Easter in Italy

Easter in Italy

Easter in Italy, known as "Pasqua", is an event of great cultural and spiritual significance, celebrated with a mixture of religious traditions, culinary delights and joyful festivities. Deeply rooted in Christian tradition, this festival reflects Italy's rich history and diverse cultural nuances.

Although Easter in Italy falls on the same day as in all other parts of the world, namely the first Sunday after the first full moon, which falls on March 21 or a later day, Easter celebrations in Italy differ significantly from those in Anglo-Saxon culture, for example. The tradition of the Easter bunny and the Easter egg hunt is rarely found in Italy.

Nevertheless, Easter is considered very important and is strongly linked to Christian tradition and faith. The Easter holidays are next to the Christmas holidays the most important religious and family festivals in Italy.

For Italians, Easter is above all a religious festival that celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a time of reflection and new beginnings. During Holy Week, the so-called "Settimana Santa", processions and special church services are held throughout the country. One of the most famous examples is the procession in Trapani in Sicily, known as the "Processione dei Misteri", in which biblical scenes are depicted in a procession lasting several hours.

Processione dei Misteri in Trapani

Processione dei Misteri in Trapani, Sicily, Easter in Italy ( photo © Shutterstock.com)

The Pocessione dei Misteri of Trapani in Sicily

In Trapani in Sicily, the Good Friday procession lasts a whole 24 hours! The "Misteri" are realistic sculptures made of wood, canvas and glue that depict the suffering and death of Jesus. The highlight of the celebrations is the depiction of the Passion story.

The Processione dei Misteri in Trapani is one of the most outstanding and emotional events of Holy Week in Italy. This impressive procession takes place on Good Friday in the Sicilian city of Trapani and is famous for its deep-rooted tradition, which dates back to the 16th century.

During the Processione dei Misteri, twenty artistic sculptural groups known as "I Misteri" are carried through the streets of the city. These sculptures depict various scenes from the Passion of Christ and are masterful works of art that are appreciated for both their historical and artistic value. Each group is carried by a different brotherhood or guild, whose members are often dressed in traditional costumes.

The procession begins on the afternoon of Good Friday and lasts around 24 hours, making it one of the longest religious processions in the world. The atmosphere during the Processione dei Misteri is deep and emotional, characterized by the devotion and dedication of the participants and the surrounding community. The event is accompanied by sacred music and chants that contribute to the spiritual and contemplative mood.

The Processione dei Misteri in Trapani is not only a religious ritual, but also a cultural event that offers an insight into the rich history and tradition of Sicily. It attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world every year and remains an unforgettable experience for all those lucky enough to participate or witness it.

The Holy Week and Easter celebrations in Sicily are very special in many towns and villages on the Mediterranean island.

Here you can find out more about the traditions during Easter week in Sicily! "

Good Friday, Colosseum, Rome, Easter in Italy

Good Friday, Colosseum, Rome, Easter in Italy ( photo © Canva.com)

The true meaning of Easter in Italy

The true meaning of Easter has nothing to do with rabbits and hens. According to Christian tradition, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion. Jesus was condemned to death as a political and religious rebel by the governor Pilate and executed on the cross. He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, who set in motion a series of events that led to Jesus' death and resurrection.

Jesus was condemned to death and, according to the Gospels, crucified on Mount Golgotha outside the gates of Jerusalem. The day of his death is Good Friday, "Venerdì Santo". Three days after his death, on Easter Day, which always falls on a Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. Therefore, according to Italian tradition, the week before Easter is characterized by solemn processions and masses, while Easter Sunday, the "giorno di Paqua", is a happy day with cheerful traditions and customs.

The merriment continues until Easter Monday, which is called "Pasquetta" by the Italians and is also a festival and public holiday in Italy.

Easter Barile

Easter in Italy: Via Crucis in Barile in Basilicata ( photo © Francesca Sciarra / Shutterstock.com)

The Holy Week

In the past, Easter celebrations in Italy began much earlier: 40 days before Easter, the period of Quaresima, the weeks of fasting, began. It was a sad time because it led to the death of Jesus.

