It seems as though Europeans love good old-fashioned fights - food fights that is. First there is Spain's La Tomatina, where brave souls pelt each other with tomatoes and now italy's Battaglia delle Arance or Battle of the Oranges, where, you guessed it . . . . . . . . . Thousands of people toss rotten oranges at each other.
The origin of the three-day festival which takes place every February in the Northern Italian town of Ivrea,is a little hazy. Some believe it dates all the way back to the 12th century when a miller's daughter not only rejected the unwanted attention from the town's evil lord, but also, saved it from his tyranny by cutting his head off. The battle of the oranges is a revival of the fight that ensued between the locals and nobleman, with the yellow fruit representing the evil tyrant's head.
Others believe that it stems from the 19th Century when the commoners threw away food to protest the rule of a feudal lord. No matter what the origin, today the carnival is a revered tradition for this tiny Northern Italian town - One that is attended by thousands of people from all over the country.
The preparation begins with 57,000 crates of rotten oranges (destined to be tossed anyway) being shipped in from Sicily. The participants then form teams, complete with distinct uniforms. The guards get to toss the fruit off horse drawn carriages, while the commoners pelt it from the ground. Each set of teams is allowed to 'battle' only one of the three days, ensuring that everyone gets a chance and that nobody gets seriously injured by the fruit.
Spectators who just want to enjoy this sticky mess (and there are thousands) can identify themselves by wearing red hats - This serves as a warning to both sides that they are not part of the orange battle - An occasional stray orange hit however is inevitable and, perfectly acceptable.
While the whole battle seems quite painful, organizers insist that the most damage anybody has sustained is a black eye, which is often considered a badge of honor. Having said that they do have a number of first aid tents set up, just in case! Also, the oranges sound a little less painful than the apples and beans which apparently, were the weapon of choice until the turn of the 20th century!
The winner of the battle is picked by a team of impartial judges whose decisions are based on each team's orange throwing skills, the distinctness of their uniforms and most importantly how successful they are in avoiding the poor horses who are caught in this sticky battle.
At the end of the three-days, the town holds a giant procession, after which the battle worn soldiers go home to rest, making way for the clean-up crew of over 100 men to get rid of the icky mess!