Traditional Italian Easter (Pasqua) is the second most important holiday after Christmas in Italy. This is a weeklong celebration starting with Palm Sunday and ending with La Pasquetta (Little Easter, also called Easter Monday) which is also a legal holiday in Italy.
You won’t find our famous American bunny or have an Easter egg hunt in Italy. You will find that in days leading up Easter, Italians include solemn processions and masses that involve large crowds of people.
On Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), the Pope traditionally washes and kisses the feet of 12 people – usually members of the church. This is done to honor the Last Supper where Jesus commanded that people should love one another and then washed the feet of his disciples as an act of kindness.
On Good Friday the Pope celebrates the Stations of the Cross in Rome near the Colosseum. It is traditionally a day of sorrow, penance, and fasting.
Easter Sunday is celebrated with jubilant traditions as this is the day of Jesus’ resurrection, according to the gospels, on the third day after crucifixion. Religious parades and celebrations are all over Italy. Easter mass is celebrated in every church. Large crowds of people carry statues of Jesus and his mother Mary in a procession through the streets of small towns and cities nationwide. Since Pasqua is the end of the Lenten season, which requires sacrifice and reserve, food plays a big part in the celebration. After mass, Italians return home to share a traditional feast with family and friends. There are different traditions regionally around Italy but many will include lamb or goat, artichokes, and special Easter sweet bread.
Panettone sweet bread and Colomba (Dove shaped) bread are often given as gifts. Italians will enjoy Pizza Rustica (a stuffed pizza pie from Naples), Pastiera (sweet Easter wheat berrie pie)made with short crust pastry with a filling of ricotta cheese, eggs, wheat berries, and flavored with orange blossom water, Briose (sweet bread with raisins and hard boiled eggs, and Scarcella (an Easter cookie decorated with colored sprinkles from the region of Puglia). ) Easter eggs are everywhere in Italy symbolizing rebirth and renewal. Hollow chocolate eggs with a surprise inside are what kids and adults alike are excited to enjoy all over Italy.
La Pasquetta (Easter Monday) is a casual day spent with family and friend relaxing. Some cities have free concerts. You will often find family and friends leaving the cities to have picnics in the countryside or spend the day at the beach which you know involves more great food. Fresh Fava beans are eaten with Pecorino cheese, salami with boiled eggs, and my personal favorite and our family tradition, Panzerotti (a small variation of a calzone but usually fried), from central & southern Italy.
We wish you all a happy healthy Easter season! Buona Pasqua