Photo Essay: Battle of the Oranges, The Fight

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It was my first time in Ivrea, in Piedmont actually, and though the city had its carnevale mask on glimpses of the town could be found through the mask. I was lucky to be there on the first day in weeks without rain and the sun brought out all the city’s splendor.

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Like I mentioned in my previous post hereLa Battaglia delle Arance, the battle of the oranges represents a Medieval battle between the people of Ivrea and the nobility. Today it takes place with oranges instead of rocks and is organized into teams instead of mobs in an ultimate mix of history and exhibition.

This year there were approximately 50,000 people who filled the tiny town to take part in the battle. Red hat or not, if you’re not behind a net when the oranges start flying there’s little you can do to protect yourself.

The battle atmosphere was palpable. Everyone was calm and joyful beforehand, yet the anticipation of the eventual battle gave the air a buzz of energy, both with the spectators and those involved in the battle. Even if they tried to act nonchalant like the boys below, they were well aware of being watched. For sure they were thinking about the battle ahead.

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The horses of the carriages were dressed large, gorgeous, well taken care of and dressed to match

Then, from one moment to the next, the battle begun!

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Nine teams of people on the ground, without helmets, pads or other protection, take on 48 carriages in a battle that lasted over three hours.

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Right in the face!

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The fighters took much-needed breaks on the side streets after their loop through the piazza, washing the orange pulp off their helmets and faces.

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The carriages left nothing to the imagination. Here’s la mugnaia fighting the nobility (more info here)

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guards vs townsfolk

Despite the intense situation there seemed to be only respect and camaraderie between the teams and those in the carriages. I guess there’s nothing like the shared knowledge of what it feels like to be hit in the face with a cold, citrusy rock to bring people together!

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After the fight in the piazza, multiple one-on-one fights would break out on the side streets. One guard throwing viciously at one person on the ground who threw upwards, doing little to protect his face or head. They took it like champs, shaking hands, patting backs and sharing loud whoops from the adrenaline afterwards. I, on the other hand, hid in a doorway, covered my face as best I could and snapped photos…


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Blood was seeping down his nose, but there was no reason to be upset

There were injuries, there was blood (not a lot) and there was vin brulée (a lot). So call it dangerous, wasteful, stupid… in the end that’s carnevale, and it was a damn good time!

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3 Responses to Photo Essay: Battle of the Oranges, The Fight

  1. frankieandgiuseppe says:

    Fantastic photo essay. You really brought the festival alive.

  2. Pingback: Snapshots of Ivrea | From Italy, With Love

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