Easter in Italy – is it a good time to travel? The short answer is yes. But we know you feel more confident about your travel when you have more information before you go, so Select Italy is here to help you navigate the ins and outs of Easter travel in Italy. There are two essential things to know: First, the date: Easter this year falls on Sunday, April 5. Second, Easter, or Pasqua in Italian, is a very popular holiday in Italy. And that means a few things…read on.
Plan for Easter Now
Popular can also mean crowded. For example, Easter is such a popular holiday in Italy that Italians take off the Monday immediately following it as well: it’s la Pasquetta. With schools on break, you can expect far heavier (and sometimes noisier) crowds than you otherwise might at popular spots like Pompeii during the Easter holiday period. Combine that with spring break travelers from the U.S. and Europe and you can expect more crowds in Italy’s major tourist cities like Venice, Florence and Rome than you otherwise might at that time of year. What this means on the ground is that for any trip you’re thinking of taking around Easter time, you will definitely want to get as many of the details sorted out well in advance. This means everything from hotel reservations to restaurant reservations and advance tickets for popular museums and cultural attractions. Otherwise, you truly do risk disappointment, so do all you can to minimize that.
Easter in Italy
Unlike in the United States, Easter in Italy is still closer to the holiday’s original religious roots, with less of a commercial flavor. In many towns there are religious processions on Easter Sunday, as well as in the run-up to Easter, i.e. the Friday and Saturday before the actual holiday. For example, the longest running Good Friday procession in Italy is held in Trapani, Sicily. Holy Week processions in towns in Umbria and Abruzzo are also noteworthy for their historical flavor.
Easter in Rome is a memorable affair: The Pope leads a Good Friday mass at the Colosseum and then, of course, follows the biggest mass of all, held at St. Peter’s Basilica. Mass takes on an explosive dimension in Florence with the Scoppio del Carro. White oxen drag an oversized decorated wagon to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and then the Archbishop blows it up with a small rocket shaped like a dove. That sets off fireworks and then a parade follows. The dove theme extends to Easter season food: in addition to the traditional Pannettone, at this time of year Colomba, or dove-shaped bread, is also a popular gift item. Of course, there are chocolate eggs aplenty, too.
Plan, plan, plan
Whether you want to partake in traditional Italian Easter festivities or avoid them altogether, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of planning ahead for Easter travel in Italy. Perhaps more so than at any other time of year, doing so will pay a big dividend in terms of a smooth journey during and right after the spring time’s biggest holiday.
Where do you want to enjoy Easter in Italy? What is the favorite Italian tradition of this holiday?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.