Tourists arrived in the Italian city of Ivrea this weekend to mark the start of carnival season. The city, which is less than an hour drive north of Turin, comes alive on Sunday 6th January, the feast day of the Epiphany, and hosts one of the most distinctive pre-lent festivals in Italy.
Festivities began this weekend with the traditional launch, a procession of pipers and drummers from the town square, followed by a parade of council members and a ceremony in the cathedral. The carnival will continue with a variety of activities from bean tasting to concerts between now and February, but the most famous spectacle is the aptly named 'battle of the orange'.
The whole town erupts in an organised orange fight; with teams of townspeople lining the streets against teams of officials riding carriages loaded with the fruits (official orange throwing teams must be registered for in advance). The stories of the origins of the mock fight vary from tales of a 12th century revolution to those of a 19th century tyrant who was beheaded to a battle of the sexes, but whatever the start, the history lesson is forgotten as the streets are covered with as much as 30cm of orange pulp.
Oranges are imported from Sicily for the annual ritual which occurs over three days in February. Ahead of the manic battle days, visitors have the option of buying a special red hat from a street vendor to show they'll be spectating at the games. Wearing a red hat is supposed to offer immunity from being pelted with oranges but there's no guaranteed protection from the crossfire.
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