Monday, March 29, 2010

International


08/06/2008
 

Carnival Clash

Italy's Battle of the Oranges

Italy stages its biggest food fight each year in the Piedmont town of Ivrea, where thousands gather each year before Lent to re-enact a medieval battle by hurling oranges at each other. By the end of it the entire town is awash with Vitamin C.

Orange fetishists are well advised to visit the northern Italian town of Ivrea, 35 kilometers from Turin, on the Sunday before Lent when the townsfolk stage their annual Battle of the Oranges, the country's largest fruit fight.

It involves around 3,000 revellers on foot and in carts drawn by decorated horses and lasts for three days, after which everyone is covered in pulp and orange juice, and the streets are slippery with squashed orange peel.

The ceremony, part of the town's historic carnival, marks the rebellion of the people against tyrannical lords who ruled the town in the Middle Ages. Each year a carnival mascot is chosen from the town's schoolchildren to play "Violetta", a beautiful girl who in medieval times refused the advances of a lord and came to represent the victory of freedom over tyranny.

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The battle is stickier occasion than Spain's La Tomatina tomato fight but it contains more Vitamin C.

The revellers on carts represent the guards of the tyrant, those on foot the townsfolk. The festival also derives from a strange courtship ritual.

Initially, beans were thrown but in the 19th century, girls started to throw oranges -- more valuable because they aren't grown in this region of Italy -- at the boys they found attractive. If the feeling was mutual, the boys would throw the oranges back at them in a practice far simpler and more effective than Internet dating.

Eventually the medieval battle-cum-courtship-ritual turned into a contest, with prizes awarded in the Town Hall where jurors declare the winners.

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