From 10 to 13 February, discover the Historic Carnival of Ivrea and experience an event unique in the world: the Battle of Oranges!

tickets banner

Ivrea is a small town at the foot of the Piedmont Alps. Located a 40-minute drive from Turin, the city is famous for being a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the glorious history of the Olivetti factory, but even more so for its characteristic Carnival.

The Historic Carnival of Ivrea is the oldest historical carnival in Italy, dating back to the Middle Ages. It is not just a folkloristic event, but a re-enactment of the popular rebellion that in 1200 deposed the tyrant and proclaimed the city a free Municipality. The rebellion is commemorated every year through a beautiful ceremonial composed of rituals and historical characters, and by the Battle of the Oranges, in which the shooters on foot, who impersonate the people, challenge the shooters on the carts, i.e. the tyrant's soldiers, by throwing oranges at each other, which resemble the stones thrown during the rebellion.

The Historic Carnival of Ivrea and the Battle of the Oranges 2024

This year, the Ivrea Carnival takes place from 10 to 13 February, although the actual opening of the carnival period takes place on 6 January. In fact, the ceremonial is full of appointments ranging from Epiphany, the day on which the General, the male protagonist of the festival, is proclaimed, to Fat Tuesday, the closing day of the carnival with its 'funeral'.

Before delving into the programme, we believe it is important to know the history behind this important event and the main characters, so you can enter into the true spirit of Carnival!

History and characters the Ivrea Carnival

The story behind this spectacular event is one of freedom: the legend goes that in the dark ages Ivrea was ruled by a tyrant who had instituted the ius primae noctis, i.e. his right to lie with newly weds on their wedding night. The miller's daughter decided to rebel, beheading the tyrant and showing her head to the people from the castle balcony, thus starting the rebellion against the oppressor.

From then on, the carnival tradition was passed down orally, until 1808, when something written down appeared for the first time: under Napoleonic rule, the town decided to proclaim a General to guard public order and the celebrations of the individual districts were unified into a single town festival. The General takes office on 6 January each year. You will see him parading in a black Napoleonic uniform on his horse, followed by the loyal officers of the General Staff and the Vivandiere.

But the main protagonist of the Ivrea Carnival is Violetta, the Mugnaia (miller's daughter) the heroine symbolising freedom: chosen from among the young brides each year, her identity is kept hidden until the evening of Carnival Saturday, when she is presented to the citizens from the balcony of the town hall. You will see her parading on a golden chariot, throwing confetti, candies and mimosas, traditional carnival flowers.

Among the marvellous characters in period costume that make up the procession, the Abbà are certainly the most curious: in ancient times, the Abbà was the head of the association of young people who were in charge of the festivities in each district. After the feast was unified, it was decided to recall the origin of the festivities by choosing ten children each year, two from each district: they parade in period costumes on horseback, carrying a small sword with an orange on the tip, the symbol of the tyrant's severed head.

The characteristic sound that spreads through the streets of Ivrea and ignites the carnival spirit is that of the Pifferi e Tamburi (Pipes and Drums), which accompany the characters from 6 January onwards, intoning ancient military marches and the Ivrea Carnival Song, which tells the story behind the festival in music.

The Battle of the Oranges

You read that right, this is not a metaphor: in Ivrea, during the carnival, you will witness a real battle of oranges! In addition to its historical value, namely the re-enactment of the people's rebellion against the tyrant, the battle is a concentration of ardour and loyalty.

It is undoubtedly the most spectacular and famous element of the carnival, in which the shooters on foot, the aranceri, represent the people, while those on the carts are the tyrant's armies. For three afternoons (from Sunday to Shrove Tuesday) the teams on foot, without any protection, fight against the aranceri on the floats, protected by leather helmets ('masks').

There are nine teams on foot and they divide the historical centre into fixed areas decorated with their colours, the same colours that the 'aranceri' display in their uniforms. The number of floats, which move from square to square, varies every year, and they too are decorated with identifying colours.

Here are the nine teams and the area they occupy: the Asso di Picche shoots into Piazza di Città, which it shares with the Morte. In Piazza Ottinetti we find the Scacchi and the Scorpioni d'Arduino, while the Tuchini del Borghetto are the only ones to shoot on the right bank of the Dora Baltea. In Piazza del Rondolino the Pantera Nera, the Diavoli and the Mercenari fight. Finally, the Credendari shoots in Piazza Freguglia.

