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A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024

Posted on April 2nd, 2023

by Adriana Pineda


The lively celebrations of Easter (or Pasqua, as it is known in Italian) draw nigh as springtime blooms and the warm Italian weather breathes life into this gorgeous nation. Whether you’re religious or not, Easter is a great opportunity to visit Italy or acquire an Italian mindset. The weather is pleasant, and there are numerous intriguing customs to observe, ranging from sprinting monks and massive sculptures to colorful processions and larger-than-life reenactments.

The best events and activities for expats

Join us for a social lunch on Easter Sunday, in Rome

Join us for an Easter Sunday Social Lunch with fellow expats at Borgo Pigneto, a multicultural space and meeting place in Rome, located in the historic building of Villa Lauricella. It offers various areas for dining, drinking, and entertainment. Borgo Pigneto belongs to the Pigneto area, which is famous for its creative and unconventional atmosphere, with plenty of bars, cafes, and cultural activities. It is a place to enjoy the experience of a village while staying in the city.

A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024 27

The Papal Mass and Urbi et Orbi Blessing in Vatican City

The Papal Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, is one of the most important and emblematic activities in Italy during Easter. As an expat, you will not want to miss Pope Francis’ special Easter Sunday Mass and the renowned “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) benediction. Thousands of travelers from all over the world congregate in the plaza for this holy occasion, making it a genuinely unforgettable experience. The “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing will take place at the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica at 12:00.

A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024 28

Scoppio del Carro in Florence (Explosion of the Cart)

A journey to Florence is a must for any expat residing in Italy, and there is no better opportunity to experience the city’s magic than during Easter. Witness the magnificent Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), a spectacular event that takes place on Easter Sunday in front of the Duomo. A huge wooden cart, pulled by white oxen and loaded with fireworks, is ignited by a dove-shaped rocket that flies from the altar of the cathedral. The explosion is supposed to bring good luck and a good harvest to the city.

 

A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024 29

La Madonna Che Scappa in Sulmona’s Piazza

Visit the picturesque village of Sulmona in the Abruzzo area for a genuine Italian Easter celebration. Here, you can see La Madonna che Scappa (The Madonna who Runs), a reenactment of the meeting between the Virgin Mary and the resurrected Jesus on Easter Sunday. A statue of the Madonna, dressed in black, is carried by a procession to the main square, where she runs towards a statue of Jesus, dropping her black cloak and revealing a green dress. The crowd cheers and throws petals and confetti in the air. This is a one-of-a-kind and heartwarming re-enactment of the time the Virgin Mary is said to have reconnected with Jesus after his rising. Music, processions, and locals costumed in traditional costumes fill the town’s main plaza, creating a joyful ambiance that will make you feel right at home.

A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024 30

Photo from yesabruzzo.com

Stroll through Bologna to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

Easter festivities in Bologna may be less extravagant, but the cuisine is not. Bologna, known as one of the most “golosa” or gluttonous towns in Italy, has a variety of distinctive Easter dishes. At Easter Sunday brunch, serve tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth) alongside lasagna prepared with fresh spinach or asparagus. Complement your spaghetti with piadina, crescentine, or tigelle – Emilia-Romagna breads garnished with mortadella, prosciutto, and squacerone cheese! Join the residents on Easter Monday for a customary walk along the arcades from Meloncello to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, followed by an Easter picnic in the sun.

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Vasa Vasa in Sicily

Modica, Sicily, holds two distinct processions on Easter Sunday morning, one led by a figure of the Risen Christ and the other by the Virgin Mary dressed in black. Both take different paths through town before meeting in Corso Umberto. The Virgin is so overjoyed to see her son that her limbs move away from her side as she stretches out to hug him. To the sounds of a brass band, church bells, and fireworks, she places two kisses on his face – This is known as ‘Vasa Vasa’ in Sicilian. Confetti erupts from the Virgin’s gilded crown, and the celebration can commence!

 

A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024 32

Photo from siciliainfesta.com

More Ideas for Celebrating Easter in Italy in 2024

• What to see and do

Many of the city’s museums are open on Easter Sunday and Monday, though you may encounter some crowds and queues. However, you can always verify online for availability and tickets ahead of time.

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From left to right: the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday, photo from vaticannews.va; the Misteri di Trapani parade, photo from siciliainfesta.com; and the procession accompanied by the Miserere, photo from rete8.it

If you want to witness the religious and cultural aspects of Easter in Italy, you should not miss the Holy Week (Settimana Santa) ceremonies and processions that take place in many towns and cities across the country. Some of the most famous and impressive events are in Rome:

 

Sunday, March 24

Palm Sunday: Passion of the Lord – Commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem and Holy Mass
St. Peter’s Square
at 10:00
PAPAL MASS

 

Thursday, March 28

Holy Thursday – Holy Chrism Mass
St. Peter’s Basilica
at 9:30

 

Friday, March 29

Good Friday – Celebration of the Passion of the Lord

St. Peter’s Basilica

at 17:00

PAPAL MASS

 

Way of the Cross at the Colosseum – Good Friday

Palatine Hill

at 21:15

 

Saturday, March 30

Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
St. Peter’s Basilica
at 19:30
PAPAL MASS

 

Sunday, March 31

Easter Sunday – Holy Mass of the day

Saint Peter’s Square

at 10:00

PAPAL MASS

 

Easter Sunday – “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing

Central loggia of the Vatican Basilica

at 12:00

 

To reserve your ticket, click here.

