The tomato-throwing festival of Tomatina is held every year in the small town of Bu?ol, near Valencia and on the rail line from Mafrid. The easiest way to get there is via train or motorway from Valencia, however.
There exist several interpretations on the origin of this popular festival. According to some historians, its origin goes back to a "practical joke" that some friends wanted to play on a man who was crossing the town square singing and playing a musical instrument but, apparently, he was doing it so badly that some of the people around decided to take some tomatoes from a fruit and vegetables stall and throw them at him. Everybody else joined in to end up in a tomato battle.
However, the most reliable and historical version says that everything started in 1945. The town square (where the "tomatina" is traditionally held nowadays) was crowded with young people of that time to witness a "Gigantes y Cabezudos" parade (giant carnival figures with a grotesque head). Some of them decided to join the authority commitee and music band leading the parade and to do so they pushed the ones who were wearing the giant disguises.
Foto: M. A. de la Hoz
One of the participants fell down and when he stood up he started beating everyone around so everybody got caught up in a fight.
Fate or chance, there was a vegetable stall nearby with open crates showing the goods for sale. The young people involved in the fight took the tomatoes from the crates and started throwing them at each other until the police broke up "the battle", and those responsible for the riot paid for the damages.
This riot was not forgotten and the next year on the same Wednesday of August the youths of the town met again at the square, but this time with their own tomatoes. This is how another battle started and once again was stopped by the local police. In fact, in the following years the authorities forbade the celebration of what was already popularly known as the "day of the tomatina". Nevertheless, this celebration has been held every year since then.
It is usually held at the very end of august however you should check online to find out the exact date.
Added by reck on September 22, 2005