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The Ivrea Carnival

The Battle of the Oranges

The Frightening but Wonderfully Fabulous Ivrea Carnival

The Ivrea Carnival is held annually, 40 days before lent, in Ivrea near Torino/Turin in Piedmont Italy. Click on the hotel under the Where to Stay section a little further down the page for a map of the Ivrea region.

For the young or young at heart, this is THE party carnival but it is also pretty scary, probably a close second behind Pamplona and the running of the bulls.

If you enjoyed food fights when you were a child then get to Ivrea in Piedmont you are going to LOVE this – the mother of all food fights.

Over 400 tons of oranges are used as missiles and the whole population of Ivrea, and you, are orange at the end of it.

This is the best carnival I have ever attended and when I was younger I got stuck in with the best of them. I have attended many Italian carnivals, and those of Pamplona and Rio, but I love this more - despite the bruises!!

Where to Stay in Ivrea

Easy choice - The Castello di Pavone outshines any other hotel (read more here). This really is some place, a magnificently restored medieval castle, offering an experience of a lifetime. A quite extraordinary hotel. It is worth coming to Ivrea just to stay here.

About the Carnival

The initial appearance is of a town having gone completely mad,  however ,this Piedmont Carnival is of great historical significance and has deep meaning and importance to the townsfolk.

The origins date back to the twelfth century and the beheading of an evil count by a newly-wed millers daughter, who the count had tried to rape.

The carnival is opened each year by a newlywed who represents the miller’s daughter of yesteryear, she is “protected” by more than 1000 masked townsfolk, soldiers and a General.

The theme of the carnival can be a little difficult to understand. It consists of 40 decorated horse and carts carrying orange throwers who represent the Piedmont castle.

The horse and carts then move through the piazzas of Ivrea, each piazza being held by one of nine rival teams of rebelling commoners.

As the carts move into the piazzas the teams waiting for them in the squares and the lunatics on the carts go absolutely mad, hurling oranges at each other like demented maniacs.

The orange part of the Ivrea carnival is relatively new – prior to the nineteenth century beans were used. These beans were given to Piedmont and Ivrean peasants by the local lords and, as a sign of disrespect , the peasants used to throw them back.

The introduction of oranges  has definitely added a whole new dimension.

Carnival Food

If you liked the idea of bean more than oranges, don't worry! The beans are still about and are remembered in the tradition of handing out free bean dishes on the day to all and sundry. This dish, an old Piedmont peasant staple, known as fagioli grassi, is delicious.

It is made by the townsfolk in vast quantities and in huge cauldrons from Saturday night. It consists of a tasty mix of beans, sausages and bacon rind.

Many other traditional Piedmont dishes are prepared for carnival and can be bought at stalls around the town. This makes the carnival a real treat for gourmands and anybody who appreciates Italian and Piedmonte cooking – and who doesn’t!!

Do try the salam duja, the capunet, bat-de-soje and the great toma cheese.

Eat lots of the great bugie sweets/pastries, these are a Piedmont carnival tradition and are to be found throughout Piedmont in February.

You can visit the carnival for a day but parking is a complete nightmare. Best to book months before and spend a few days in Ivrea.

Soak up the carnival atmosphere that pervades the town in the days before the Ivrea carnival begins and see a little of the lovely surrounding Piedmont countryside and the nearby lakes.

Looking for another great carnival in Italy? This one is good!

Of course there is the magnificent Venice carnival too - click for more.

Or how about the Chess Festival?

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