For this reason, Christians did not sing Hallelujah or Gloria in church during Quaresima, weddings were not celebrated and in some areas fasting was also very strictly observed. Merry secular celebrations or events such as theater performances were also forbidden.

Purple is the color of Quaresima (Lent), as the priests wear purple tunics during this time. As performances were forbidden, the theater people could not work during these 40 days and were practically unemployed. Since then, the color purple has been associated with these difficult days. Purple is considered an "unlucky color" in the Italian entertainment industry, especially for people who work in the theater. Actors never wear purple on stage, and nothing purple may be used as a prop or brought near the stage.

Today, the rituals of the Quaresima are no longer followed so strictly by all Italians. What has remained is the color of the priests' vestments and the theater people's aversion to this color.

Via Crucis Rome Lazio Italy 2019

Easter in Italy: Via Crucis in Rome in 2019 ( © AM113 / Shutterstock.com)

Easter rituals in Italy mainly begin in Holy Week (the seven days before Easter Sunday) and are observed by many devout and religious people. However, the processions and rituals can also be very interesting for lay people. They can be an extraordinary opportunity to witness some Italian folklore, traditions and customs.

Via Crucis - The Way of the Cross

One of the best-known rituals is the "Via Crucis", which usually takes place on Good Friday in Italian parishes. This is a procession that traces Jesus' path to Calvary, the place of his death. According to Christian tradition, Jesus carried his cross up the mountain and fell three times in pain and exhaustion.

On the Via Crucis, people follow the cross and pause 13 times along the way. At these stations, the path of Jesus is remembered and prayers and songs are sung.

Some Via Crucis can be very spectacular and atmospheric. You can take the opportunity to walk with the locals through the Italian borghi (small villages), meadows and woods. In some celebrations, the Passion of Christ is re-enacted with candles, music and actors carrying the cross.

The most famous Via Crucis is the one at the Colosseum in Rome with the Pope. The Via Crucis with living people (Via Crucis con personaggi viventi) in Barile in the southern Italian region of Basilicata or the procession in Pietraperzia in the province of Enna or the procession on Good Friday in Sicily with the large cross - Lu signuri di li fasci.

Good Friday Pietraperzia Enna Sicily

Easter in Italy: Procession with a large cross "Lu Signuri di li fasci" in Pietraperzia ( © francesca commissari / Shutterstock.com)

Easter week in Rome

Easter in Rome, the capital of Italy and seat of the Vatican, is a time of splendor and spiritual intensity. Deeply rooted in Christian tradition, the city offers a unique experience that attracts believers and visitors from all over the world.

The epicenter of Easter celebrations in Rome is the Vatican. The Easter mass in the magnificent St. Peter's Square attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors. The Pope presides over the mass in person and gives the traditional Easter blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world). This moment, which is broadcast live in many countries, is one of the highlights of the Easter celebrations and symbolizes peace and unity.

During Holy Week, the Vatican and throughout Rome. Of particular note is the Mass on Holy Thursday, during which the Pope performs the traditional washing of the feet, an act that symbolizes humility and service to others. On Good Friday, the famous procession of the Way of the Cross ("Via Crucis") takes place from the Castel Sant'Angelo to the Colosseum. This moving re-enactment of the Passion of Christ, in which the Pope also takes part, takes place by candlelight and evokes deep emotional reactions from those present.

In addition to religious events, Rome also offers a wealth of cultural events during the Easter period. Museums and historical sites are open to visitors and many churches host concerts and performances of sacred music. There is a festive atmosphere in the streets of Rome with markets selling traditional handicrafts and local culinary specialties.

In Rome, traditional Easter customs are combined with modern elements. While the historical and spiritual aspects are at the forefront, the city also embraces modern influences such as contemporary art exhibitions and music events. This fusion of old and new makes Easter in Rome a unique experience that both honors the past and celebrates the present.

Easter in Rome is a fascinating blend of deep spirituality, historical splendor and vibrant culture. For believers and visitors alike, the city offers an unparalleled experience that enriches both the senses and the spirit. During this time, Rome is transformed into a place of reflection and celebration that carries the heart of Christian tradition.