 

Other notable processions are in Trapani, Sicily, where the Misteri di Trapani (Mysteries of Trapani) parade features 18 elaborate floats depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ. The Misteri di Trapani will start on Friday, March 29 at 2:00 pm from the Church of the Souls in Purgatory, where the 18 wooden statues of the Mysteries are kept. The procession will last for about 24 hours, passing through the main streets of the city and stopping at some squares. The Mysteries will return to the church on Saturday, March 30 at 7:45 am. Another procession takes place in Chieti, Abruzzo, where the oldest and most solemn procession in Italy is held on Good Friday, accompanied by a 100-piece orchestra playing the Miserere. The procession starts from the Cathedral of San Giustino at 7:00 pm, and crosses the historic center of the city, illuminated by torches and candles. The procession is accompanied by the Miserere, a melancholic piece of music composed in 1740 by Saverio Selecchy, sung by 160 choristers and played by a 100-piece orchestra, mostly composed of violins. The procession ends on Saturday morning, after about 24 hours.

What to eat during Easter in Italy: Easter in Italy is also a feast for the palate, as every region has its own typical dishes and desserts to celebrate the occasion. For lunch, Italians traditionally enjoy roast lamb or goat with a variety of sides, such as artichokes, asparagus, potatoes, or fava beans. The lamb or goat is usually roasted over an open fire or in the oven and seasoned with herbs, garlic, and lemon. Some regions have their own variations, such as the abbacchio alla romana (Roman-style lamb) in Lazio, the agnello cacio e ova (lamb with cheese and eggs) in Abruzzo, or the agnello con le olive (lamb with olives) in Puglia.

A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024 34

From left to right: Colomba cake, the Pastiera Napoletana (photo from aifb.it), and the Cassata Siciliana (photo from edelmodica.com).

Desserts include the dove-shaped Colomba cake, which is a traditional Italian Easter pastry made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, candied peel, and almonds. It is similar to the Christmas panettone, but lighter and more fragrant. Colomba is popular all over Italy, but especially in Lombardy, where it originated. Other regional specialties are the pastiera napoletana, a pie filled with ricotta, eggs, cooked wheat, orange blossom water, and spices, typical of Naples, the cassata siciliana, a sponge cake layered with ricotta, chocolate, candied fruit, and marzipan, typical of Sicily, and the schiacciata di Pasqua, a sweet bread flavored with anise, orange, and sugar, typical of Tuscany.

What to do on Easter Monday: Easter Monday, also known as Lunedì dell’Angelo (Monday of the Angel) or Pasquetta (Little Easter), is a public holiday in Italy and a day to relax and enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. Italians usually spend Easter Monday having a picnic or a barbecue in the countryside, by the lake, or by the sea. Some of the most popular destinations for Easter Monday are the Castelli Romani, a group of hill towns near Rome, the Cinque Terre, a stunning coastal area in Liguria, and the Lake Garda, the largest and most scenic lake in Italy. Alternatively, you can also take a day trip to some of the charming villages and towns in Italy, such as Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis in Umbria, San Gimignano, the medieval town of towers in Tuscany, or Alberobello, the fairy-tale town of trulli in Puglia.

Easter in Italy for Children: In Italy, the Easter Bunny is not very common, and children’s traditions vary by region and town. In some places, children receive chocolate eggs with a surprise toy inside, which are usually given by their parents or relatives on Easter Sunday. These eggs can be very large and elaborately decorated, and you can find them in bakeries, pastry shops, or supermarkets. Some of the best brands to look for are Perugina, Lindt, Ferrero, and Kinder. In other places, children receive gifts or money from their godparents, or they participate in egg hunts or games organized by the local community. In Sardinia, for example, children are given Sa Pippia, a seven-legged bread doll that represents the risen Christ. The children must break off a leg for each day of Holy Week, which teaches them to count the days of the week.

A Guide to Italian Easter in 2024 35

From left to right: chocolate eggs with a surprise toy inside, photo from bestmovie.it; and Sa Pippia, photo from blog.giallozafferano.it

Easter in Italy is a time of joy, warmth, and colorful cultural experiences. As a visitor, you can immerse yourself in these rich Italian traditions and create unforgettable memories. Whether you choose to attend a religious ceremony, enjoy a delicious meal, explore a beautiful garden, or join a fun activity, you will find something to suit your taste and interest. Buona Pasqua!

And for more travel inspiration in Italy or legal advice to move here, be sure to check out our blog and our social gatherings happening in Rome for when you need a break from the crowded museums! You can also email us at [email protected].

Also, don’t forget to check out our Social Media accounts and Newsletter so you can join us in the next Social Meet-ups for Expats! 

#RomeExpats: Easter Sunday Lunch | Pigneto


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