For Christians, Easter is an even bigger celebration than Christmas because it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the promise of everlasting life for believers. For Italians, the religious celebrations of Holy Week and the family dinners and get-togethers for Easter are comparable to the importance Americans place on Thanksgiving.
This year Easter Sunday falls March 27, which is a bit earlier in spring than in other years and means travelers may enjoy the many benefits of off-season travel in Italy.
Italians have many special foods and traditions to celebrate Pasqua (Easter), some varying from region to region and others part of the national identity. Part of the fun of exploring this European country is the opportunity to enjoy the diverse regional culinary traditions of Italy.
For this reason, depending where you decide to visit on your very own Italy spring vacation packages, you might enjoy an Easter dinner of fish or seafood instead of some other kind of roast beast and just as many different carefully prepared desserts. One dish found on most Italian tables for Easter is called Pane di Pasqua, which is an artfully braided sweet bread that is decorated with colourful hard boiled eggs.
Just as in other Christian countries, hard boiled eggs are decorated or pretty foil-wrapped chocolate eggs are bought to symbolize the rebirth of Jesus. The traditions don’t end with just Easter eggs however.
Celebrating Easter in Rome is of course its own annual tradition for many pilgrims. Hundreds of thousands of Christians gather in Rome for Holy Week to participate in the services for Palm Sunday and the Passion of Jesus, Holy Thursday morning for the blessing of oils or the evening service of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper that commemorates the Last Supper. Good Friday is a solemn holy day, with the service recounting the Passion of Jesus and the Crucifixion.
Tickets for the Vatican must be arranged months in advance and St. Peter’s Square will be packed with pilgrims from around the globe, but every Catholic Church will have Holy Week services. Another tradition observed by the faithful is the Via Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, staged in churches or in the streets. Often the Pope will lead the Stations of the Cross outside the ancient Roman Colosseum and bless the crowds.
Easter is a wonderful time to enjoy our very popular Walking Tour of the Vatican and the Small Group Tour of Ancient Rome. Here’s our list of what not to miss at the Vatican.
Saturday night the churches are filled with light and song as Christians in the Roman Catholic tradition celebrate the Easter Vigil with a breathtakingly beautiful (but long!) service as darkness falls. Sunday morning of course there is Easter Sunday Mass, the biggest and most watched of course at the Vatican. St. Peter’s Square will be filled to bursting and Pope Francis will give the annual papal address called Urbi et Orbi (to the City and the World).
And then the parties and feasting begin!
Rome is not the only Italian city known for its Easter pageantry of course -- visitors must think beyond the big three Italian cities as they plan trip itineraries. Every church (and there are so many churches full of great artwork to explore in Italy!) celebrates Holy Week and Florence has an explosive tradition to mark the resurrection of Jesus. Avventure Bellissime offers several Small Group and Private Tours of Florence.
Every year thousands gather at Easter to watch Florence’s elaborate Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), with its roots dating back to the time of the Crusades, takes place in the Piazza del Duomo outside the basilica.
Enjoy Easter in Italy this spring:
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