Castel Sant'Angelo, Castel Sant'Angelo, Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, Lazio, Italy

Castel Sant'Angelo, Angel Castle in Rome, Easter in Italy ( photo © Canva.com)

Traditional Easter customs in Italy

There are unique Easter customs in many regions of Italy. For example, the inhabitants of Chieti in Abruzzo organize the oldest procession in Italy on Good Friday, accompanied by impressive orchestral and choral music.

In Florence the "Scoppio del Carro" is celebrated in Florence, a spectacular event in which a cart loaded with fireworks is blown up in front of the cathedral - as a symbol of peace and a good harvest.

On Easter Sunday, a special procession takes place in Porto Santo Stefano, in which the Passion of Christ is re-enacted and the statue of Christ is immersed three times in the water at the harbor, whereupon the ships in the harbor respond with their sirens.

In Siena, an Easter mass is celebrated in the cathedral on Easter Sunday. On Easter Monday, Greve in Chianti hosts one of the largest antiques fairs in Tuscany takes place in Greve in Chianti. There is also a traditional regatta, the "Pasquavela", in Porto Santo Stefano.

Hhere you can find out much more about Easter in Tuscany! "

Porto Santo Stefano, Tuscany, Italy

The blessing of the sea takes place in Porto Santo Stefano on Easter Sunday, Tuscany, Easter in Italy ( photo © Canva.com)

The procession in Chieti

The Easter procession of Chieti, a town in the Italian region of Abruzzo, is one of the most moving and traditional processions in Italy. The procession, which takes place on Good Friday, is known for its deep spirituality and historical significance. It attracts both locals and tourists from all over the world every year.

One of the most striking features of the procession in Chieti is the moving musical accompaniment, in particular the performance of the Miserere. This music, performed by a large orchestra and choir, imbues the entire event with a deep emotionality and gives it a unique atmosphere. The sounds of the Miserere echoing through the streets at night are often remembered by participants and spectators for a long time.

The procession itself consists of a series of statues and relics depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ. These are carried by the faithful in a procession through the streets of the city, accompanied by hundreds of people who walk along in deep devotion and silence. The procession is a symbol of mourning and reflection on the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.

The Easter procession in Chieti is not only a religious event, but also a cultural spectacle that is deeply rooted in the local community. It reflects the history, beliefs and traditions of the region and is an unforgettable experience for all those who take part or observe it.

Cathedral of San Giustino, Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy

Cathedral of San Giustino, Chieti, Abruzzo, Easter in Italy ( photo © Canva.com)

The Good Friday procession in Savona, Liguria

The Good Friday procession in Savona in the Liguria regionis an impressive event with a long tradition dating back to the 13th century. The procession takes place every two years and attracts a large crowd. It usually starts at 8.30 pm at Savona Cathedral and winds its way through the heart of the city.

A special feature of the procession is the "Cruxe du Pasciu" (Cross of the Passion) or "Cruxe du Gallu" (Cross of the Rooster), which is decorated with all the symbols of the Passion, including the rooster that heralded Peter's betrayal. The procession ends with a reliquary containing the relic of the Holy Cross.

During the procession, the various brotherhoods carry the so-called "boxes" (processional boxes), which are considered to be true works of devotional art. They contain impressive depictions of the Passion story, which have been created by various artists over the centuries. There are, for example, boxes depicting scenes such as Christ on the Cross, the Pietà, the Descent from the Cross, the Promise of the Redeemer and the Annunciation. Many of these boxes are of historical significance and were created by famous artists such as Filippo Martinengo and Anton Maria Maragliano.

The brotherhoods of Savona that take part in the procession have their own characteristic colors and contribute to the diversity and colorfulness of the procession. Each confraternity has its own history and plays an important role in the community of Savona.

The procession is not only a religious event, but also a demonstration of art, history and cultural identity that fascinates and touches visitors and locals alike.

Good Friday, Savona, Easter in Italy
Good Friday, Savona, Easter in Italy
Good Friday, Savona, Easter in Italy

Good Friday, Savona, Easter in Italy (photo © Canva.com)

Easter Sunday

After the hard week of Easter, Easter Sunday is a happy day of celebration. Similar to Christmas, it is very important for Italians to spend this day with their families.

