Each year, thousands of people in the town of Ivrea in northern Italy have one of the largest food fights on the planet during the Battle of the Oranges. Part of the city’s annual Carnival celebrations, origins of the tradition are somewhat unclear, but it’s believed to have originated by the townspeople’s revolt against their tyrant during the 12th or 13th century. As the story goes, the tyrant was looking to exercise his power and attempted to rape a girl on the eve of her wedding, but the young woman instead decapitated the tyrant, and the townspeople stormed and burned the palace. Today, the story is loosely reenacted: an actress is chosen each year to play the part of the young woman, and organized teams on foot (representing the rebels) and in carts (representing authority figures) duke it out in the streets. The weapon of choice has morphed over the years from stones to beans to apples to oranges, a good choice considering the former options.
The video above by Andry Verga sheds light on just how epic the battle becomes. This year, the Battle of the Oranges will take place on the weekend of February 9 and 10. It’s just one of the more than 60 events on our list of events worth planning a trip around in 2013.
Have you ever landed in a place to find out you arrived just after the town’s can’t-miss event of the year? Well, hopefully that won’t happen again this year. Gadling bloggers racked their brains to make sure our readers don’t overlook the best parties to be had throughout the world in 2013. Below are more than 60 music festivals, cultural events, pilgrimages and celebrations you should consider adding to your travel calendar this year – trust us, we’ve been there.
Above image: Throughout Asia, Lunar New Year is celebrated with lantern festivals, the most spectacular of which is possibly Pingxi. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
Kumbh Mela, a 55-day festival in India, is expected to draw more than 100 million people in 2013. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
The annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Visit Istanbul, Turkey, at this time and see a festival-like atmosphere when pious Muslims break their fasts with lively iftar feasts at night. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
Festival-goers get their picture taken at a photo booth during Foo Fest, an arts and culture festival held annually in Providence, Rhode Island. [Photo credit: Flickr user AS220]
August 2–4: Lollapalooza (Chicago, Illinois)
August 10: Foo Fest (Providence, Rhode Island)
August 26–September 2: Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)
August 31–September 2: Bumbershoot (Seattle, Washington)
More than six million people head to Munich, Germany, for beer-related festivities during the 16-day Oktoberfest. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
During Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), family and friends get together to remember loved ones they have lost. Although practiced throughout Mexico, many festivals take place in the United States, such as this festival at La Villita in San Antonio, Texas. [Photo credit: Blogger Libby Zay]
Even before Filippo Prior rides into the ancient piazza on the back of a horse-drawn carriage, he feels the giddy adrenalin rush of battle and the unnerving fear that comes with the knowledge that he and his teammates are about to get pelted with hundreds of cold, hard oranges.
“You hear the roar of the crowd, people screaming before you enter the piazza,” says Prior, a 21-year old member of the Cavalry of the Tricolore, a carriage team which competes in Italy’s annual Battle of the Oranges, a pre-Lenten carnival in Ivrea, near Turin. “It’s scary. You have a helmet but you can’t see anything because oranges are flying at you from all angles.”
The Battaglia delle Arance is a three-day orgy of orange-throwing insanity that is part of an ancient six-day carnival that attracts some 100,000 spectators and 4,000 participants to the small northern Italian city of Ivrea each February. The event, which begins today, appears to be unregulated mayhem but it’s actually highly structured and has deep historical significance.
The carnival commemorates a 12th century rebellion that was sparked by Violletta, a commoner who cut off the head of a tyrannical lord who tried to enforce the custom of taking her virginity on her wedding night. For centuries, carnivals-goers in the town threw beans at each other because feudal lords used to bestow two pots of them per year on poor people in the town. The bean-throwing was meant to signify their disdain for the handouts, but was also good fun.
But in the mid-nineteenth century, the tradition gradually changed as young women adopted the custom of standing on balconies and pelting boys they fancied from above with oranges. If the boys liked their attacker, they returned fire. These days, the city trucks in 57,000 crates, or 400 tons worth of oranges from Southern Italy that would otherwise be thrown away for use in the battle.
Dozens of carriage teams on horse-drawn carts, signifying the tyrant’s guards, compete against nine “foot” teams, representing the rebellious commoners. The carriage players are completely surrounded and outnumbered, so these participants have to be either very brave, or very pazo (crazy), preferably both.
“On the wagon, you have only eight people and you are throwing oranges against 400-500 people at a time- you are completely under siege,” says Prior, an Ivrea native who has been competing in the battle since he was 12. “You get hit everywhere- on the helmet, the arms, the chest, your hands.”
According to Prior, each carriage player competes for just one of the three days in the battle due the vicious nature of the combat.
“The next day your arms are purple- completely covered in bruises from getting hit so many times,” he says. “There is no way you could do all three days.”
The local authorities set up first aid tents around the five piazzas used for the event, each one is “defended” by a different foot team. The organizers say that no one has ever suffered a severe injury and some view getting a black eye or a bruise on the face as a badge of courage. Spectators wear red berets to signify themselves as non-combatants but still get hit with stray fire. The splattered oranges and horse droppings create a colossal mess that’s eventually cleaned up by a team of 100 workers.
On Fat Tuesday, a team of judges give awards to the foot and carriage teams based upon their throwing ability, costumes and adherence to rules, such as not hitting the horses with oranges. The festival concludes with a huge procession, which culminates with a likeness of a sword-weilding Violetta presiding over a burning scarlo, a pole covered in heather and juniper bushes. The crowd goes wild, cheering for the scarlo to burn as quickly as possible. A quick burn is an omen that the coming year will be a good one; a slow burn means trouble is on the way.
The teams have been together for decades, but foreign visitors are welcome to join if they pay a registration fee. But Prior has a word of advice for newcomers.
“Definitely wear old clothes and shoes, because all your things will be ruined.”