Ivrea's Orange Throwing Festival, Italy.
We all love throwing things. It makes you feel good, it’s a release and if the stuff you’re throwing really isn’t meant to be a missile, then so much the better. We’re not talking riots here, I’m thinking about that split second of ecstasy you experience as you hurl your mobile phone against the wall and watch it break. And this isn’t some sexist stereotype either; only last year my wife thought about throwing our new inkjet printer at me, and I could tell by the look on her face at the time that she would have been cock-a-hoop if the whole lovely shiny black lump had collided at speed with my head. You see for her, like so many of us it’s that moment of abandon that does us the power of good.
This isn’t a new thing, there are all sorts of sports and festivals that have centred around people chucking things for hundreds of years and one of the most exciting is taking place every year in the small Italian town, Ivrea's Orange throwing festival takes place. There are few skirmishes in the run up but the main citrusy conflict on the last day of the festival, where anybody who is anybody is dishing it out orange style.
The Event's History
Officially the largest food fight in Italy its origins date back to the 12th Century, celebrating the town’s defiance against the ruling tyrant who was eventually killed by a local miller’s daughter. Each year the people of the town collect in their thousands and hurl oranges at one another recreating the battle which overthrew the tyrannical regime, but let’s not get too carried away: this is an almighty party wrapped up in a huge onslaught of airborne fruit. The missiles are the leftovers from the annual orange harvest and on average around 600,000 lb are delivered to Ivrea for the fight annually, so there really is no waste as this would only have to be destroyed under EU rules.
What To Expect
This celebration of defiance has rapidly evolved over the years and after the Second World War really turned in to the frenzied orange throwing it is today. The locals are divided up into nine combat teams, which all sounds a bit serious and in a way it is – if you come here wanting to take part you’ll have to fully immerse yourself in the moment and that means getting hit by a lot of oranges. Like all fun festivals it’s a fully inclusive event so you can really get stuck in, however, if you want to play the observer role and just kick back on the hot spicy wine served freely you can wear a red hat you’ll be considered a revolutionary and won’t have oranges thrown at you. Well, let’s not be too naive here: it’s a food fight, there’s wine, and you’re getting clobbered.
The festival lasts for 4 days with the main orange fight being on Shrove Tuesday, after which peace returns to the town and on the Tuesday everyone gathers again, much calmer, to wind up activities with a traditional fish dish. You just can’t imagine this happening in Mansfield can you? You know, massive uncontrolled food fight followed by a fish supper. Never seen that on ‘Cops With Cameras’.