for me (if you don’t know me, you should know I have an obsession with food). I arrived two hours before the battle and visited each square where the battles would take place. The potential energy was real, countless pallets of oranges lined the squares but no one touched an orange until 2pm. It has always been my dream to have Sicilian oranges flying around me so, I could reach out to catch one (or five) and eat them!
The battle, although sounds and looks unorganized, I learned was very strategic. Rules and specific teams existed, including two different types of teams. Teams on foot and teams in horse drawn carriages. The teams on foot were stationed in different squares through the the town. The battle began after a carriage entered the square. The carriage would travel through the crowded square, while pummeling oranges at their opposing team (and vice versa). Once the carriage made its way around the square the battle was over and would leave to the next square as a different carriage team entered so the battle started again. Judges were present to determine the winning cart and the winning square. I have no idea how the teams actually scored points, but it was very fun to watch and participate in!
At 2pm, the first oranges were thrown. From this point forward, there was a consistent battle throughout the town. The sweet citrus aroma filled the streets. As a bystander, you had to wear a red hat or else someone would yell ‘capelli’ and throw oranges at your head. I saw many black eyes so, I opted to wear the red hat.
Two hours into the battle, I could not believe it was still happening. The streets started to disappear, replaced by orange mush.
Wanting to get in on the action, I headed toward the center of a square to see the battle up close. I had my red hat on so no one threw oranges at me on purpose however, I did get hit a few times. When you are so close to the action, it is nearly impossible to not get hit! After watching so many people toss oranges I ditched my red hat so I could participate, throwing oranges at the carriage. Wading in six inches of orange slush, my boots were covered with orange. My jacket, previously navy blue, looked brown. It was a glorious mess! I caught oranges out of the air to then rip them open and eat the juice before discarding the rest of the fruit on the street.
An hour before the end, I was surprised to see a few pallets of oranges still left, I had stepped on so many oranges and felt like I ate so many more, I thought they would have run out by now! I looked around to see numerous black eyes, bloody faces and completely wrecked clothing. Everyone was having fun and was super happy to be in Ivera celebrating Carnevale. This type of event would never work in the United States! It was a wonderful experience, I would love to be a part of it again. When I get back in the States and am asked what is something I did not expect about Italy, this event will be number one in my mind. I never expected to participate in a huge food fight. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way!