Buona Pasqua   Hoppy Easter in Italy!

This is our first time to be in Italy for the Easter holiday, which is the second biggest holiday in Italy (after Christmas of course).  It’s a huge holiday for the Italians and families all plan a big weekend together.

Being in Rome, Vatican City would be the ultimate Easter celebration but we are in Tuscany and there is a lot going on here as well.

All over Italy, special Easter foods are as important as the religious aspects of the 4 day holiday weekend. Cultural heritage over the years, created special foods by Italian mama’s who specialized in “schiacciata de pasqua”, an Anise flavored Easter cake that they only make for Easter once a year.  Baked goods are packed with sugar and spice and loaded with religious symbols:

Giant chocolate Easter eggs are all over the stores and a big deal for the kids, and I mean Giant as in 1.5ft tall or more!

Colomba, a sort of fruitcake molded in the shape of a dove for Peace and Holy Spirit (to me it always looks more like a cross but they say it’s a dove)

Dough in the shape of rings symbolizing the Crown of Thorns! (just looks like a circle to me but hey, not my hardwork rolling out that dough!)

My favorite is the bread made with colored Easter eggs woven inside of it.

The Traditions of Easter vary all over Italy, some are loaded with heavy duty religious symbolism:

People dressed in robes of white with masks and the very look the American KKK’s sadly borrowed from the Catholics, walk through town, carrying Mary throughout the square, with torches and singing softly.

This first parade usually on Thursday before Good Friday, symbolizes Hope, when Mary is searching thru each church in town for her son, Jesus.

Good Friday, the second parade/procession is somber and sad, and the white cloaks change to black. This is a sad parade and the black symbolizes Death, and Mary finding her son crucified.  No one speaks, everyone is non smiling and silent as they walk with Mary and or Jesus thru the town squares.  Many sick in wheelchairs are pushed in the procession and people line up behind them as they walk from church to church.

Some towns do this in daylight but some, and the one we visited, Camiore, does it at night.   All throughout the town, the people have been working for weeks, placing wooden structures on top of shutters, over doorways and on the walls of houses, churches and store fronts, all lined with matching votive cups full of oil to light the town.

Every store and house turns out their lights and the entire town is lit with candles for the procession. Its really authentic and beautiful, harking back to the days of old.

The towns do not pay for this and all the store owners, businesses, and local homes participate at their own expense and its very extensive and beautiful.

Not all towns wear the hooded cloak, which I prefer, and instead just wear a more normal Catholic priest type robes. Or have black friar type hats on.

Florence, is known for the big Easter Sunday celebration in the morning.  The lighting of the fireworks.  “Scoppio del carro”.  (Explosion of the cart)

They have a very decorated tall, 30ft cart, pulled by a white ox team that is decorated with flowers and herbs signifiying Spring, with the cart packed full of fireworks and pyrotechnics brought to the town center at the Duomo.

Escorted by over 150 soldiers, musicians and locals all in period dress (they love love to get dressed up in a parade in Florence).

Inside the Duomo, a mechanical Dove is suspended on a wire from the alter that is released and goes whizzing thru the church with a lit fire to arrive at the cart to ignite the awaiting fireworks, blowing off them into the air and celebrating with a BANG! (now that is some sort of massive Insurance nightmare there for sure! That would never happen in America with all its rules and insurance and lawsuits)

All with the locals in huge abundance surrounding the square to witness this amazing feat, with all the local church bells banging to announce the moment.

All of this has major history that goes with it, click here for more info, but the end result is to guarantee a good harvest, good civic life and business for all for the year.

And as long as no one is hurt, nothing catches on fire, why not have a major Chinese New Year styled Easter!  The Duomo square is PACKED with people so you have to get there really early and stand in line for hours, so we will have to enjoy “YouTube” replay on this one, as much as I’d love to go there.  Go to the 2 minute mark for the fun part!

However you choose to celebrate, in Italy, there are many choices, the churches are all decked in finery and flowers, and the towns have all been waking up, cleaning up and getting ready, as this also signifies the Tourist Season is officially back open! Winter slumber is over, and all the merchants are returning to the stores, restaurants that have been closed since New Years, have the cute bistro tables back outside with fresh flowers and ready for a hot summer.

Spring is here, Italy is open for business and awaits you.  Imagine Travel Tours would Love to be your custom tour advisors, arranging and organizing everything for you.  We do all the work so you don’t have to.  Guided tours, driving you to our favorite towns to hopefully share a festival or two with you.  Beautiful Villas and Farmhouses are arranged for you and your group.