March 5, 2019
As I begin to write this post while sitting in my hotel room in Ivrea, I see families in the park outside my window. They are all dressed in colorful costumes, sharing a bit of lunch between activities. What activities you ask? There are many.
Ivrea is a UNESCO city in Piedmonte and has a beauty all its own.
But for Carnevale, the ambiance has been altered. It all began in February as did most of the Carnival celebrations in Italy this year. They all finish around Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. The highlight of Ivrea’s celebration began this weekend, March 2, 2019, with the selection of the honor guard for the Mugnaia, the representative standing in for the miller’s daughter. What does a miller’s daughter have to do with Carnevale. Here’s the story.
According to a mixture of legend and history, there once was a miller’s daughter named Violetta. She was strong willed and stubborn as well as beautiful. As her wedding approached, she wanted nothing to hinder her union with her beloved Toniotto, her future husband. At this time in history there was a common, horrid behavior known as la prima notte, the first night. The Tiranno, the Royal Tyrant, in command of the people of Ivrea (and Royals in many parts of Europe practiced this despicable behavior) would exercise his right to have sex with the new, virgin bride. Violetta would not have it. She slayed the Tiranno with her own sword—she cut off his head. She is now known as the Mugnaia and is honored for breaking the centuries old practice and beginning the rebellion against the Tiranni, the Royals who controlled the lives of the peasants.
Each year, the Mugnaia is chosen to represent Violetta. Royals, peasants, farmers and townspeople dress up to reenact rebellion.
Here are some Tyranni.
Above, a photo from the steps of Town Hall as the Mugnaia with her escorts prepares to walk to her carriage drawn by white horses in the upcoming parade.
Her assistants are beautiful little girls dressed in white as is she.
The red head covering signifies that anyone wearing it is not a participant in the upcoming battles.
It also represents the will of the people to rebel, to choose their own way of life. It is called a Phrygian Cap and was worn during the French Revolution.
The Battle of the Oranges is what draws so many people. In fact, over 20,000 people paid to enter Ivrea yesterday to watch and participate a bit in the war of the Oranges. There are 4 different areas where the action takes place. There are 9 different neighborhoods or parishes, each with its own flag and attire.
Above is one example. Below, another.
The participants on the ground are representations of the rebellious peasants who dared to fight with stones and pitchforks to attain the right of self-determination.
Those riding in a stradina, a carriage drawn by beautiful horses, represent the ruling classes. During the real war, these rulers and their armies were equipped with the weapons of the 18th and 19th century.
For the 2019 Carnevale, there were 51 stradini.
They all paraded into the set locations for the struggle.
And then the Battle of the Oranges began. The Tyranni had masks to protect themselves and buckets filled with Oranges.
The peasants carried bags filled with oranges and no protection.
Oranges were flying everywhere. Participants and watchers were hit.
I stayed behind the protective mesh as much as possible.
The peasants fought every stradina that passed through their piazza of war. Their fight lasted 2 ½ hours.
I managed to visit all four locations over the course of the 3 days of Orange Battles. Yes, they do this for three days, 2 ½ hours each day.
War takes time, even in this situation. Innocent bystanders slipped in the mess of orange skin and blood. Some were struck by an orange to the face or body.
And every day, unlike in real war, all was swept away.
Words cannot describe it. The orange scent permeates everything.
And no matter how beaten up the players are, they sing, they hug. The hang out together and rejoice in their freedom.
In between the war games, there are other signs of peace. There were parades, fireworks and a dance on Saturday.
Sunday, in the morning, there was a charity bean feast for all to enjoy and the Mugnaia was in attendance. In the afternoon, there was a parade before the fighting with music, horses, Royals and locals. And there was much individual partying in the park and along the streets.
Monday morning all was fresh and clean.
People were out in the sunshine ready to enjoy a day without many tourists. 20,000 less people leaves a good deal more space to escape flying objects.
New trees had been planted at midday. These trees represent the new life, new freedom that the peasants had won so many years ago. Their descendants benefit from their struggle.
The participants and musicians paraded along the main street about 215pm
and by 230pm the oranges were flying once again.
Monday evening ended with the Police’s horse-riding marching band performing a short concert in centro storico di Ivrea, in the town’s center. I have been amazed watching these horsemen play their instruments while riding.
They were even better in a concert setting.
Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, is the last very active day in Ivrea. As they do every day, they line up the stradini to inspect the horses and carriages. Next, the parade in the street and once more the Battle of the Oranges, the final 2 ½ hour battle.
More family and friends enjoying the spectacle.
The evening ends around 6pm with awards for one ground team and one stradina team.
After dark, there is a processional for the burning of the Scarli at three different parishes. I am sorry to say, I did not make it to this processional or the award ceremony. However, I am still wearing my Phrygian head covering by order of the general.
And I expect the burning of the Scarli at the three churches with the Mugnaia present will at least feel like the poster below.
I leave for home tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. I do hope to return to Ivrea again. I would definitely consider a return to Ivrea for Carnevale again. I might skip the weekend and visit on Monday through Wednesday. It was more fun with less people present.
Ivrea is famous for their variety of horses and they have another celebration for the horses July 1st , I believe. I don’t think there will be any oranges.
Please note: The oranges used in Ivrea are from Sicily and Calabria. They are too small or too big to sell at market. Those southern farmers sell them to Ivrea for a better price than they could get anywhere else. Also, each night the streets are swept for all the remains of the oranges. They are then scattered over the farmland and used as fertilizer. They are not wasted as some think. 150 TONS of oranges were used this year!
Would you consider Carnevale in Ivrea? Please let me know. I can help you find the best places to stay and the times to attend. You must book early for next year.
Ciao for now!
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Ciao for Now!
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