Ivrea Carnival: Colorful Orange Battles in a City Full of History

Bordered by the Gran Paradiso National Park and dominated by the three distinct towers of the Castle, the historic city of Ivrea lies in a basin, which was once, in prehistoric times, home to a great glacier of the Pleistocene epoch. Ivrea’s roots date back to 100 BC, the era of the Roman Republic, when the town was a cavalry station located on a strategic passage point leading to the Alps. Nowadays, Ivrea boasts an appealing variety of contrasts between past and present, attracting international tourism and offering a variety of events, traditions and attractions.

Things to See and Do in Ivrea

Celebrated by the Italian poet Carducci, the Castle of Ivrea, built by Amedeo VI Count of Savoy, has become an emblem of Ivrea with its three distinct towers overlooking the city. One of the four towers utilized for storing ammunition, exploded back in 1676 and was never rebuilt. Originally a medieval prison, nowadays the castle houses a variety of exhibitions and events.

Visitors eager to learn more about Ivrea’s archeology and religious traditions can visit the Cathedral of Ivrea, the church of San Bernardino and the remains of St. Stephen Abbey boasting mosaic floors, ancient frescos and relics. Archeological findings on the other hand, can be appreciated at the Museum Pier Alessandro Garda Piazza Ottinetti.

In Ivrea, the past and present are tightly interwoven, offering a mix of ancient cultures and more modern ones. Olivetti, a 20th century plant manufacturing typewriters, calculators and computers, was founded here but has closed down its operation leaving some main edifices and Olivetti products, which can be admired today at the Open Air Museum of Modern Architecture.

Nature lovers will enjoy visiting Ivrea’s five lakes offering the ideal habitat for birds, toads and a variety of butterflies. The Gran Paradiso National Park is home to the alpine Ibex which lives on the rocky valley walls. Nature trails, winding through the park, offer great opportunities for tourist excursions in crisp mountain air.

Ivrea’s Most Famous Food Fight

Ivrea, however, may be perhaps known best for its ”orange battle”, an historical re-enactment in the spirit of Carnival. While the exact origins of the ”orange battle” are a bit unclear, there is no shadow of doubt that this unique battle has remained one of the most fun and spectacular events recognized both at a national and international level. Nine teams adorned in colorful costumes engage in a kaleidoscopic food fight rich in customs and traditions. The streets and squares are brought magically back to ancient medieval times, crossing over the boundaries of centuries as the events unfold before the spectator’s eyes.

How did this all start? History traces back the tradition to a rebellious battle against an evil feudal lord, Raineri di Biandrate, who had a ritual of spending the night with newlywed women. The tyrant donated twice a year a pot of beans to poor families which started throwing them out in the street in disgust and disrespect. The beans, with time, were then replaced by apples and then oranges. The oranges were used to represent the head of the tyrant which was believed to have been chopped off by the miller’s daughter ( unwilling to submit to his desires on her wedding night).

Teams representing the city’s nine districts and symbolizing the tyrant’s guards, are nowadays carried in horse-drawn carriages in main squares where orange thrower teams (representing the revolutionaries) on foot start the battle. During the event, regional specialties are served on the streets; don’t miss a free sample of beans cooked with herbs, cured meats and pork rind.

The event rich in colors and perfumes is planned to take place on the 19th, 20th and 21st of February, 2012.

The Ivrea Cuisine

From a culinary standpoint visitors will be drawn to Ivrea’s specialty dishes. Ivrea’s cuisine indeed may, at a first glance, appear to be ”poor”, but in reality it is quite rich when it comes to ingredients and flavors. Wholesome ingredients, intense flavors and generations of recipes passed down have paved the path to signature dishes.

Travelers with a sweet tooth may enjoy a slice of “Torta Novecento” a two-layered sponge cake boasting a delicate chocolate cream. This cake was created in 1900 in honor of the new century by pastry chef and confectioner Ottavio Bertinotti. This recipe, whose recipe has been a closely guarded secret for over a century, can be appreciated exclusively at Balla Patisserie:

Balla Patisserie
Corso Re Umberto n. 16
10015 Ivrea (TO)
Phone number: 011-39- 0125-641327

Where to Eat

A nice array of restaurants are scattered throughout the city. Worthy of attention is the restaurant ”La Mugnaia” boasting organic flours from local mills, rich olive oils from the South and Center regions of Italy, and wines selected from local vineyards. This restaurant’s philosophy is to offer dishes capable of transmitting emotions while offering surprising new flavors.

Restaurant La Mugnaia
Via Arduino 53
10015 Ivrea (TO)
Phone number: 011-39-0125.40530

Where to Stay

There are many hotels in Ivrea. If you are planning to attend Ivrea’s Carnival early reservations are recommended. Hotels may be immerged in nature a few miles away from Ivrea or conveniently near the center. Spazio Bianco is a small bed and breakfast located just a few steps from Ivrea’s main street. It’s a great place for those looking for warm hospitality at a fair price.

Spazio Bianco
Via Patrioti 17
10015 Ivrea (TO)

How to Get There

Ivrea is in the province of Turin in Northern Italy. The closest airport is the airport of Turin Caselle a 30 to 45 minute drive away. By rail, you can take a train from Turin’s Porta Nuova Station to Ivrea’s train Station and by bus you can take line 11 from Turin’s Porta Nuova Station to GTT Dora Station.

Whether visiting Ivrea for its historical treasures or its traditional Carnival, visitors will fall in love with this city’s charm where past and present intertwine. Legends, art, customs and traditions unveil a generous city with so much to give.

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