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Easter in Italy

Italian Festivals and Celebrations for Holy Week

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Italy, Sardinia, Cagliari, Good Friday procession
David Madison/The Image Bank/Getty Images

While you probably won't see the Easter bunny if you're in Italy for Easter, you will find some interesting Italian Easter celebrations. Like all holidays in Italy, Easter, Pasqua in Italian, has its share of rituals and traditions. The Monday following Easter, la Pasquetta is also a holiday throughout Italy. While the days before Easter in Italy include solemn processions and masses, Easter is a joyous celebration.

Good Friday and Easter Week Processions

Solemn religious processions are held in many towns on the Friday or Saturday before Easter and sometimes on Easter Sunday. Many churches have special statues of the Virgin and Jesus that play a big part in the processions. The statues may be paraded through the city or displayed in the main square. Parade participants are often dressed in traditional ancient costumes. Olive branches are often used instead of or along with palm fronds in the processions and to decorate churches.

Enna, in Sicily, has a large procession on Good Friday, with more than 2,000 friars dressed in ancient costumes walking through the streets of the city. Trapani, also in Sicily, is a good place to see processions, held several days during Holy Week. Their Good Friday procession, Misteri di Trapani, is 24 hours long. These processions are very dramatic.

What's believed to be the oldest Good Friday procession in Italy is in Chieti in the Abruzzo region (see Abruzzo Region Map). The procession with Selecchi's Miserere played by 100 violins is very moving.

Some towns, such as Montefalco and Gualdo Tadino in Umbria, hold live scenarios during the night of Good Friday or plays enacting the stations of the cross or Via Crucis. Beautiful torch light processions are held in Umbria in hill towns such as Orvieto and Assisi. Read more about Good Friday and Easter in Umbria.

Pictures of Sicilian Holy Week Processions - Europe Travel has photos of a Giovedi Santo (Thursday) procession and a Venerdi Santo, Good Friday, procession in southern Sicily.

Good Friday and Easter with the Pope in Rome and Saint Peter's

While Easter mass will be held in every church in Italy, the biggest and most popular mass is held by the Pope at Saint Peter's Basilica. On Good Friday, the Pope celebrates the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross in Rome near the Colosseum. A huge cross with burning torches lights the sky as the stations of the cross are described in several languages. At the end, the Pope gives a blessing. Read more about Easter Week at the Vatican and in Rome.

Florence - Scoppio del Carro

In Florence, Easter is celebrated with the Scoppio del Carro, explosion of the cart. A huge, decorated wagon is dragged through Florence by white oxen until it reaches Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence's historic center. Following mass, the Archbishop sends a dove-shaped rocket into the cart, igniting the fireworks held in the cart. This spectacular display is followed by a parade in medieval costumes.

La Madonna Che Scappa in Piazza - Abruzzo Region

Sulmona, in the Abruzzo region, celebrates Easter Sunday with La Madonna Che Scappa in Piazza. On Easter Sunday people dress in green and white, colors of peace, hope, and resurrection, and gather in the main piazza. The woman playing the Virgen Mary is dressed in black. As she moves to the fountain, doves are released and the woman is suddenly dressed in green. Music and feasting follow.

Holy Week on the island of Sardinia

The island of Sardinia is a part of Italy steeped in tradition and a good place to experience festivals and holidays. Because of its long association with Spain, some Easter traditions are strongly linked to the Spanish Semanta Santa. Here's an inside look at Sardinian Holy Week rituals.

Easter food

Since Easter is the end of the Lent season, food plays a big part in the celebrations. Traditional Easter foods in many places include lamb or goat, artichokes, and special Easter breads that vary from region to region. Pannetone and Colomba (dove shaped) breads are often given as gifts as are hollow chocolate eggs that usually come with a surprise inside.

Easter Monday - La Pasquetta

On Easter Monday, some cities hold dances, free concerts, or unusual games often involving eggs. In the Umbrian hill town of Panicale, cheese is the star. Ruzzolone is played by rolling huge wheels of cheese, weighing about 4 kilos, around the village walls. The object is to get your cheese around the course using the fewest number of strokes. Following the cheese contest, there is a band in the piazza and of course, wine. Read more about the town of Panicale. Easter Monday is a time to gather with friends and have fun.

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