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Easter in Italy: Exploring Traditions

In Italy, Easter (Pasqua) stands as a pivotal celebration, marking one of the most significant holidays in the Italian calendar. Embarking on a journey through any corner of Italy during this period promises an unforgettable experience, adorned with processions, religious customs, jubilant festivities, and, naturally, delectable cuisine. From the vibrant streets of the capital to the tranquil landscapes of the countryside, Italy's Easter traditions offer a tapestry of diversity and fascination.


As Holy Week unfolds, Italy becomes a symphony of religious dedication and time-honoured rituals. Commencing on Palm Sunday, the country blossoms with special events and ceremonies, spanning from the northern regions to the sun-kissed south. Amidst the echoing toll of church bells, Italians unite in a shared spirit of devotion, eagerly anticipating the culmination of Easter Sunday.


Palm Sunday comes with grandeur, marked by the iconic mass led by the Pope in Saint Peter's Square, featuring the ceremonial blessing of palms and a majestic procession. On Palm Sunday, Italian Christians commemorate Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As the Bible narrates, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, and the people greeted him enthusiastically by laying down palm branches in his path. This significant occasion, occurring precisely one week prior to his resurrection from the dead, signifies the onset of Holy Week, culminating in the celebration of Easter, which takes place one week after Palm Sunday.


Throughout Holy Week, solemn processions grace the streets, featuring intricately decorated statues of the Madonna and Christ, carried by individuals in elaborate attire. Nowhere is this tradition more vivid than in southern Italy, and on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, where processions exude a palpable sense of drama and reverence.


Good Friday casts its solemn shadow across Italy, observed with the poignant Via Crucis, a symbolic journey through the 14 Stations of the Cross. Across the nation, these processions often feature costumed participants enacting pivotal moments of the Passion, evoking profound emotion. In Sicily, Enna's procession, boasting over 2,000 monks adorned in ancient garb, and Trapani's Misteri di Trapani, enduring for 24 hours, stand as testaments to the depth of Italy's religious heritage.


Easter Sunday emerges as the crescendo of Holy Week, as families gather to partake in Mass and revel in a lavish feast together. Overflowing churches resonate with hymns of joy and gratitude, heralding the culmination of this sacred observance.


On Easter Sunday, schools, banks, and most businesses shutter their doors, extending into Easter Monday (Pasquetta), allowing for a continuation of familial gatherings and leisurely pursuits.



Major Easter events throughout the regions


Rome: the heartbeat of Holy Week


Rome takes center stage during Holy Week, as the Pope leads the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, drawing throngs of pilgrims to the Eternal City for an unforgettable experience. Following Easter Mass, the Pope delivers his annual "Urbi et Orbi" address, highlighting the universal significance of Easter and his role as a spiritual beacon for millions worldwide.


The Pope in Rome

Chieti, Abruzzo: a tapestry of tradition


Chieti, nestled in Abruzzo, hosts Italy's oldest religious procession on Good Friday, a mesmerising spectacle featuring a procession of hooded brothers accompanied by a resounding orchestra.


Easter procession in Italy

Florence: a flourish of festivity


Florence hosts the Scoppio del Carro, a vibrant Easter tradition culminating in the symbolic detonation of a cart laden with fireworks (the Archbishop sends a dove-shaped rocket into the cart, igniting the fireworks), followed by a jubilant parade through the city's historic streets.


Fireworks

Enna, Sicily: a poignant display of devotion


In Enna, Sicily, Good Friday is marked by a moving procession, as thousands of white-hooded friars bear statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary through the town's picturesque streets.


The cross


Easter Cuisine: a gastronomic delight


Easter Sunday allures with a lavish feast, uniting families over succulent lamb, tender artichokes, and an array of regional delicacies. From the verdant north to the sun-drenched south, each locale offers its own culinary traditions. 


The first course (primo) for an Easter feast is usually soup, risotto or pasta. Lamb (agnello), infused with the vibrant flavours of rosemary, garlic, and lemon, or Capretto, roast kid goat, takes center stage as the quintessential Easter dish, symbolising new life and pastoral abundance.


Springtime yields a bounty of fresh vegetables, showcased in traditional dishes like Torta Pasqualina, an Easter pie featuring a savoury medley of spinach, chard, or artichokes enveloped in a flaky pastry crust.


Easter Eggs: symbols of renewal


Boiled eggs symbolise life and renewal, finding a cherished place at the Italian Easter table. Often blessed at Sunday mass, these eggs may also be incorporated into festive breads.


Chocolate eggs, uova di Pasqua, reign supreme during the Easter season, their shimmering foil shells concealing sweet surprises for both young and old.


Easter eggs


Colomba: a symbolic sweetness


During the festive period, Italian bakeries abound with Colomba, a dove-shaped Easter bread adorned with candied fruit and almonds, symbolising peace and prosperity. Served alongside a glass of Prosecco, this confection marks a fitting finale to the Easter feast.


In addition to Colomba, regional sweets and pastries are present on the festive table: for example, quaresimali, almond biscotti with sugar and cinnamon, in Sicily or uncinetti (also called ‘ncinetti), glazed, knotted Easter cookies that are traditionally prepared on Palm Sunday, in Calabria.


La Colomba pasquale


La Pasquetta: a day of relaxation and revelry


Easter Monday, or Pasquetta, invites Italians to retreat to the countryside for picnics, concerts, and leisurely pursuits. Rooted in the proverb "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi" (Christmas with your relatives, Easter with whom you want), Easter Monday provides an opportunity for cherished moments with friends, complementing the familial warmth of Easter Sunday.


Grigliata di pasquetta



As you plan your Italian adventure, consider immersing yourself in the enchanting tapestry of Easter traditions, embracing the magic of Italy in all its festive splendour.

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