Food Throwing Festivals in Spain and Italy
4 Food Battle Festivals
By Flydime via wiki commons
We have to start an article like this with a disclaimer:
Do not, under any circumstances, wear anything expensive, valuable or important.
You will be covered in food. You might smell like tomatoes for the rest of the week.
And you will have the time of your life.
Welcome to the food battle festivals of Spain and Italy. During these epic and messy events, the streets are lined with bystanders ready to partake. Their hands are full and their arms are poised. As soon as it is go time, the sky becomes a cloud of bright red tomatoes, flying oranges, hailing grapes and snowing flour.
There are three food battle festivals in Spain and one food fight in Italy and each festival has their own food of choice.
Ready to join in on the fun?
Here is what to expect from each food throwing festival:
- Food: Tomatoes
- Location: Buñol, Eastern Spain
- Date: Last Wednesday of August
La Tomatina takes place in the town square of Buñol.
By Flydime via wiki commons
La Tomatina Story
It all started in 1945 during a traditional Spanish parade, referred to as the Giants and Big-Heads parade. These parades symbolize the historical figures of Spain as the giants and the tricksters as the big-heads. These figures are still a valuable part of Spanish culture and parades commemorating them are seen throughout the country. While participating in the parade in 1945, a young man on the back of a parade float fell off. In a fit of embarrassment, he started to throw everything near him at the crowd.
The nearby vegetable stand became a pivotal moment in La Tomatina history. As the boy flung tomatoes at the parade bystanders, they decided to fight back. The city became an unpredicted food fight as local police tried to calm the crowd. Eventually the crowd and the young man relaxed, or the tomatoes ran out, and everybody went home thinking that maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.
Crazy young boy
In 1946, the same young boy decided to start his own tradition and bring his own tomatoes. Evoking the same fight, the boy fought against the town locals. This time, the tomatoes were thrown out of entertainment and not embarassment. Local police broke up the food fight and banned it for the following years. La Tomatina was celebrated on and off until it was officially strictly banned again a few years later.
By this time it was too late, the people of Spain wanted to continue the tradition. In 1957 they showed their disapproval in the city’s choice to ban the food fight by carrying a coffin through the streets. Inside of the coffin was a tomato. Following the protest was a band playing traditional funeral music. Their protest worked and twelve years after the original food fight, La Tomatina became an official event.
The day of the food battle
The tomato fight starts around 11AM with a pistol shot and continues for one hour. Participants, streets and city walls do not come out looking the way they did prior to that shot. Surprisingly, the town of Buñol considers this a deep clean for the town square. Due to the acidic acid in the tomatoes, the town gets a deep clean from the event. Firefighters hose off the tomato residue and reveal a cleaner town square than was there before.
There are six important rules to La Tomatina:
- Do not throw bottles or hard objects
- No tearing or throwing t-shirts
- Squish tomatoes prior to throwing
- Keep away from trucks
- Stop throwing tomatoes after the second pistol shot
- Listen to security staff instructions
- Food: Oranges
- Location: Ivrea, Northern Italy
- Date: Beginning of February
The Orange Battle History
The Battle of the Oranges of Ivrea is the largest food fight in Italy and is held in memory of the city’s liberation from an unpopular tyrant. Although the history of the festival isn’t fully known, it is thought to have been sparked by a serious offense from the tyrant. In the twelfth or thirteenth century, he attempted to take advantage of a young commoner named Violetta.
His goal was to showcase his power over the people but his night did not go as planned. The woman fought back and decapitated him. The town was angered by the tyrant’s actions and burned down his palace. This defiance is now celebrated as the Battle of the Oranges. Each year a new young woman is chosen to play the infamous role of Violetta.
Oranges instead of rocks
The oranges are thrown as a symbol of the rocks and weapons that were hurled at the palace on the night of the tyrant’s decapitation. Originally beans were thrown, then apples and now the oranges are traditionary.
