One on day in August the streets of a small town in South East Spain run with the juice of thousands of squashed tomatoes.

August is the month for tomatoes, and nowhere more so than in Spain where the markets are bursting with tomatoes of every shape and size.

August is also a popular month for fiestas And the small town of Bunyol combines the tomato glut and fiesta-time with the Tomatina, a two hour tomato battle which takes place in the centre of the town.

Some 30,000 visitors descend on its sleepy little streets to indulge in the sort of behaviour that at any other time of year would be severely frowned on.

On the morning of the fiesta 125,00 kgs of ripe tomatoes are brought in by truck. The ammunition has arrived and at 11 am rockets packed with tomatoes are launched into the sky and the battle begins.

The batalla, or fight, takes place during a week long fiesta celebration which builds to a mid-week climax resulting in a mammoth tomato battle. No one quite knows how it all began, but its origins lie in the mid 1940’s. Some say it began as a food fight in a local restaurant that just got out of hand; others claim it began when a crowd of youths started pelting tomatoes at the annual parade of giant heads, known as gigantas The giants retaliated and so the ‘Tomatina’ was born.

At the height of the battle the pedestrian centre of Bunyol runs with tomato juice as enthusiastic townspeople and visitors join in the fun with reckless abandon.

After two hours a cease fire is signalled by the firing of a final rocket and everyone retires to the numerous bars to quench their thirst.

If you’re thinking of taking part this year’s Tomatina will be taking place on Wednesday August 29th.

A couple of words of wisdom if you’re going to throw yourself into the thick of it……. Take a change of clothing as you’ll certainly end up looking as if you’ve taken part in a massacre. And it’s not much fun spending the rest of the day in tomato-soaked tee shirt and shorts. The town council thoughtfully provides public showers, situated near the railway station.

And…..remember to squash the tomatoes before launching them on your opponent. It is supposed to be fun, not a war.

Bunyol is short on accommodation, but there’s plenty of choice in Valencia,, Spain’s 3rd largest city which is a mere 30 kms away on the east coast. There’s an excellent hourly train service, with a train leaving at nine minutes past the hour all day.

Valencia itself is an elegant resort in easy reach of good beaches and it boasts an excellent night life. It’s also a pleasant refuge after the excesses of a day at the Tomatina.

If you prefer your tomatoes in a salad it may be a good idea to give the fiesta a miss, but that would be a shame as there is really nothing like it. And it’s very therapeutic to let off steam from time to time.

The festival takes a great deal of organising and one of the sponsors of the event, Miguel Ferrer of  says the festival just seems to go from strength to strength each year


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