Here is a handy map summarising the carnival venues:

As you will see, in Ivrea, history and legend are intertwined in a great popular festival with a strong symbolic value: everyone can participate, either by registering in one of the nine teams on foot or on the floats, or by wearing the  "frigio" cap, the red sock-shaped cap that bears witness to one's adherence to the rebellion for freedom. We strongly recommend to buy your cap at one of the many stalls at the entrance to the old town, to avoid being targeted by the shooters' oranges!

Historic Carnival of Ivrea and Battle of the Oranges: 2024 programme

Here are the events from Fat Thursday (8 February) to Ash Wednesday (14 February):

Thursday 8 February
The General acquires full powers in Piazza di Città and from 3 p.m. citizens and patrons are invited to wear the Frigio cap. This is followed by the Marching of the Historical Procession. The children's party with entertainment begins in Piazza Ottinetti.

Saturday 10 February
At 9 p.m. the Vezzosa Mugnaia, the Carnival protagonist, is presented from the external loggia of the Town Hall (Piazza di Città). This is followed by the March of the Historical Parade and the parade of the teams of aranceri on foot along Lungo Dora in honour of the Vezzosa Mugnaia. At 10.30 p.m. you can watch the fireworks display on the Lungo Dora.

Sunday 11, Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 February
Beginning of the Battle of the Oranges, which takes place every afternoon from 2 pm. During the battle, the Historical Procession will march through the squares.

Tuesday 12 February
At the end of the battle, the teams gather in Piazza di Città for the prize-giving ceremony, and at 8 p.m. the Historical Procession begins its march for the burning of the scarli in the districts, marking the end of Carnival: the event is very impressive and is called the 'Carnival Funeral'. At 9.30 p.m., the burning of the Scarlo takes place in Piazza di Città in the presence of the Mugnaia and, after the last scarlo has been burnt, the funeral march begins, ending in Piazza Ottinetti with the traditional greeting in Piedmontese dialect Arvédze a giòbia 'n bot ('Arrivederci a giovedì all'una', meaning goodbye until next Fat Thursday).

Wednesday 14 February
From 11 a.m. in Piazza Lamarmora there is the traditional distribution of polenta and codfish, a typical dish from the upper Piedmont region cooked to mark the end of Carnival.

For more detailed information, go here.

Useful information and tips for a local experience

We know that it may seem dangerous to watch the battle, which is why we prepared a list of rules to follow in order to participate safely, plus some tips for experiencing the Ivrea Carnival as a true local:

- as we have already said, wear your Phrygian cap to avoid the unwanted attention of the aranceri.

- you can watch the battle in the squares behind metal nets, which will protect you from the oranges

- wear clothes that are comfortable, warm and can get dirty: orange juice invades the city, so better bring shoes/boots with a sole that won't make you slip!

- admission to the event is free on Monday and Tuesday, while on Sunday it costs €15.

- the local drink par excellence is mulled wine, useful for warming up! You can also find egg bombardine and schnapps tea.

- try fagioli grassi, a soup of beans and pork rinds, traditional at Piedmontese carnivals, and don't miss the distribution of polenta and codfish during Ash Wednesday!

How to get to Ivrea from Milan and Turin

How to get to Ivrea for the Historic Carnival

Ivrea is 116 km from Milan, but can be easily reached by car or public transport.
If you take the A4/E64 motorway, you can reach the city in an hour and a half, or you can take the train from Milano Centrale in the direction of Chivasso and change for Ivrea (about a 3-hour journey). Although the journey is longer, the train allows you to arrive directly in the city as the station is only 15 minutes from the city centre, and allows you to avoid the traffic and parking search.

If, on the other hand, you are staying in Turin, you can easily put a visit to Ivrea during Carnival on your travel schedule, as the cities are very close and a day will suffice. The city of Ivrea is only 45 minutes by car from Turin, via the A5/E612 motorway, and an hour by train from Porta Susa or Porta Nuova.

To find out everything you can do in and from Turin during your stay, discover the Torino + Piemonte Card, the pass that allows you to visit the most beautiful attractions in the city and region free of charge, while also enjoying a discount on public transport.

Discover the Torino + Piemonte Card

We recommend

We recommend