08.02.2016 - 08.02.2016
Almost everyone has heard of Carnival whether it's the version celebrated here in Italy, the one in Rio De Janeiro or even America's version known to some going by the name of Mardi Gras. Like everything else Carnival celebrations vary depending on what country you are celebrating them in and even depending on what region of that country you are in. If you know Italian Carnival you probably think of the historical costumes and masks worn in celebration in Venice.
I planned my trip I didn't care about the dates so long as I left to return home the Friday after my birthday. This way I could spend not only my birthday here but still give my host family a full weeks care and not cut out on them in the middle of the week. It wasn't until I arrived that I realized I was arriving on the weekend of Carnival. Children have no school Monday & Tuesday after Carnival weekend because festivities are still going. The last day of school before this break the children all wear costumes to school for Carnival. They also wear their costumes to things throughout town during Carnival. The primary school that the boys go to gives each classroom a theme for their costumes that year. Vittorio's was city workers I think, and Giovanni's was under the sea. My host mother Luisella and her friend Maria and all 4 of the children(Luisella's 3 and Maria's 1) plus myself all went to a town called Ivrea. Ivrea is about an hours drive north of Torino. Here they do carnival their own way.
This part of Italy has a lot of Orange and Lemons grown here, from what I am told they can only sell so many and then have to destroy the extra which I find horrible donate them somewhere that people need them in Italy or another country. Why limit how many oranges can be sold? I still don't see the logic but oh well. Back to the point, the back story if I recall correctly from what I was told is this: There was a king a few hundred years ago who ended up no longer being good for the people. For this reason the people wanted to overthrow him and make a general in charge instead. They did exactly that and while the now over thrown king was fleeing the city they threw oranges at him, lots of oranges. Which is why they throw oranges during their Carnival celebration to remember the over throwing of the king.
For this reason during Carnival in Ivrea teams or groups arrive with their fancy wagons, and uniforms and they bombarded each other with oranges. If you are in Ivrea and do not want to be hit with an orange you are supposed to wear a red hat, scarf or coat. Mostly it is for the children but adult wear red as well. That does not mean you won't get hit rouge oranges are a thing. It just means no one will aim an orange at you. Everyone gets in on it and in my experience it was fun and you could feel the excitement. They do pause in the orange throwing to reenact that general being sworn in or whatever it's called. The wagons come into one of the squares and start bombarding the people in the other wagon, and if the crowd is throwing oranges at them the crowd close to the wagons as well with hundreds of oranges. There are stacks of crates all around town where each wagon goes back to refill the supply on the wagon. Then there are stacks to use to refill the supply on bridges for people to throw at targets on the bank of the river under them. Hundreds is probably an understatement I'm guessing they go through thousands of oranges probably in a day and I don't want to know how many in the entire weekend.
Throughout the town you will find vendors with little tables set up selling red products; caps, the long traditional(for this part of Italy) hats, scarfs, and confetti. Oh yes confetti, it is carnival after all. Children bring and get parents to buy for them backs of confetti and throw it everywhere, just up in the air for the heck of it, at their friends and family members the stuff ends up appearing EVERYWHERE.
Ivrea is so well known for their orange throwing and consider it important enough to their cities history that there are multiple pieces of art around town that are a grey hand holding an orange. Each piece of art is a good 9 or more feet tall. I think I counted 2 if not 3 while there.
I am very glad they took me there because I don't think I will ever experience anything close to this event again in my life and I would have hated to have missed my chance to experience it. If you ever happen to be in the Torino part of Italy during Carnival I recommend the drive to Ivrea. You are bound to have a great time!