Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Orange Festival of Ivrea

We had the most unusual weekend--several months ago, John found out about a Carnivale celebration in Ivrea, about an hour's train ride from here. Ivrea is known for its Orange Festival, which does not involve a tame tasting of orange-flavored items, but rather the throwing of oranges. This is how it goes: the main piazzas (courtyards) in the town each have a ground team and several crates of oranges. At the appointed time, a horse-drawn cart will come through and the cart has about ten people on it, protected by helmets, padded uniforms and of course, armed with oranges. Once it comes into view, the cart is mobbed by the ground team and the fruit starts flying. Then a whistle blows, the cart moves on, and the ground crew tends to its wounds while waiting for the next cart.
This was clearly an experience we could not pass up. Some friends of ours were also planning on attending, so on Sunday and Monday we went out with them and had a great time.

As our friends Sian and Lloyd are exhibiting here, there can be a great deal of anticipation before a cart comes through; people tended to deal with their nervousness in different ways. Sian, on the left, was definitely the safer of the two.

Notice the tarps and the netting, which are meant to protect both the people and the buildings (ignore the elephant if you're not already acquainted with Purple). The good people of Ivrea take throwing oranges seriously.

Very seriously.

Let the games begin! Here's a mob of ground crew members attacking a cart. People wearing red hats (available for purchase at the entrance) are supposed to be marked out as innocent bystanders. But accidents still happen.

In this video, you can get a good idea of the flurry of oranges. John was brave and stood outside the protective netting to get this.

This video defies explanation.

Here are Matt and Courtney, with their children Nolan and Meredith, and John, of course. Notice the copious amounts of red. To our knowledge, neither child was hit with an orange, although there were times we had to shield them with our bodies.

And here's us! We encourage you to click on this picture and make it larger so you can have a better view of the action behind us. (Our clothes, in case you're wondering, now look like they've been run through a juicer.)

Like I said, accidents happen. If you click on this picture, you'll be able to see in vivid detail where I got clocked on the head.

Slipping and falling is another danger. A carpet of smashed oranges is as treacherous as a driveway after a Missouri ice-storm.

Hiding from the oranges is therefore the safest option. (Whether a camera case is sufficient protection is another question.)

So that's it! We survived, small children and all. Monday night, we went back to Dyfan and Caroline's to celebrate Sian's eleventh birthday. There we enjoyed another cultural treat: toad-in-the-hole. This British dish, cooked by an authentic British person, consists of pancake batter mixed with hot lard and cooked in the oven with sausages. Not in the least healthy, but very tasty.


  1. I LOVE the pictures and videos. We felt like we had been there (minus the pain). What a great experience. Are you going to an eggplant throwing festival next?

  2. Do you know of one? An eggplant would be softer than an orange.

  3. Good Pictures! It looks like you had fun! he he! Thanks again for going with us. We had a great time. :)