I found this out the hard way. Surrounded by a group of guys, my
first top was easily ripped in half (thank you, Primark) and it didn’t
take long for the next one to go too. Luckily, my bra armour held my
girls in place and no one got a peek. Better still, at La Tomatina I
had plenty of amo to wreak revenge in the form of several red, round

We arrive at the world’s biggest food fight mid-morning, along with thousands of others with goggles and beer in tow.

We cram the streets, then we wait, and wait some more. Up ahead,
guys from the crowd are trying to climb up a pole with a ham on top.

Their aim is to bring the ham down — and when this happens, a canon
will fire and the tomato fight will begin. Until then, in the steamy
heat of southern Spain, people try to make their own fun, like slinging
wet T-shirts around (take a couple of spares if you want to get your
own back). Locals on balconies above us tip buckets of water to cool
the crowd down. It’s a welcome treat in the heat.

Finally the
canon fires. The skinny streets are already jam-packed with revellers
and I’m wondering how on earth the local council is going to supply us
with the fruit. But when the trucks arrive everyone makes room and soon
it’s  raining tomatoes — hallelujah?

The first 10 minutes is
insane. All I see is red, and the ground turns into a thick tomato
soup. The juice filters into my shoes, down the back and front of my
shorts. People are squashing fruit in my hair, in my face. If anyone
tried to rip my clothes off now, all they would see was a thick layer
of fruit. I’m so busy dodging missiles I don’t have time to fire any

But after the initial scramble space appears from
nowhere, and I have room to bend down and pick up some mashed tomatoes
off the ground. And so I start throwing — and suddenly I know why
people come to La Tomatina. It’s awesome. Even though I’m still getting
hit, every shot I take is like getting to slap a stranger.

that!” a voice in my head screams as I hurl a tomato through the air
and hit a random guy on his shaved head. I’m in full venting
frustration mode now. I take aim again, and hit a girl on the back. I
keep chucking big, round tomatoes and it feels great. Not so much fun
getting pelted in the face, but when you can do the hurling yourself,
hell it’s liberating.

When the canon fires for the  second
time it’s the signal to stop fighting. I’m covered head to toe in salsa
and it’s time to take a wash. As we search for the showers we’re told
exist somewhere, I start to understand what a sun-dried tomato must
feel like. Finally we find a creek and join the crowds who have already
climbed in to get clean.

Although I don’t feel human again
until I have a real shower in Valencia, I do feel remarkably calm. La
Tomatina might not be the cleanest way to de-stress, but it sure is
effective. Maybe every Tube train should come with it’s own box of big
red tomatoes.

  • Amelia Bentley travelled with Busabout
    (+ 44 (0) 20-7950 1661). A three-day La Tomatina tour including
    accommodation (no flights) is £149, or a day tour from Valencia is £35.

How it all began

So you’re probably wondering why tomatoes, why Buñol? There are many theories about how this food fight started.

The most popular belief is that a tomato fight between rival gangs
broke out on the last Wednesday in August, way back in the 1940s. The
next year on the last Wednesday in August, the youths gathered in the
streets of Buñol for a re-match — and the annual tomato battle was born.

the 1980s the town’s council began providing truckloads of tomatoes
from the surrounding countryside, and since then the event has just got
bigger and bigger. It now attracts people from all over the globe — and
a lot of those are Antipodeans, of course.

It might be a free-for-all, but there are a few rules to follow: 

  1. It’s illegal to bring any kind of bottles or other objects that could cause an accident.
  2. You must not tear T-shirts (yeah, I know).
  3. Tomatoes must be crushed before throwing so they don’t hurt anybody.
  4. You must be careful to avoid the lorries which carry the tomatoes.
  5. As soon as you hear the second canon fired you must stop throwing tomatoes.

What should I wear?

As well as the aforementioned two shirts and three sturdy bras, it’s
wise to dress in clothes you don’t care about. Tomato juice stains so
you’ll probably have to chuck your outfit after the fight. You’ll also
need fresh of clothes in a sealed plastic bag too, as you won’t be
allowed on your train or bus if you look like you’ve been dipped in
tomato soup. Finally, a pair of goggles is vital — tomato juice hurts
when it gets in your eyes.

What about footwear?

Unless you don’t want your toenails any more don’t even think about
wearing flip-flops or thongs. An old pair of trainers is a good idea
(anything you don’t mind ending up slightly pink).

Can I take a camera?

If you have an old camera you don’t care about losing in a sea of
red, that’s ideal. Otherwise consider using a disposable one or put
your camera in a clip-seal bag to save it getting covered in tomato.

What if I get hungry?

You’d think the residents of Buñol would be pissed off, we’ve just
caused red havoc with their town and none of us has any intention of
helping them clean up. But none of the locals seem bothered. Instead,
they’re too busy selling hot dogs and drinks that come in very handy
when you’ve spent an hour or so in a food fight.