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Easter celebrations in Italy

Easter (la Pasqua) holds a special place in the hearts of Italians, marking not only the arrival of Spring and the warmer weather but also a time for cherished traditions, festive get-togethers and trips in the countryside. In this blog we explore Easter celebrations in Italy mixed with some of my memories and some food, glorious Easter food.

Though the holiday may feel short with only six days off from school and Good Friday (il venerdì Santo) being a working day, the Easter spirit fills the entire country. Italians may be becoming less religious over time, but the traditions associated with Easter still resonate deeply.

Old Easter memories

When I was a child, families would go to church in the morning. The church service, which was usually dull and somewhat gloomy, would suddenly feel more festive. The organ music seemed grander, the singing more joyful, and the overall atmosphere jovial and cheery.

However, the most significant part of the service was the gathering of people outside the church. Everyone took the opportunity to exchange good wishes, inquire about each other’s families, and engage in gossip, all while eagerly anticipating the special meal awaiting them at home.

The Italian rich diversity

But Easter isn’t celebrated in the same uniform manner across Italy. From the northern Alps to the southern shores of Sicily, Easter is celebrated with a mix of ancient traditions, regional flavours and more current rituals, showcasing the diversity of Italian culture.

Traditionally, the celebrations kick off on Palm Sunday (la Domenica delle Palme), as churchgoers commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with olive branches adorning their homes. From there, Holy Week (la settimana Santa) unfolds with solemn rituals marking the Last Supper (L’ultima cena) on Thursday and the Via Crucis processions on Good Friday, culminating in the grand celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday (la domenica di Pasqua).

Easter egg festival.

My Easter celebration

Today much has changed in our household, as is the case with many Italians who have embraced a non-religious lifestyle. Nevertheless, Easter still holds a special place in our hearts, marking a special time of the year.

We always celebrate Easter with a special meal shared with our friends and family. This is usually on Easter Sunday, but this year, it will be on Easter Monday (Pasquetta). When I was small, this was my favourite day, because in Italy is the day children get to open their Easter eggs.

If, however, you wish more than a festive mean for Easter, Italy is the place to visit.

Regional events

There is so much to experience in Italy for Easter as each region puts its own spin on Easter festivities. In Florence, the “Explosion of the Cart” festival steals the spotlight, dating back to the time of the First Crusade. Sicily beckons with its ancient rituals and masked processions, such as the “Real Maestranza” in Caltanissetta and the “Processione dei Misteri” In Palermo.

And in the heart of Rome, Good Friday sees the stirring Way of the Cross procession, led by the Pope himself, as it winds its way through the city streets to the iconic Colosseum.

Further north, in Lombardy, the city of Bormio hosts the “Pasquali” a celebration that resonates with locals and visitors alike.

Meanwhile, across various Italian cities, vibrant Easter markets offer an array of traditional treats and artisan crafts adding to the holiday ambience. Nowadays, each town and city organise Easter egg hunts, concerts and fun activities.

Let’s see two of the most ancient events in more detail.

Florence Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore sunrise view, empty streets and square, Tuscany, Italy

“Lo scoppio del carro” , Florence

“Lo scoppio del carro di Firenze,” or the Explosion of the Cart in Florence, stands as one of the most iconic Easter celebrations in Italy. Dating back to ancient times, this festival unfolds in the heart of Florence with a spectacle that mesmerizes locals and visitors alike.

At the heart of the event is a beautifully decorated cart, known as the “Brindellone,” which is paraded through the streets of Florence before arriving at the Piazza del Duomo. Here, the mechanical dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, ignites a cascade of fireworks and firecrackers embedded within the cart. As explosions light up the sky, echoing across the city, spectators are amazed by the incredible show, which is believed to bring blessings for a bountiful harvest and prosperity in the year ahead.

