As we are preparing our Easter baskets and Sunday finery here in the U.S, let's take a look at what Easter, Pasqua, looks like in Italy.
As spring arrives in Italy, it is the time of year that signifies new birth. From Thursday to Monday, Italians revel in the warmer days of this joyful holiday with colorful processions, traditional services, and — of course, our favorite — great feasts.
Easter celebrations are foreshadowed by Carnevale, the final celebration before the restrictions of Lent begin. Like our grapevines at the Balsamico Village, its roots run deep and last for an extended weekend, starting with Giovedi Santo (Holy Thursday), moving to Venerdi Santo (Good Friday), when only seafood and no meat is eaten, and continuing to Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday). Each holy day offers its own special masses and somber observances.
Then, church bells toll at midnight on Domenica di Pasqua, joyously announcing the arrival of Easter Sunday. Now is the time to celebrate. The beautiful cobblestone streets are overtaken by festive processions through the city center to the central cathedral. The day culminates with il pranzo di Pasqua, an extravagant midday feast.
While Easter Sunday's menu varies depending on each region’s unique traditions, most Pasqua feasts in Italy include a few nationwide classics.
Lamb takes center stage and is accompanied by spring vegetables, like wild artichokes, mushrooms, and asparagus. Savory cheese breads have spread from central Italy to the rest of the country. Sweets, such as the dove-shaped colomba cake and chocolate eggs, are ubiquitous. In the weeks leading up to Easter, store windows feature intricate displays of the traditional treats, which are enjoyed at the end of the Easter feast.
Colomba cake photo courtesy of Nicola Flickr.
Hooray! It is not over yet. The Monday following Easter is called la Pasquetta, which translates to “Little Easter.” Towns typically celebrate with festivals with games, music and of course, an outdoor picnic with the delicious leftovers from the previous days feast.
So, this year, make sure your la Pasquetta is filled with family, friends food, and of course, fun!