Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!
If you're wondering when you should visit Italy, and you're in the mood to celebrate big, Easter might be the perfect time for you! A week-long extravaganza, Easter is as much a religious holiday as it is a traditional custom in Italy. Historically one of the most important holidays of the Italian year, second only to Christmas, there will be plenty of memorable experiences on your visit! Easter also marks the start of the warm season in Italy, making it the perfect time to explore all the towns and cities. Imagine hosting your own Easter feast with rolling Italian hills as your backyard!
Starting on Palm Sunday and lasting until the day before Easter, Italy's Holy Week is filled with masses and religious processions. There are also plenty of traditional festivities to take part in other than religious services. However, if you are looking for a religious experience, there's no better place than Rome.
In Rome, the Pope holds multiple ceremonies, including one on Good Friday, and of course, on Easter Sunday. On Good Friday, the Pope holds mass at Saint Peter's Basilica and then walks from Palatine Hill all the way to the Colosseum. During this walk, he makes the 14 Stations of the Cross, a tradition that dates back to the 18th century. Although churches all across Italy will have masses on Easter Sunday, the largest and most popular is led by the Pope at Saint Peter's Basilica. We recommend planning ahead and reserving free tickets to the mass.
If you're looking for something other than Rome, then Sicily is a perfect option! Having Italy's second-largest religious processions of the holiday, Sicily will be filled with friars dressed in robes, and the streets will be covered in plenty of religious decorations.
There's also Florence, which holds an ancient tradition, Scoppio del Carro. Dating back over 350 years, Scoppio del Carro is certainly a sight to see. A 30-foot tall antique cart is pulled by white oxen through the streets, from Porta al Prato to Piazza del Duomo. After the cart is parked and the oxen are put in their stables, a dove-shaped rocket, La Colombina, is set off towards the cart, where fireworks are set off! The belief is that if La Colombina comes back to the alter, the year will be prosperous.
If you're looking for something unique, then you should head over to Umbrian hills to the town of Panicale. On Easter Monday, La Pasquetta, Ruzzolone will take over the street! Ruzzolone is a game where huge wheels of cheese, about 4 kilos each, are rolled throughout the village. The goal of the game is to get your wheel of cheese around the course using the fewest number of rolls, almost like cheese put-put!
But what should I eat?
Holy Week is also a perfect time to get your fill on traditional Italian Easter foods! Many bakeries, restaurants, and coffee shops will have specials on their menus featuring Easter delicacies. You'll find plenty of lamb, which represents life, as well as eggs, which represent rebirth, and an abundance of sweets.
One of the most popular sweets you'll find is the Colomba. Similar to panettone, a Colomba is a dove-shaped cake decorated with almonds and pearl sugar. The dough takes an especially long time to rise, helping make it so special for Easter! There will also be plenty of chocolate eggs, representing rebirth. And don't forget to try out Pastiera Napoletana, a rich shortbread pastry made with ricotta cheese, wheat berries, and a touch of orange blossom- yum!
If savory is more your forte, there will be loads for you as well! Lamb will be at the center of many tables on Easter, in the form of roasts, stews, meatballs, or even braised! Each region will have its own special lamb dish; for example, in Trentino, you'll find Polpettine Pasquali, which are lamb meatballs flavored with parsley, shallots, and rosemary. In the Lazio region, you'll find lamb ribs often served with fresh artichokes. You'll also likely be offered fava beans and pecorino cheese, a popular appetizer that dates back to ancient Rome. And finally, there will be salami on almost every table. Check out Tesori's Easter platters to make your own table setting feel like Italy!
If you're looking for an Italian recipe for your family's Easter, consider making an Italian Easter Egg Basket! Check out this recipe from An Italian In My Kitchen:
Here's what you'll need:
-1 and 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1 pinch of salt
-zest of lemon
-2 and 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
-1/4 cup lukewarm milk
-1 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-2 large eggs (room temperature, slightly beaten)
-1/2 cup butter
-1 tablespoon water
(Beat these together)
-2-4 eggs (uncooked, dyed Easter colors)
How to make them:
- In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, zest, and sugar, make a well in the center, add the milk and yeast, and mix together with a fork. Then add the egg. With the dough hook attachment, knead for approximately 1 minute just to combine.
- Cover the bowl with plastic and let rise 2 hours; every 30 minutes, fold both ends into the middle (repeating 4 times).
- When the time has passed, add the butter a little at a time, on medium-high speed with the dough hook, knead just to combine all the butter, then let the dough rest 10 minutes. Knead again for 5-6 minutes until smooth, and the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Move the dough to a lightly floured flat surface. Divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll each part into 2 ropes (10-12 inches / 25-30cm), join 2 ropes at the top and twist the ends one over the other, join the ends to form a wreath (circle) repeat with the remaining ropes. Place the wreaths on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, cover, and let rise in a warm draft-free area for 1-2 hours or doubled in bulk.
- Fifteen minutes before rising time has finished, preheat the oven to 390F (195C).
- Add a dyed uncooked egg (if desired) to the center of the wreath, brush the wreaths with the egg wash (be careful not to brush the eggs), and sprinkle with the sprinkles. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden, or when tapped on the bottom, and there is a hollow sound. Immediately move the baked buns to a wire rack to cool. Let cool before serving. Enjoy!