Nobody, but nobody does Easter like the Italians. While the rest of us are eating hot cross buns and watching the kids look for Easter eggs, across Italy, elaborate and beautiful celebrations are taking place. Each region of the country honours this important Christian festival in different, spectacular and very tasty ways. We’ve selected three to show you just how the whole family celebrate a perfect Pasqua…we challenge you to join in.
Venice takes advantage of its amazing churches and open spaces during Easter and it’s there that you can really get the full experience. While St Mark’s Basilica hosts the biggest (and we would say, amongst the most atmospheric) Easter Masses, every church in the city will open its doors to visitors wishing to watch or participate in the service.
If you are lucky, you’ll witness a procession on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, you will hear them long before you see them, so time to get the camera out.
Drop into the bakeries and confectioners around the city to buy a ‘‘colomba di Pasqua’ or ‘Easter Dove’ – a tasty cake, not unlike panettone, covered in almonds. You must check out the easter eggs. Quite unlike their English cousins, these are large, ornately decorated and presented in wonderful baskets – no wrinkly foil here.
For a stay in Venice, we recommend the Palazzo Ca’nova for the insider view of the city, care of the very welcoming and connected hosts. The Hotel Arcadia is excellent for a romantic retreat with a special someone, as is the gorgeously-decorated Bloom B&B. The Liassidi Palace Hotel and Ca Maria Adele are both excellent luxury hotels with impeccable service. All have excellent locations close to the sights.
If you want your Easter to go off with a bang, we highly recommend Florence. Every Easter Sunday, a special, beautifully decorated cart is drawn by oxen to just outside the Duomo, where a rocket, shaped like a dove, is shot into the top of the cart. The resulting pyrotechnics (the cart is packed full of fireworks), the ‘Scoppio del Carro’ is a hugely popular event each year.
Church services and processions take place at from Friday until Sunday. Several will be holding services in English for the increased number of tourists wanting to take part. Florence’s attractions like the Uffizi remain open. Don’t miss out on the holiday speciality; lamb usually slow-roasted with herbs.
Decided upon Florence for Easter? JK Place and Hotel Santa Maria Novella are both outstanding hotels with excellent service and dining. Just outside of town, Il Borro, Borgo Pignano and Borgo i Vicelli are all wonderful Tuscan retreats that allow for pampering and unwinding after a day watching the festivities.
For an unforgettable Easter experience, with pageantry, ceremony and celebration, you can’t beat the Sicilians. A heavy Spanish influence and very strong faith amongst the inhabitants has manifested in ornate and awe-inspiring displays and processions every Holy Week.
In Tripiani, the ‘I Misteri di Trapani’ or ‘Procession of the Mysteries’, on Good Friday features guilds of craftsmen carrying ornately-carved statues, showing the Passion of the Christ, around the streets of the town. This lasts for 24 hours, accompanied by marching bands and is widely considered a moving spectacle.
A similar ritual takes place in the town of Ispica, where statues of Christ are paraded by one faction of townspeople, while a rival faction bear crosses. Then follows a fierce competition between the two groups to make the most noise and appear in the greatest numbers during their procession. Both factions meet on Easter Sunday and quite literally the entire town takes part in carrying the statue of Christ Resurrected to a service at the local basilica.
Make sure that if you’re in Sicily in Easter, that you try the ‘cassata’, a cake made of ricotta and candied fruit. Another seasonal highlight is the ‘martorana’ or marzipan fruit that you can find in bakeries throughout the island.
Donna Coraly is our pick for a stay in Sicily – a wonderfully warm resort with a spa, pools and everything needed for a relaxing stay, near Siracusa. Donna Carmela is a hotel in a charming 19th century home with a stunning restaurant, close to the awe-inspiring Mt Etna. Hortus is a tiny boutique hotel, suitable for families with an amazing grotto spa right in the heart of Modica. Hotel Signum is a very unique and beloved island retreat in the Aeolian islands, north of Sicily.
Inspired? Call Anna Dixon, our Head of Reservations for more ideas across Italy.