Like La Tomatina is the ultimate food fight festival in Spain, so to is the Battle of the Oranges in Italy. Sure, oranges are a little harder and heavier than most tomatoes, but that doesn’t stop thousands of townspeople in the Northern Italian city of Ivrea from separating into organised teams of revolutionaries to throw the citrus fruit at one another over a three-day period each and every year. Ouch! Talk about a unique way to celebrate their freedom! 

Freedom, fruit and fun

The Orange Battle, or Battaglia delle Arance to locals, is part of the Northern Italian town of Ivrea’s annual six-day carnival celebration. For three days, some 3,500 people separate into teams and proceed to clobber one another with up to 500,000 kilograms of oranges (we hear they’re of the navel variety and too damaged for retail sale) in the medieval town’s main square. The phenomenon attracts over 100,000 spectators, who must wear a red hat at all times or else become a target of countless cold, hard oranges and the recipient of many bruises. There are safe zones for non-participants, some in buildings and behind nets. If you don’t want to get dirty or hate seeing food go to waste, the Battle of the Oranges is probably not for you, but for others, it's great fun, if not slightly bonkers. 

Battle of the Oranges dates back to the 19th century  and started as a playful bash between people on the street and on balconies during the Carnevale of Ivrea. The carnival itself is said to date back to the 1300s after a local tyrant who wanted to have his way with every woman in the village was stopped in his tracks, decapitated in fact, by the miller’s daughter, Violetta. The festival is a celebration of freedom and a wonderful way to celebrate yours as part of an Italian tour of Northern Italy and Milan.

Piedmont

When is it?

16th February 2015

Tips and tricks

  • The Battle of the Oranges is popular annual event and given Ivrea is a small town, accommodation and transfers are best booked in advance.

  • Ivrea is a picturesque medieval town with great sites including a cathedral, castle and Gothic church.

  • If you are attending the Orange Battle, wear a red hat to avoid being a target.

  • The safest place for spectators is in designated areas and behind nets.

  • If you are injured, there are first aid tents everywhere. Not sure what they can do for your pride, though!

  • If you're in the line of fire, wear shoes with good grip and clothes you don’t mind getting damaged.