The essential guide to Easter in Italy

The essential guide to Easter in Italy

What are the dates?

Easter Sunday (Easter in Italy) and Easter Monday (Easter Monday) fall on April 9th and April 10th respectively this year.

But, while both days are national holidays in Italy, Good Friday (or Good Friday), which falls on April 7th, isn’t.

READ ALSO: Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Italy?

How does Italy celebrate?

In some areas of the country, especially in the south, religious ceremonies are held as early as the Sunday before Easter.

Nationwide celebrations however generally start on Good Friday, which is when Christians commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

Countless Via Crucis (‘Way of the Cross’) processions take place all around the country on the day, with the most popular one being held in Rome on Friday evening.

Thousands of people attend Rome’s ‘Via Crucis’ procession every year. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Celebrations are paused on Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday), which is a day of collective mourning and contrition, only to resume on Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus’s resurrection according to Christian tradition.

After attending morning mass, Italians spend the remainder of Sunday in the company of their families and more immediate relatives, with the lunch-plus-pennichella combo being by far the most popular activity on the day.

Finally, on Monday (known as Easter Mondayor ‘little Easter’), most people venture on a trip out of town and enjoy some time together with their closest friends.

Things to see

Centuries-old processions

While most cities in Italy hold processions to commemorate Jesus’s journey to his own crucifixion (Via Crucis), some events in the centre and south of the boot follow rituals dating as far back as the 9th century AD.

Every year on Good Friday, around 3,000 men from local Catholic societies, each donning a white hood and carrying a torch, march through the streets of Enna, Sicilyshouldering statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.

Easter procession in Enna, Sicily

Every year, around 3,000 men dressed in hooded robes march through the streets of Enna, Sicily on Good Friday. Photo by Marcello PATERNOSTRO / AFP

A similar procession unfolds in Chieti, Abruzzowith hooded figures carrying seven imposing trophiesi.e. items that are reminiscent of the Passion of Christ.

Finally, in the evening of Holy thursday (Holy Thursday), a number of bare-footed cross-bearers dressed in black robes walk down the streets of Noicattaro, Puglia in one of the most intense Via Crucis performances in the country.

Passion of Christ re-enactments

Barile, in the southern Basilicata region, holds one of the most unique Easter performances in Italy as the show, which involves over 100 actors, mixes characters from the Bible with local folklore figures such as the gypsy woman and the Moor.

The town of Romagnano Sesia, Piedmontis also well-known for its Passion of Christ re-enactment, a tradition dating back to 1729. The show is generally spread over four days (from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday) and includes as many as 26 different acts.

Events in big cities

Celebrations in major cities are generally much less history-imbued than they are in smaller towns and villages. But, traditional events survive in some locations.

Explosion of the Cart in Florence

Florence’s iconic ‘Scoppio del Carro’ (wagon explosion) dates back to 1101 AD. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Italy’s biggest Easter procession will take place in Rome on Good Friday, with thousands of faithful following the Pope from St Peter’s Square to the Colosseum.

Florence will instead hold the iconic Explosion of the Cart on Easter Sunday, with a two-story wagon packed full of fireworks being lit up in the city’s central Piazza Duomo.

What’s on the menu?

Easter lunch generally starts with a primowhose nature varies greatly from region to region. So, while people in Sicily may have slide (a meatball and egg soup) as their first course, people in Liguria may start their lunch with a slice of easter cake (a quiche with spinach, eggs and cheese).

Lamb, the centrepiece of the Easter eating experience in Italy, will be the second of choice of most Italian families, with recipes once again varying from region to region, or at times even from family to family.

READ ALSO: 11 Italian Easter foods you should try at least once

The lamb-based dish is generally accompanied by vegetables, with artichokes being a very popular side in the centre and south of the country.

Finally, no Easter lunch is truly complete without an exceedingly high-calorie dessert, which could be anything from timeless classics such as the Easter cake and the Neapolitan shepherd to lesser-known treats such as sweet blood sausage (pig’s blood and chocolate pudding) and Ramerino bread (sweet raisin bread flavoured with rosemary).

What will the weather be like?

Though it’s still too early to say what exactly the weather will be like over the Easter holidays, the latest forecasts indicate that a cold air front moving down from northern Europe will reach Italy on Monday, April 3rd.

This is expected to bring unstable weather and below-average temperatures to the country: likely around 14C in the north and around 17C in the south.

That said, it’s still unclear whether the incoming cold front will linger over the country long enough to negatively impact the Easter holidays.


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