Orange is the new splat: Fruit battle in Italian town

The Ivrea orange fight has existed in one form or another since 1858 | © AFP | GIUSEPPE CACACE

Ivrea (Italy) (AFP) | 26 February 2017 20:39

The juicy battle in Ivrea is part of the town’s yearly carnival, which recreates a centuries-old revolt by commoners against the monarchy.

The three-day carnival kicked off Sunday and ends the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar.

“It’s madness … really madness,” local resident Francesca told AFP. “Some may think these people are crazy, but for us in Ivrea, this is something we have in our DNA. Children are born with this madness.”

According to the battle’s official website, the orange fight has existed in one form or another since 1858. Huge crowds flock to the event annually, though the legend behind the actual insurrection is a bit murky.

The guards have the benefit of helmets for protection against the fruity bombardment
The guards have the benefit of helmets for protection against the fruity bombardment | © AFP | GIUSEPPE CACACE

As the most commonly told story would have it, a 12th century miller’s daughter fought back against an evil baron when he came to her on the eve of her wedding to exercise his “jus primae noctis” — a reference to medieval lords having the supposed right to have sexual relations with subordinate women.

Instead, the bride cut off the baron’s head and paraded it all over town, sparking the uprising.

Today, that revolt is recreated with townspeople in medieval attire battling teams of the tyrant’s guards in period dress, complete with protective helmets and masks.

The townspeople, on foot and without any protection, throw oranges at the guards, who fight back from carts drawn by masked horses.

Wearing a red floppy hat marks you as a spectator in the orange fight
Wearing a red floppy hat marks you as a spectator in the orange fight | © AFP | GIUSEPPE CACACE

Crates of oranges are tightly stacked one over the other stand on the sidewalks, and some spectators take refuge to avoid being hit by wayward pulp.

Wearing a red floppy hat marks you as a spectator and safe from flying fruit.

“It is a historical reconstruction of a real fact which happened several hundreds years ago with the revolt against a king,” said Roberto, who participated in the battle. “In the last century, the battle is waged with oranges but before we were throwing stones, if you can imagine that.”

© 2017 AFP

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