BY Pelos cantos do mundo
Shortly after oranges became the primary food of choice, the festival was expanded to also encompass Italy’s liberation from France. The tradition is to break the town into teams that represent the tyrant’s army and the liberation force. The teams are called aranceri and the liberation force throws oranges at the tyrant’s ranks as they ride in carts. There are nine teams that fight against the tyrants and they are distinguished by their colored jerseys.
the food battle rules
Spectators are recognized by wearing a Berretto Frigio, a red cap, that tells the aranceri that you are on their team. Visitors are allowed to stand in two locations during the fight, including on the battlefield between the aranceri and the tyrant’s army. This is the most dangerous spot to stand, as rogue oranges thrown at full speed can seriously injure bystanders. The other option is to stand behind the nets that are placed over buildings. This is the family friendly option that is the most safe.
- Food: Grapes
- Location: Binissalem in Mallorca, Spain
- Date: Mid-September
The Festa de Vermar takes place on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Binissalem is usually a quiet vineyard town but in the middle of September they become the life of the party.
The Grape Battle Story
The history of Festa de Vermar dates back to the Roman times. It originally started as a way for wine makers to dispose of grapes that couldn’t be used for wine. The specific reasons for the food fight are still unknown but are thought to have been the result of farmers throwing unusable grapes at each other as a means to get rid of them. They started having such a good time that the vineyards decided to create it into a tradition. The food fight grew into a festival and now lasts two weeks. Every day there is a food fight to celebrate the harvest and rid the vineyards of low quality grapes.
Doors open to the world
At first the celebrations were kept for Binissalem locals. Luckily, they opened the festivities to people from around the world. With over one thousand attendees per year, the Festa de Vermar is now full of participants. Aside from the food fight, there is grape stomping competitions and an abundance of local wine.
The grape fight rules
The grape fight starts when the rocket fires. Participants follow the Piper into the vineyard field where this is a massive pile of grapes. Once the whistle blows, it becomes an every man for himself show as attendees turn the sky purple and hail grapes down on to each other. Once there aren’t anymore grapes, participants go into the town square to enjoy wine and a celebratory party.
- Food: Eggs, Flour
- Location: Ibi in Alicante, Eastern Spain
- Date: December 28th
By Iakov Filimonov via dreamstime
Els Enfarinats Story
The Els Enfarinats is a biblical celebration of the King Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents. In the biblical story, King Herod ordered the execution of all infants when his reign as King was in question by a newborn who was to become the King of the Jews. The festival commemorates the lives of the innocent children who were killed on King Herod’s demands.
On December 28th of each year, the Ibi streets are lined with men dressed as two types of historical figures. The Els Enfarinats, who the celebration is named after, are dressed in military costumes. They parade through the streets and enforce ridiculous new laws and collect fines from those who don’t obey them. The Casats I Fadrins, also known as the opposition, fight the Els Enfarinats. Those who do have to pay fines give money to the Els Enfarinats but at the end of the celebration all of the money is donated to charity.
A traditional festival
The day long festival has been celebrated for over two hundred years. The tradition is that the Els Enfarinats are trying to create a coup and overthrow the current government. The celebration lasts all day as both parties play their roles in dramatic scenes of opposition. At the end of the day, the food fight commences.
Flour and eggs are thrown between those acting as military force and those dressed as the people of the town. Participants even throw firecrackers at each other causing the chaotic mayhem that is Els Enfarinats. At the end of the day, the festival comes to an end with the collected money donated to charity and all participants helping in cleaning the streets.
By Iakov Filimonov via dreamstime
Don’t miss the chance to engage in a food battle festival
Each of these festivals has been celebrated for years, creating an expertise craft out of planning an epic food fight. As each city flings food through their fields and streets, the people rejoice in the celebrations considered a valuable part of their culture.
Travelers around the world have been thrilled to participate in the food battle festivals. The chance to celebrate liberation and the working class of each country is a special experience.
Leave your nice clothes at home. Take off your watch and jewelry. Strap on the old sandals.
And get ready for the most chaotic, messiest experience of your life.