Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Having a ball – Italy’s largest food fight

While the Spanish have La Tomatina, once a year in the town of Ivrea, the Italians take to the streets for a spectacular food fight of their own – The Battle of Oranges. 
One of the most popular stories of the tradition’s origin is thought to come from the 12th century. A royal tyrant took it upon himself to assault a humble miller’s daughter on the night of her wedding. His plan backfired when in defense, she managed to behead him and cut off his (ahem) ‘oranges’. In outrage, her townsfolk stormed the palace and burnt it to the ground.
Nowadays, the battle is held in the spirit of joy rather than anger, with participants joining one of two sides – the townsfolk or the royals – and pelting each other with oranges. Unlike tomatoes, even though they may be ripe, oranges thrown pack quite a wallop, so spectators are advised to wear a red hat for immunity if they don’t want to take part or risk injury.
At the end of the festival, the general who leads proceedings declares ‘arvedse a giobia a ‘n bot’, which translates as ‘see you next Thursday at one o’clock’ – the time and day the Battle will recommence next year.