February 28, 2006

orange crush

Many cities all over Italy celebrate Carnivale, most in the traditional Mardi Gras fashion, but several in other ways as well. Somehow I ran across a website for one that was about an hour train ride from Torino and I knew I had to go to there after the Olympics ended. In the little village of Ivrea, they celebrate 'the Battle of the Oranges'. Apparently it is the commemoration of ancient battles in the city that has turned into a festival, and over time, weapons have been replaced by oranges.

My gist on it from being there is that there are many groups that act almost like gangs or tribes - they each have defining symbols, colors, uniforms, songs. Each stakes a claim on a piazza or other location within the city, and they all also go throughout the city in horsedrawn wagons with about ten people on them. When they ride into another groups turf, they literally just pelt the hell out of each other with oranges. Wagon after wagon travels this route so in a certain area one rival goes through after another. The streets get filled with orange slush that is probably six inches deep in places. At some point a parade with kings and queens strolls through as well - I don't know the exact significance, but there are clearly other symbolic things going on. They just weren't as fun!

When I first got there I passed several vendors selling red caps and scarves and hats - finally I stopped to ask about them and between my broken Italian and their broken English, I found out that a red cap means "non-player - no oranges." He pointed me to the most traditional of the caps. Good thing I asked. If you get close to the action there's no avoiding being pelted with a few anyway because they're flying everywhere fast and furious, but at least you're not a target.

I managed to have a few beers along the way (who, me?), some local punch with grappa and who knows what else in it, and a couple of food vendor foods that - well I really don't know what they were either. I always try to pick out the things that clearly aren't something I know or that look to be the most local. At one booth after watching several orders, I figured out just to ask for a "mista" to get a mix of all the toppings and the meat together, whatever they were. Yum.

This little side trip was the best thing I've done in a long time. I couldn't have found a better way to start the vacation portion of this adventure....

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Those Italians have some crazy ways to celebrate. Throwing oranges at each other? Brilliant. I really enjoyed your Olympic coverage, but this is just hilarious!