Easter, or Pasqua, is an incredibly important holiday for Italians. Because of how important the holiday is to them, and it is a long weekend in Italy, Easter is an amazing time to experience the Italian culture.
Parades and celebrations are held throughout the weekend in every town in the country, with the local statues of Christ or the Virgin Mary being the focus of the processions. The participants are often dressed in traditional garments and carry olive branches (instead of the palm fronds more typical of other cultures).
How each region celebrates:
Each region of Italy has its own take on the celebrations: in Enna (Sicily) the parade involves over 2000 friars while in Trapani (also in Sicily) the celebrations last for over 24 hours. In Chieti (Abruzzo), home to what is believed to be the oldest Good Friday parade in Italy, the parade is accompanied by 100 violins playing Selecchi’s Miserere. Many larger towns and cities hold live re-enactments of the events of Easter during the weekend, while in Florence the parade is accompanied by a huge, ox-driven cart being exploded by a dove-shaped rocket. In Rome, the Easter celebrations begin with the Pope’s Palm Sunday mass in Vatican City, followed by the Good Friday mass at the Vatican and the Via Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, at the Colosseum. On Holy Saturday, another Papal Mass and the Easter Vigil are held, before the Easter Mass and Papal Blessing on Easter Sunday.
Because Easter signifies the end of Lent, food is also a major part of Italy’s Easter celebrations. Lamb, goat, and artichokes are the typical dishes of choice for the main meal on Easter Sunday, along with the traditional Easter bread (Panettone and the dove-shaped Colomba). Although there is no Easter Bunny in Italy, chocolate eggs are common treats on the day.
If you are spending Easter in Italy, however, don’t be surprised if you are left wondering where all the Italians are: many take the chance to escape the cities for the weekend and head to the seaside or the mountains. Make sure, especially if you are staying in an apartment, to buy any necessities you may need before the weekend: although supermarkets will stay open, Italy is a country of small businesses, and many close their doors for the holiday.