Easter in Italy
Easter in Italy is marked ancient traditions and celebrations. If I could be in Italy only one measly week a year, I’d choose Easter. A week filled with ancient traditions that vary from one town to the next.
The air is sweet and the weather temperate, all the fruit trees blossom, wild fields and hillsides are covered in poppies, the first locally grown vegetables hit the market and every town from hamlet to metropolis dust off ancient traditions to celebrate the holidays. It’s magic.
Easter celebrations follow a set pattern. On Palm Sunday there are the first religious processions and pageants and in Puglia people have olive branches blessed in church before they give them to friends and family who stick them on their houses as a good omen.
Shrove Thursday evening all people in town go from one church to the other. They dip their fingers in holy water, cross themselves, kiss their forefinger and circulate up to the altar to admire Easter decorations and effigies showing the sufferings of Christ. Along the way you meet and greet all the neighbours, shopkeepers and friends of friends and exchange a few words. The atmosphere is solemn and relaxed.
Good Friday is not a public holiday, but in the evening there are some really spectacular processions drawing everybody from newborn babies to young punks and centenarians out of doors. Traditions and themes change radically from town to town, and they can be inventive and challenging and offer moments of great beauty.
Pasqua or Easter Sunday means eating with the family and the size of these Italian meals keep the locals quiet and out of sight for most of the day. From noon to teatime the streets are deserted.
The quietness of Easter Sunday is replaces by endless traffic jams on Easter Monday, when everyone goes to the seaside, the countryside, the mountains or some family attraction. Pasquetta is the great picnic day when you go out wearing party make-up and your best clothes, of course, hang around with friends and generally enjoy yourself. It is what the Italians call a casino, but great fun unless you have to travel from one part of the country to the other. Being stuck on a motorway with 20-40 million Italians on the move can be a trying experience, and I always do my best to avoid it.
Still I wouldn’t miss huge chocolate Easter eggs or the dove shaped colomba cake that is always ready to fly into the mouth of people who come to call around Easter. In Italy there are Easter traditions for all tastes.
More Easter traditions