Each year, Ivrea celebrates the Orange Battle. This mayham originates from a myth in which an Italian royal of the city used to require virgins to spend their first night in bed with him, before they married. This went along for some years without a hitch, until one spritly young lady refused to sleep with him, and instead severed his head with a sword.
To re-inact this event, the town is seperated into 9 teams, from 9 neighborhoods in the city. Each team has a decorated horse drawn carriage, defending the Italian royal family. Those commoners on the ground defend the brave woman. One woman is elected (or, ahem, pays THOUSANDS of euro) to play the role of the Mugaina, and parades around the city for the 3 days of the festival. On the 3rd day the Mugaina holds an orange on a sword representing the royal’s dismantaled head. It is rumored that she must work out several months in advance to hold up this very heavy sword, or the crowd boos and hisses at the Mugaina.
We went in costume to the pre-party before the battle. As a team, we traveled to each of the 9 neighborhoods, chanting and dancing through the streets. The parade ended at the river, where fireworks exploded, and live music went well into the morning hours.. The next day the battle commensed, and we drug our not so energetic selves back to the city. You are supposed to wear red to signify that you are not participating in the battle, but are simply a bistander. Of course I was drapped in red, and frankly, nobody cared. This battle is no joke.
We watched the first battle from a far. As one of the carts drove in front of us, and people on the ground began to throw the oranges. I had absolutely no idea the force and violence that would ensue. It’s rumored that some people freeze their oranges, or implant tiny rocks. I was transported back into time, as the two teams in battle gear annilated each other. Later, we decided to go to an area which is fenced off, so we could get closer (in safety).
HOWEVER, we took a wrong turn, and ended up in the direct route of the carriages. As I began to see people run down the narrow street in terror, I looked at what followed them; a carriage with men in battle gear, headed RIGHT for us. I screamed, as any normal girl would, and pressed myself up against the wall. It was no use. The horses stopped (as did my heart) jumped high into the air, and barreled towards me. I was pelted. First they hit all around me, making loud SMACKs against the stone walls. Then came the direct hits; my back, my legs, my head.
This repeated several more times. Because we were trapped and it was impossible to leave this area without risk, we stayed. Faces were smeared with sweat, blood, and oranges. My hair was saturated with pulp. The smell of smashed citrus and horse feeces was thick in my nose. My heart racing, I turned to my friend to express my shock in the fact that we had survived. “That was exciting!” she shouted, face glowing. Luca turned his head, smiling widly. These two were crazy.
Exhausted, we slowly and carefully made our way back to the car. The peals were smeared along the pavement, making it difficult to walk without slipping. That evening, we slept in a heap of exhaustion, that only the Orange Battle could create.
Until next year..