battle of the oranges, Ivrea, Italy, Italia, Piemonte, travel, carnival, throwing oranges, unique

The Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea: the oldest carnival tradition in Italy

The following post was written by Lucia Hannau from Turin Epicurean Capital an international food and literature that will take place this fall in Turin, Italy.  

As part of its long-standing Catholic tradition, many carnivals are celebrated every year throughout 20 regions in Italy and each one of them is unique. Who has not heard or seen the wonderful costumes and festivities of the Venice Carnival? They are known the world over.

There is also a very special event held in Ivrea, a town located about a 40-minute drive north of Turin (in Northwestern Italy) and takes on its own special twist.

Ivrea, Piemonte, Italy, Italia, Piazza Ferruccio Nazionale, Main Square, Travel, Photography,

Piazza Ferruccio Nazionale   Credit: Davide Papalini

Ivrea’s Carnival is the only one that has a long story line, an underlying theme based on medieval and Napoleonic history. Thus it’s not just festive masks and parades that make this Carnival different; it’s been that way since 1808.

The most spectacular part is undoubtedly the food fight that takes place in town squares and main streets, with oranges being the weapon of choice. Chariot riders, representing those who defended the local historical tyrant, hurl oranges against those standing on the street. These bystanders, who represent the tyrant’s oppressed subjects, hurl them back in retaliation!

battle of the oranges, Ivrea, Italy, Italia, Piemonte, travel, carnival, throwing oranges, unique

In full action    Credit: 

Oranges used are obviously softer than the original stones. The three-day reenactment goes through 265 000 kg/ 580 000 lbs of oranges imported from Sicily.

The cast of characters include the army general in Napoleonic uniform, young people in Renaissance costumes, a marching band of penny-whistlers and drummers who play around town from January 6th all the way through Mardi Gras.

Ivrea, Italy, Italia, Piemonte, carnival, battle of the oranges, mugnaia, generale

Mugnaia and Generale drinking wine    Credit: Flavio Lavarino

The real heroine (the miller’s daughter or la Mugnaia) wears a white dress and a long red Phrygian cap. She reminds everyone how she freed them from the tyrant by chopping his head off, represented by the orange on the tip of her sword!

Everyone gets into the act; even passersby and visitors follow the general’s order and wear their red caps.

Ivrea carnival, carnivale Ivrea, Italy, Italia, Piemonte, travel, battle of the oranges, main square

Red caps everywhere  Credit: Laurom

This unique tradition is a wonderful excuse to keep warm while enjoying aromatic vin brûlé (mulled wine) and bugies, the delicious local fritters associated with Carnival.

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Delicious, light and crispy bugie   Credit: Lucia Hannau

Ivrea is always a town well worth visiting. Founded on the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrims’ road connecting France to Rome, this area has been inhabited since the Neolithic era. Its inhabitants are known as eporediesi, a name that comes from Eporedia, the Celtic fortified village of the 5th century BC.

In 100 BC, the Romans chose it as an outpost to invade Northern Italy and long after they were gone, many others ruled over the land before it finally was acquired by Amadeus VI of Savoy, in 1356.  This region became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Historical sites mark this town such as the remains of the Roman Theater; the Rocca, or castle of King Amadeus VI from 1357; the Cathedral built on the site of a 4th century pagan temple and the Ponte vecchio – old bridge, dating back to 100 AD.

Ponte Vecchio, Ivrea, Italy, Italia, Piemonte, travel, NW Italy, Europe, bridge, historic city

Ponte Vecchio, Ivrea    Credit: Laurom

Even Saint Francis stopped by Ivrea in 1220 when he suggested the creation of Roman Chapel of the Three Kings – Cappella dei Tre Re, near the Monte Stella sanctuary. As the Ivrea Jewish community has a long history, the synagogue always hosts many cultural events.

Culinary wise, Ivrea’s most typical specialties are:

  • Torta 900 – cake 900
Torta 900, cake, sweets, dessert, Ivrea, Piemonte, Piedmont, foodie, Italy, Italia

Sweetness on a plate       Credit:

A very delicate chocolate cake made with a secret recipe owned by just one pastry shop: Pasticceria Balla, the only one where you can eat it.

  • Polentina – tiny polenta
Polentina, food, italy, italia

Polentina    Credit: 

A soft cake the size of hand-made with corn flour that provides the surprising yellow heart to its brown exterior look, made with honey, orange juice and finely chopped hazelnuts.

  • Tomini elettrici
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Colorful & spicy tomini elettrici   Credit: 

Electric tiny Toma cheeses are a typical specialty of the whole area. Toma is a typical Piedmontese goat cheese, round in shape, with a delicate flavor, a creamy texture and sometimes a thin crust. The electricity of this cheese derives from the chili used to flavor it.

Erbaluce di Caluso is the autochthonous grape of the area; in fact, its vine sprang from the nymph Albaluce’s tears, moved by the generosity of the locals who had sacrificed everything for her beauty. It is the only wine with the DOCG certification for all its 3 variants: still, sparkling and raisinated.

Erbaluce di Caluso, wine, Italy, Italia, Piemonte, Piedmont, wino

3 types of Erbaluce di Caluso    Credit:

Its fresh character and natural acidity make it a perfect match for aperitivo snacks, cured meats produced in the nearby Alps, freshwater fish from the local lakes, risotto and cheese.

As you see there is so much to see and do in Ivrea, so keep it in mind next time you come to il bel paese!

Now we’re curious,

Would you to participate in such an event?

What is the best carnival you have ever been to?

Let us know 😉


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6 thoughts on “The Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea: the oldest carnival tradition in Italy

  1. My Cup Of Travel says:

    Maybe it´s because our national colour is orange, or that our monarch wears the surname ´Of Orange´ or maybe just because it is my most favourite colour but I just have to fight this battle of Oranges =) Great post!!

    • traveller soul says:

      Ha ha yes, they are quite strong but you get to release stress by hurling a few of them.

      It makes you forget troubles for a bit 😉

      I’d definitely go for the amazing food & dessert after the carnival!

      Wine? Yes please 😉

  2. Andy says:

    Great post Karla! Very interesting. I would love to participate.
    I would also love to sample a splash (or two) of the Erbaluce di Caluso 🙂

    • traveller soul says:

      Thanks Andy.

      The actual battle of 2014 took place today & I would have loved being there to see it myself?

      Sample Erbaluce wine? Yes, please! 😉

      Thank you for your visit!

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