La processione dei misteri, Sicily

In Sicily, during the holy week, each city has specific rituals and events and most include “La processione dei misteri”. This is a solemn and elaborate procession that takes place on Good Friday in various Sicilian towns, including Trapani and Marsala. Large wooden statues (I misteri) depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ are carried through the streets, accompanied by chanting, prayers, and mournful music.

These events are unique spectacles deeply rooted in history. Dating back to the era of Spanish domination, this tradition sees masked and white hooded figures parading through the city streets carrying statues and symbols of the Passion of Christ, captivating spectators with their mysterious allure.

This is just one of many Sicilian events providing an opportunity to experience the unique traditions and customs of Sicilian culture. Click here to read more about it.

Traditional Easter foods

Of course, no Italian celebration is complete without indulging in delicious treats, and Easter is no exception.

At Easter, Italians indulge in a delightful array of traditional foods and sweet treats that are as rich in flavour as they are in cultural significance.

From the iconic “Colomba” cake, shaped like a dove, to the savoury delights of “casatiello salato” in Napoli, each region boasts its own culinary specialties that add a delicious touch to the holiday celebrations.

Throughout Italy

La Colomba (dove) symbolizes the hope and renewal of the season. It is the quintessential symbol of Easter in Italy, gracing tables across the country as the beloved sweet treat of the season.

Resembling a dove in shape, this Easter cake is crafted from a raised, spongy sweet bread akin to panettone, La Colomba is infused with candied orange peel and coated in a sugary almond glaze with a sprinkle of almonds on top for a delightful crunch.

Each region has their unique dishes and desserts. Let’s see for example what Naples has to offer.

In Naples


The “casatiello salato” take centre stage in Naples alongside the exquisite “pastiera napoletana,”.

Casatiello, a favourite in Naples during Easter, is a special kind of savoury pastry. Shaped like a ring, it’s packed with tasty ingredients like salami, pancetta, and provolone cheese. What makes it unique? Well, it’s got whole eggs baked right into the dough! As it bakes, the eggs turn creamy and add a delicious richness to every slice. Whether you enjoy it as part of a big meal or as a snack on its own, Casatiello Napoletano is a yummy Easter tradition that captures the flavours of Naples in every bite.

Pastiera Napoletana

This is a classic Easter dessert from Naples. It consists of a rich and creamy filling made from ricotta cheese, eggs, and cooked wheat berries, infused with fragrant orange blossom water and aromatic spices such as cinnamon and vanilla. Encased in a buttery, crumbly pastry crust, Pastiera Napoletana is baked to golden perfection, creating a heavenly aroma that fills the kitchen with anticipation.

Colorful chocolate Easter eggs on wooden table


Pasquetta, or Easter Monday, is a day of relaxation, leisure, and conviviality. Following the solemnity of Easter Sunday, Pasquetta offers a welcome respite, inviting families and friends to gather for outdoor picnics, countryside strolls, and joyful reunions.

Time to open the Easter eggs

Children eagerly anticipate this day, not only for the chance to explore the great outdoors but also for the tradition of opening Easter eggs, revealing small presents hidden within.

Across Italy, parks and scenic spots come alive with laughter and chatter as people bask in the warmth of springtime, savouring the simple pleasures of good company and the beauty of nature.

A Natale con i tuoi a Pasqua con chi vuoi

An interesting aspect of Italian Easter is captured in the saying, “A Natale con i tuoi a Pasqua con chi vuoi” (At Christmas with your family, at Easter with whomever you choose). Unlike Christmas, which is often celebrated within the tight-knit circle of family, Easter in Italy opens its arms to embrace the freedom of choice. Italians often take advantage of this by spending Easter with friends, leaving cities behind in search of nature and relaxation or travelling abroad.

What is the traditional thing to do for you this time of year? Do you celebrate Easter or another festival? Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to write in Italian, if you wish.

If you are ready to read in Italian, I keep a blog about things I am up to in Italy in the countryside. Here is one related to Spring.

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Easter holds a special place in the hearts of Italians. In this blog we explore Easter celebrations in Italy mixed with some of my memories and some food, glorious Easter food.

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