Easter in Italy

By Peter Harrison
Part II:  Some provincial Easter celebrations in Italyand Sicily.
In Florence, Easter is celebrated with the Scoppio del Carro, the ‘explosion of the cart’. A massive, decorated ‘float’ is dragged through Florence by white oxen until it reaches the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. After mass, the Archbishop fires a dove-shaped rocket into the cart, igniting the fireworks inside. An incredible display of sound, light and colour.
Taormina, Sicily, features a woman chosen to portray the Virgin Mary. She wanders through the dark streets in search of her lost son, aided by black-robed supporters who attempt to help her find Jesus.
In Chieti, the procession (said to be the oldest and most moving in the country) comprises men and children parading through the torch-lit streets. They carry symbols characterizing the Stations of the Cross, one individual carrying a large wooden cross. The entire ceremony is accompanied by the haunting sound of about 150 violins playing ‘Miserere’ by Italian composer Savario Selecchy.
Sicily again is famous for Enna, where traditions go back to the Spanish domination of Italy. Two thousand hooded people pass through the town, carrying statues of the dead Christ and his mother. Others carry symbols of the crucifixion, including the thirty denarii paid to Peter to betray Christ as well as nails and a crown of thorns. 
Panicale  is a small town which provides much merriment, by events such as the crazy ‘cheese rolling’. Participants roll their large cheese ‘wheel’ of around the streets. Whoever is able to get their cheese round the course with the fewest number of strokes wins the game. There’s also free music, free wine, and lots of free hard-boiled eggs! Sounds great……
This is just a small selection of some of the best known events. Every town, city and hamlet has its own variation.


…….more tomorrow


Part I: Pasqua  ‘Italian style’.
By Peter Harrison
Every country celebrates Easter in its own unique way, Italy celebrates with a little more ‘brio’ than most…..
Although many of the celebrations have pagan roots, Easter is predominantly a Christian festival in this, for many, the centre of the Christian world. The importance of Easter in Italyis rather like Thanksgiving in the USA, Ramadan for Muslims, Diwali for Hindus or Vesak for Buddhists.
At Easter, the whole country shrugs off winter and enters a period of religious devotion coupled with fun, games, concerts, processions, fireworks, family reunions, parties, parades and a bacchanalia of fine food and wine.
The proverb ‘Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi’ meaning ‘Christmas with your relatives, Easter with whomever you want’, perfectly sums up  the festive spirit of Easter in Italy.
Solemn religious processions are held in many towns on Easter and many churches have special statues that are paraded as part in the processions, the participants often wearing traditional dress. Easter mass is held in every church in Italybut the biggest is held by the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica, televised to millions worldwide. On Good Friday, the Pope celebrates the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross in Romenear the Colosseum. With a huge cross covered by burning torches dramatically lighting up the sky.

…….more tomorrow


Italy’s Regions, Tuscany

The most talked abut and celebrated region of Italy is Tuscany, the land of ancient pre-Roman Etruscans with their hilltop towns and villages overseeing the plains below. It is also studded with abbeys, convents, villas in rural areas hidden among vineyards, pine cedars and umbrella trees.

Tuscany, just like other regions of Italy has distinctive history. In the 14th century, the ruling family, the Medici had to strengthen their territory with castles that served for military defense and as refuges for the local people during troubled times. Later, as the power of the Medici increased, the country side was no longer a battlefield, the importance of the castle outposts diminished and large estates became the norm. The large estates became summer residences of the nobles and provided shelters from the plague as well. The Medici themselves promoted this transformation from military to residential and by the 16th century the grandiose villas were born.