While Easter eggs are becoming popular in Italy Easter bunnies and new-born, yellow spring chickens haven’t really made serious inroads.
Still a pretty deeply religious country, Easter is an important time in all the Italian regions. Serious and solemn with endless masses, processions (with many participants often dressed in traditional costume), religious statuary, incense etc. until Pasqua (Good Friday), it’s all pretty intense but sometimes deeply moving even to agnostics and atheists.
Easter Monday, la Pasquetta is also a holiday throughout Italy but is more of a joyous celebration, still with plenty masses but a family event with everyone from young to old celebrating in their own way.
Saying that Italy is a bit ‘solemn’ on the run up to Good Friday would sound a bit like an understatement to a Spaniard. Here, I live here, we still have flagellants, penitents and endless processions of people dressed up in a manner which would have given a dose of the ‘cold sweats’ to anybody with little more than a summer tan living in the ‘Deep South’ during the early part of the last century.
Apart from the world-famous events at the Vatican, let’s have a look at some of the more notable events:
Florence has its ‘Scoppio del Carro’ which means ‘explosion of the cart’. A spectacular sight for more than 300 years, a huge decorated wagon is dragged through Florence by a team of white oxen. The finale is where the Archbishop lights a rocket which ignites the cart setting off a spectacular display of fire and fireworks.
Chieti, in Abruzzo, has a procession with Selecchi’s Miserere played by 100 violins and is very moving. Trapani, Sicily, is a great place to view processions with several held during Holy Week. The dramatic Good Friday procession, Misteri di Trapani, lasts a full twenty-four hours.
Enna, also in Sicily, has a major procession every Good Friday, with more than 2,000 friars walking through the streets in a silent parade . This dates back to the Spanish domination of Sicily. In Umbria towns, Montefalco and Gualdo Tadino being the most famous, host live scenarios re-enacting the stations of the cross.
On Easter Monday many towns and villages hold dances, feasts and live music.concerts. There are some unusual games often involving food…… In Umbrian town Panicale, cheese is the star attraction. Ruzzolone is played by rolling large wheels of cheese around the village. The idea is to roll your cheese round the course using the fewest number of strokes.
In Tredozio, the Palio dell’Uovo is a competition where eggs are the stars, use your imagination!
Merano has the Corse Rusticane, horse races featuring a breed famous for its blonde mane with riders in local traditional costumes. Barano d’Ischia is famous for the ‘Ndrezzata‘ which takes place in Barano d’Ischia, a dance reviving the battles against the Saracens. The Madonna del Belvedere is celebrated in Carovigno, where the ‘Nzeghe’ is a competition to throw banners.
Wherever you visit, Italy and Sicily will have something at Easter to interest you, all (with reasonable luck) in lovely spring sunshine…..