Oranges and people pulped in Battaglia delle Arancie

Cool morning air blows down from the Alpine mountains into Ivrea, in Piedmont, northern Italy and mingles with the scent of oranges, stacked in quiet street corners and squares ready for the city’s annual carnival, the Battaglia delle Arancie (Battle of the Oranges). It’s mid-February and time for the carnival, in which locals pelt each other oranges representing centuries of local history and the overthrow of oppressive rule.

Carnival is taken seriously in Italy, with villages, towns and cities across the country getting in on the celebrations. With its haunting masks, intrigues and beautiful backdrops Venice Carnival is perhaps the best known. Carnival is staged just just before the Christian period of Lent, usually starting in February and is all about excess, including using up food before the rigours of denial that shapes these 40 days leading up to Easter.

Ivera’s carnival is steeped in history, and food is one key aspect that brings the community together. Huge pots of beans cooked in giant pans with pork rind, pigs bones, lard, onions and cotechino sausages are prepared by each of the city’s districts and ceremoniously eaten early in the morning. Originally beans were thrown, then apples. Later, in the 19th century, oranges came to represent the stones thrown at the king’s castle in order to demolish it. Today the horse drawn carriages are described as representing a nobleman’s army while the Aranceri, the orange throwers, represent revolutionaries and the common people. There are nine teams on foot, each wearing colours and based in a particular section of the historic old centre of the city.

Tonnes of oranges are hurled between the opposing sides, and it’s easy to get swept up in the emotion and community spirit of event, a violent reenactment of a bloody period of history.

It’s an exhilarating, colourful spectacle and exciting to be a part of. Questions are raised every year about food waste, animal welfare, food waste and participants getting bloodied and injured by the thrown fruit. But they are never fully answered, and the carnival continues.

All images (c) The Lemon Grove 2020

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.