Easter traditions in Italy are many and varied, and begin the week leading up to Easter. All around Italy this week, families are preparing regional specialty dishes for holiday feasting while cities, towns and parishes are getting ready for Good Friday, Easter Sunday and an Italian tradition known as “Little Easter,” or Pasquetta. The Monday after Easter is a national holiday, too, a time for families and friends to unwind after the intensity of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Like so many things Italian, Easter traditions in Italy vary from region to region and from city to city. One of our favorite Easter traditions is the Scoppio del Carro, or exploding basket, that is practiced in Florence. A decorated wagon is pulled through the city by white oxen who, as the above photograph captures, are decorated with flowers. The processional takes them to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, where, after Mass, the Archbishop delivers a dove-shaped rocket into the car, where fireworks await. The result is a lovely display of fireworks followed by a parade with people dressed in medieval costumes.
Of course Easter traditions in Italy begin on Good Friday, when processions are common. All over Italy, hundreds of processions take place. In Rome, the Pope participates in a procession that starts at the Colloseum. In Chieti, in the Abruzzi region, men and children parade through the torch-lit streets of the town, each wearing the colors of their home parish. They carry symbols that characterize the Stations of the Cross; one individual carries a large wooden cross. The procession is accompanied by the haunting sounds of about 150 violins playing Miserere by Italian composer Savario Selecchy. In the Sicilian town of Enna, as many as 2,000 hooded men walk the streets carrying Vare, religious statues of the dead Christ and his mother, Mary. 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.