The celebrations are closely linked to food and socializing. Families gather together for a large Easter meal. In some areas, it is traditional for the table to be set for the whole day and for anyone who comes to visit to sit down and eat with the hosts.

St. Peter's Square, Rome, Easter in Italy

St. Peter's Square, Rome, Easter in Italy (photo © Canva.com)

Special Easter Sunday celebrations

In some Italian cities, traditions make Easter Sunday even more special. The events can be very strange and you have the opportunity to marvel at something very special.

Scoppio del Carro in Florence, Tuscany:

Literally, it means the blowing up of the cart. On Easter Sunday in Florence, a cart, the "brindellone", is driven through the city to Piazza del Duomo, the heart of the city.

The Brindellone is pulled by two oxen, followed by a huge crowd of people. As soon as the Brindellone reaches the piazza, a fuse is lit inside the cathedral. The fuse reaches the Brindellone through a wire and triggers its "explosion", a phenomenal firework display that lasts over 20 minutes.

La Madonna che Scappa in Sulmona, Abruzzo:

The fleeing Virgin Mary. On Easter Sunday, a group of men dressed in white and green, the colors of hope and peace, carry a statue of the Virgin Mary dressed in black out of the church. As they slowly leave the church and walk across the square in procession, the statue suddenly turns green and numerous white doves fly up into the sky. At this moment, the men sprint across the square with the statue of the Virgin Mary. The whole thing only takes a few seconds, but the "run" of the men is admired and celebrated by the cheering crowd.

Madonna che scappa, Sulmona, Abruzzo, Easter in Italy (photo © Canva.com)

Easter Monday - Pasquetta

Pasquetta is what the Italians call the Monday after Easter Sunday, in other words Easter Monday. On this day, too, there are celebrations, schools and offices are still closed and the atmosphere has none of the austerity of the days before Easter. Normally, Pasqua and Pasquetta fall in the middle of spring.

While Pasqua is celebrated at home, Pasquetta is spent outdoors at a picnic with friends and family. In some towns, there are free concerts or performances, and there is no shortage of original traditions: In Panicale, Umbria, for example, the "Ruzzolone" event takes place every year. Huge wheels of cheese are rolled around the town walls.

As you may have guessed from reading this article, ancient traditions are the main protagonists of Easter celebrations in Italy. They are lived with great participation from the locals and can offer visitors and guests unique experiences.

Shop window in Rome, Easter in Italy

Shop window in Rome, Easter in Italy (photo © Canva.com)

Culinary delights at Easter in Italy

In Italy, Easter is not only a spiritual festival, but also a culinary one. The Italian Easter tradition combines regional specialties with nationally renowned delicacies to create a unique culinary experience.

Torta di Pasqua
The "Torta di Pasqua" is an integral part of Easter celebrations, especially in the Umbria region. This savory cake is made with a rich mixture of flour and various cheeses. It is often served as an appetizer together with Umbrian cold cuts such as salami, prosciutto and capocollo. An unusual but popular combination is to eat the Easter cake with a piece of chocolate, which makes for an interesting mix of flavors.

Colomba Pasquale
The Colomba Pasquale is the Easter equivalent of the Christmas panettone. This sweet, bread-like cake is rich in candied nuts, almonds and pearl sugar. Its shape, which resembles a dove, symbolizes peace and is a characteristic feature of this festive pastry.

Lamb dishes
In the Lazio region and especially in Rome, lamb is a traditional main course at Easter. There are various ways to prepare it: "Abbacchio allo scottadito" are crispy lamb chops that are often served with fresh artichokes. Roast leg of lamb with potatoes is another classic, as is "Abbacchio alla romana", lamb cooked in wine, anchovies, rosemary and garlic.

Salami and boiled eggs
Another tradition in many Italian households is the serving of salami and boiled eggs. These are often eaten for breakfast or throughout the day, often as part of a richly laid table that is available throughout the day.

Chocolate Easter eggs
Chocolate Easter eggs are a relatively new but widespread tradition in Italy. These large, hollow chocolate eggs often contain a small surprise, usually a toy for children. They are a central part of Easter and are particularly popular with the youngest children.

