2020 will be remembered as the first year in a long time that the Italians, along with many other nations, won’t be able to go out of their houses and enjoy the Easter break as they would love to. On the 34th days of the government-imposed quarantine in Italy, I’ve decided to share with you all I know about Easter in Italy: traditions, facts, and curiosities, as they would happen in “normal” situation. Together with Christmas, Easter is Italy’s most popular festivity.
Easter in Italy coincides with the beginning of spring. The bloom of nature’s new cycle can be felt even this year that most of the world is locked in their house to stop the spread of a pandemic disease. And maybe even more… This actually feels like the beginning of summer. In Anguillara Sabazia, the quaint town near Rome where I’m living at the moment, the sun is shining and there’s a temperature of 22 degrees Celsius.
Easter in Italy traditions
There is a popular saying in Italy that goes like this: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”. It translates:
“Christmas with the family, Easter with the ones you like…” The Easter tradition in Italy wants these 4 consecutive days (from Good Friday to Easter Monday) to be an occasion to share cheerful moments with friends and family. Italian culture is intensely family-centered. However, while the Christmas holidays need to be focused on the family, Easter is a much freer matter… How do Italians mostly spend the Easter break?
Preparing for Easter in Italy
Good Friday and Good Saturday are dedicated to grocery shopping and to build up the necessary enthusiasm for the coming holiday. The families who have time to bake usually realize one or more “Easter cakes”, which can be slightly different in each of the 20 Italian regions. There are some similarities though: on the Easter table, there need to be both sweets and savory foods.
The Italian Easter cake from Naples called Casatiello | Photo from Flickr Mokapest
Easter Sunday in Italy
Easter Sunday in Italy means Easter Sunday breakfast. If you’ve already visited Italy, you should know that the Italians love to have a sweet breakfast. The Easter Sunday breakfast instead, is more like a brunch, and it must include a lot of hard-boiled eggs, different varieties of salami, chocolate eggs, and both sweet and savory cakes. Italians hardly eat boiled eggs for breakfast at any other time of the year though. The Easter Sunday breakfast usually starts at 10 AM and is an occasion for grandparents to see and spend time with grandchildren.
Of course this doesn’t happen when you’re witnessing a pandemic that forces everyone into isolation.
What is the “pizza di Pasqua” or “crescia di Pasqua” | The Italian Easter cake
The typical Eastern cake in central Italy is tall, soft, dry, and has got pieces of cheese and ham in it. Even if it’s called “pizza”, it has nothing to do with the common pizza, as you can see from the photo. It is a sort of Easter bread. A more commercial type of Easter cake is the “colomba cake” (dove): sweet, it’s made with almonds and candied fruits, and can be found in every Italian grocery store. Some families prefer to eat the classic Tiramisù dessert, or the Italian Easter pie with ricotta that originated in Naples and became successful all over Italy, the “Pastiera Napoletana”. Easter cakes from Naples are actually very popular. Consider also the “Casatiello”, which is the savory big donuts with boiled eggs on top.
Easter Monday in Italy
What we know as “Pasquetta” (literally “small Easter”), or Easter Monday, is for most of the Italians the funniest day of the Easter break. This is the day that the young Italians have been waiting for the whole winter. Easter Sunday equals to escape the cities in the morning to have an epic picnic showered with wine and laughter, to go back home only after the sun has set. When I lived in Rome, I used to pack my bag with food and drinks and drive to the countryside around Rome or to the beach to meet friends and chill out for hours. Everybody brings something to share with others, that’s the traditional vibe for Easter Monday in Italy. People who want to have a little bit more of comfort prefer to go to some restaurant just outside the city or gather at a friends’ house for a bbq.
Typical Easter Monday food in Italy
The food we like to eat in this special day is actually very simple, anything you can cook on a bbq easily: bruschetta (thick grilled bread with sliced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and basil), grilled sausage, grilled vegetables, omelet with potatoes, onions, or zucchini.
Facts about Easter in Italy | Did you know that…
Italians don’t use to do the Easter egg hunt… and even painting eggs is not such a common activity.
We have a custom called “Easter clean”: we consider the Easter break a perfect time to clean our houses in depth, move furniture, paint the walls, and organize drawers and closets.
On Good Friday, several processions happen from North to South Italy to remember Christ’s walk to the place where he was crucified. The most spectacular celebrations happen in southern Italy.
The Sunday before Easter Sunday is an important day. Many Italians go to church and get a palm twig to remember the legendary entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. That palm twig is then kept somewhere in the house where everyone can see it.
Pin this post for later | Facts about Easter in Italy
I hope that one day you can have a taste of authentic Easter in Italy traditions! If you ever have a chance to spend Easter in Florence, Rome, Naples, or any other of the romantic Italian villages and cities let me know in the comments 🙂
And don’t underestimate the fun that you could have spending New Year’s Eve in Italy as well…