Traveling to Italy during the Easter holidays means visiting during Holy Week—a big deal in this Catholic country, and, as you would imagine, a time when there’s plenty to see and do. From Sicily and the boot’s tip, all the way to the top of the country, each place celebrates the religious festival differently with processions, holy representations, religious rites, food fairs, and some interesting folklore traditions. Here are our top ten reasons to join in.
Easter celebrations last an entire week
Holy Week begins the Sunday before Easter, this year falling on Sunday 9 April and ending on Saturday 15 April. After Christmas, Easter is the second most important holiday in most Christian countries so the festivities are plentiful.
Italians celebrate everything with food
Traditionally, they have a feast of seafood or lamb on Easter Sunday. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Italian Sunday lunch that also just so happens to be an Easter feast.
Forget the Easter egg hunts and the Easter Bunny
Italians don’t do Easter egg hunts and they don’t have the Easter Bunny either. They do, however, believe in giving chocolate eggs at Easter, and that’s something we can get on board with. Their version of Easter eggs are large hollow chocolate egg shapes with a gift inside. The best part is the satisfying feeling of breaking open the hollow egg to find your surprise, and then enjoying it piece by piece as often as you like.
Cross off the religious events on your bucket list
Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope—what could be a better way to spend Easter. If you’re Catholic, it’s probably on your bucket list. This used to be one of the most congested travel times of the year, but recently, the week before and after Holy Week have been busier due to the misconception that Easter week will be crazy busy. You’re in luck if you can travel during Holy Week, so go ahead, do some research, book your ticket and cross this experience off your list.
Although many cities across Italy celebrate on the Friday and Saturday before Easter, Enna, Sicily has one of the biggest Good Friday processions in the country. Over 2,000 Christian monks participate in the procession, walking throughout the town. They carry a statue of Jesus and the Virgin Mary to commemorate the crucifixion.
Celebrate Easter with fireworks like New Year’s Eve
On the morning of Easter Sunday, Florence carries out its 350-year-old tradition with the Explosion of the Cart. It is exactly what it sounds like—an antique cart is packed with fireworks and set ablaze. Of course, it’s in a controlled environment, but it is definitely something to be seen. Held in the main square in front of the cathedral, you get a great view and a parade that snakes through the city leading up to the explosion. It is said that if there is a successful grand explosion, there is a good year ahead.
The celebrations continue…
Another top celebration, which also takes place in Sicily, is in the city of Trapani on the coast. This Easter parade lasts an entire 24 hours; and includes a marching band, men carrying a statue of Jesus and Mary and people lining the streets to enjoy the spectacle.
Even after Easter is over, Italians still take an extra day of holiday
The Monday after Easter, called La Pasquetta (literally translated as ‘Little Easter’), is also a holiday. Usually, the day is open for Italians to celebrate as they like, or even to just use it as an excuse to have one more day of holiday. In some places around the country, however, there are special traditions. For example, in a small town in Umbria called Panicale, there is a cheese rolling competition. Contestants race throughout the village rolling huge wheels of cheese, in a game they call Ruzzolone.
Easter sweets around Italy are delicious
The most common cake is colomba di pasqua (which translates to ‘Easter Dove’), a dove shaped cake made with pieces of almond and candied orange peel inside. Although it doesn’t really look like a dove shape, just go with it and try a piece because it is delicious. In Florence, specifically, there is schiacciata alla fiorentina, which is a delicious yellow sponge cake, sometimes filled with cream, covered in powdered sugar with the shape of a fleur-de-lis, the symbol of Florence, outlined in cocoa powder. You can find something special in every bar and bakery across the country, so indulge a little. Also, the window displays are gorgeous.
The Egg Festival (Pallia dell’uovo)
You’ll never want to see an egg again after this festival in Tredozio. Basically an egg eating competition, along with whatever other creative egg-related games people can come up with, is held in this town in the region of Emilia-Romagnia. It’s fun to watch, and they definitely get creative with their adaption of the Easter egg tradition.
The weather is great in April
Okay, so this isn’t specifically about Easter, but we thought it would be worth mentioning. With the spring season and time change, comes longer days of sunlight and gorgeous weather, which will make your trip to Italy even better. In addition to all the amazing reasons to visit Italy, add quirky traditions and a week of celebrations and you’ve got the perfect time of year to visit the beautiful country.
So there you have it, 10 reasons to celebrate Easter in Italy. If not for the food or religious aspects alone, there are plenty of interesting folk traditions around the country to see. Why not make your own tailored trip to see it all.