Colomba Pasquale, Easter in Italy

Shop window in Rome, Easter in Italy (photo © Canva.com)

Easter cuisine in Italy is as diverse as the country's regions. Each region has its own traditional Easter dishes that reflect Italy's cultural diversity.

Sicily: "Cassata Siciliana" and "Agnello Pasquale
In Sicily, the "Cassata Siciliana", a rich, sweet cake made from ricotta, candied fruit and marzipan, is a must. Another typical Easter dish is "Agnello Pasquale", a lamb dish that is often prepared with herbs and spices.

Tuscany: "Schiacciata di Pasqua
In Tuscany, the "Schiacciata di Pasqua" is very popular, a sweet, bread-like cake that is traditionally baked at Easter. It is often flavored with aniseed and orange peel and goes perfectly with a glass of Vin Santo.

Veneto: Fugassa and frittelle
In Veneto, "fugassa", a sweet, brioche-like bread, is eaten at Easter. Another delicacy is "frittelle", airy, deep-fried dough balls that are often prepared with raisins or pieces of apple.

Apulia: "Scarcella
In Apulia, the "Scarcella", a sweet Easter cake in various shapes, often decorated with colorful icing, is a traditional sweet. Scarcella can also be refined with almonds or chocolate chips.

Scarcella, Apulia, Easter in Italy

Scarcella, Easter pastry from Puglia, Easter in Italy (photo © Canva.com)

Lombardy: "Colomba Pasquale
The "Colomba Pasquale" is also very popular in Lombardy. This region often produces its own local version of the traditional Easter cake, which is sometimes refined with local specialties such as bergamot.

Emilia-Romagna: "Torta Pasqualina
In Emilia-Romagna, people often prepare "Torta Pasqualina", a savory tart filled with spinach, eggs and various types of cheese, which is perfect for an Easter picnic.

Campania: "Pastiera Napoletana" and "Casatiello Napoletano"
In Campania, the "Pastiera Napoletana" is a must. This traditional cake combines cooked wheat, ricotta, eggs and candied fruit to create a unique, aromatic taste experience.

Another special Easter dish that comes from Naples is the Casatiello Napoletano, a savory cake filled with various types of sausage and cheese, which is traditionally baked on Holy Saturday. For the Neapolitans, it symbolizes the end of Lent.

Here you can find out more about the Easter customs in Naples and Campania! "

This variety of regional Easter dishes shows how deeply rooted the culinary tradition is in Italian culture. Each dish reflects the history and special features of the respective region and makes Easter in Italy a true feast for the palate.

Casatiello Napoletano, Napoli, Campania, Italy

A cook prepares the Casatilleo Napoletano for baking, Naples, Campania, Easter in Italy (photo © Canva.com)

A fascinating blend of tradition, faith and cultural diversity, Easter in Italy offers a kaleidoscope of customs and culinary delights unique to each region of the country. Our article has highlighted some of the most notable traditions and dishes, from the profound Good Friday procession in Chieti to the diverse Easter dishes, from the 'Torta di Pasqua' in Umbria to the 'Colomba Pasquale' loved across the country.

However, it is important to emphasize that this article can only give a small insight into the rich range of Easter traditions in Italy. Every region, every town, even every village has its own customs and specialties, many of which have been practiced for centuries and are well worth discovering. From the impressive processions in Sicily to the unique Easter games in Tuscany, faith and history are reflected in local festivals throughout the country.

Those who experience Easter in Italy embark on a journey through a world full of colors, scents and stories. It is a time when the Italian passion for good food, community and spirituality is expressed in countless ways. We hope that this article has sparked your interest in discovering and experiencing the diversity and beauty of Italian Easter traditions for yourself.

From the sacred silence of the Good Friday processions to the joyful get-togethers around the festive Easter table, Italy offers an incomparable spectrum of Easter experiences. May this journey through Italy's Easter traditions inspire you and open up new perspectives on this ancient festival.

Good Friday, Leonforte, Sicily, Italy

Easter in Italy: Good Friday, Leonforte, Sicily, Italy (photo © Terje Lillehaug / Shutterstock.com)

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