Are you in Italy around Easter? Well, that’s definitely a great time to be here!
If you are visiting tourist places, they might be quite crowded but there are so many unique traditions and celebrations around the country that you will easily forget about the crowds.
Easter is a very important religious celebration but it is less common to spend it with your family than Christmas. We even have a saying that goes “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” (Christmas with your relatives, Easter with whomever you want) which shows you how it is common to spend Easter away from your family.
This is why tourist places like Florence, Rome or Venice are quite crowded at this time of the year. But if you like being part of local festivities or enjoy some traditional celebrations, that’s definitely the best time of the year to be visiting Italy.
As I said, Easter is very important in religious terms. The days leading up to Easter Sunday are filled with solemn processions and Mass services and there are a lot of rituals, usually beginning on Palm Sunday, the last Sunday before Easter (which marks the beginning of the Holy Week as well).
If you are in Italy at Palm Sunday, I’d suggest you go to a church at Mass or, if you are not interested in following a religious celebration, just walk by a church around 11 am or 12 pm to see all the people walking home with their blessed olive or palm branches. I am not religious but I have always found this tradition quite cheerful and it really sets me into the Easter mood.
The peak of the Holy Week celebrations falls on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, which is usually when a procession takes place. There are processions in almost every town in Italy; most of them fall on Good Friday, some other on Saturday or Easter Sunday.
There are very unique processions all around Italy. In Savona, the town where I live, there is a magnificent procession that is held every two years. It dates back to Medieval times and it is renowned because on such occasion 14 huge statues are taken out of churches and taken around the city. Those statues are incredibly heavy, making the procession very slow and solemn (this is a short video, if you want to have an idea of what it is).
But there are many similar events in Italy. In Rome, for example, there is the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) led by the Pope, while in Sicily there are at least two processions worth noting: in Enna, thousands of white-hooded friars carry statues through the streets of the city and in Trapani there is a holy procession that lasts 24 hours.
Moreover, in Abruzzo, in the town of Chieti, you can see the oldest religious procession in Italy where thousands of hooded brothers walk around the city, followed by a marching orchestra and choir performing the Miserere. So, if you are here around Easter, I highly recommend you to check if there are any processions or similar events worth seeing in the area where you are. I am sure you’ll find them really interesting even if you are not religious at all.
Easter Sunday is usually celebrated with Mass and then with a big lunch with the family, be it at home or at a local restaurant. Most likely, restaurants will have a traditional menu for Easter Sunday, which is a great opportunity to taste some of the typical dishes of this festivity – some of which can only be eaten at this time of the year.
If you are in Florence, you must not miss the Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), a tradition that dates back to the 1400s. Basically, a tower-like cart covered with firecrackers is taken around the streets of Florence with a medieval parade. Then, when it arrives in front of the Duomo, a dove-shaped rocket is lit at the altar and shoot out to the cart, lighting the firecrackers and beginning the fireworks (since it is difficult to explain, here’s another video).
After Easter comes Easter Monday, usually known as Lunedì dell’Angelo or Pasquetta, a day that is reserved to day trips and picnics in the countryside. So this might be just another crowded day, especially in nice locations outside the big cities.
Anyway, no matter where you are or what you want to do at Easter, there is something you must not miss if you want to celebrate just like the Italians do: the Easter chocolate egg.
You must go to a supermarket or a nice grocery store, choose one of the hundreds of chocolate eggs on display and break it on Easter Sunday. Kids are always interested in the surprise that is inside every egg, grown-ups know that it is always a disillusionment and focus on the yummy dose of chocolate instead.
Have you ever been in Italy at Easter? If so, what did you enjoy the most? I’d love to know![If you want to know more about Easter in Italy, there’s an old post about the way Italians celebrate this festivity and another one about Italian Easter vocabulary].
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