For the uninitiated, Italy's Carnevale D'Ivrea seems more like a rejected Monty Python sketch than a centuries-old tradition celebrating the deposing of a tyrannical baron. But for the roughly 7,000 people who showed up to this year's "Battle of the Oranges," the citrus-tinged festival comes with some seriously real repercussions.
In fact, this year's food fight left over 70 participants injured. No surprise, really, because the purpose of the festival is to beat the shit out of your fellow competitors by lobbing oranges at each other. This year, there was also enough mulled wine consumed to leave over 28 revelers incapacitated, including a 12-year-old boy who was reportedly in a coma.
Did we forget to mention that at the end of the festival—which happens to be the largest food fight in all of Italy—the picturesque streets of Ivrea are left coated in a delightful cocktail of orange pulp, blood, and horse shit? Because they most certainly are.
The festival marks the beginning of Italy's carnival season and is believed to commemorate the town of Ivrea's overthrowing of a tyrannical baron. The bad guy is thought to be either a member of the Ranieri family or an amalgamation of the 12th-century Ranieri di Biandrate and the 13th-century Marquis William VII of Montferrat. It's said that —as the citizens of Ivrea are referred to—originally celebrated this mean dude's death by throwing confetti and beans. The tradition was changed in the 19th century, when the town's women began to toss oranges from balconies in an attempt to court male suitors.
It's unclear when the festival's participants began to dress up in medieval garb, but that aspect of the festival could be a nod to the town's glorious past: it was a stopping point on the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route.
This year, the event's organizers reported a crowd of onlookers as large as 16,000; what's more, 7,000 tickets for participating in the event were sold for about $9 a piece. The oranges used in this epic battle royal are said to be shipped to Ivrea from Sicily, where they were originally destined to be pulped.
In case you haven't been able to tell yet, the three-day long Carnevale D'Ivrea is a pretty damn big deal in the northern Italian town. Hell, a video-game studio based in Ivrea even created Orange Battle, a video game based on the festival.
So now we know that Italy has a festival in which participants throw blood-soaked oranges at one another. And judging by this year's injuries, we also know that if you'd like to join in, you have a one-in-70 chance of either being injured by an orange or incapacitated by mulled wine. Those are odds some people feel are well worth taking to participate in a juicy battle reminiscent of the Middle Ages.