Easter, or Pasqua, is a big deal for Italians, a very big deal. As big, if not bigger than Christmas. So as Lent, or La Quaresima, has drawn to a close, Good Friday is over and the bakeries and patisseries are bulging with goodies, how will Italians be celebrating this weekend?
Unlike the growing UK fashion to send a card for any and every occasion Italians are not big on greetings cards preferring to wish their friends and family a Happy Easter face to face. But fortunately, if you want to greet people around this time, it’s pretty simple, you can just say Buona Pasqua, pronounced Boo-woh-nah Pah-skwah and meaning literally Good Easter.
Or if you want to be a bit fancy pants, you could embellish it. For example, you could say –
– Auguri di Buona Pasqua, pronounced Ow-goo-ree dee boo-woh-nah Pah-skwah and meaning Best wishes for a happy Easter
– Ti auguro una Buona Pasqua, pronounced Tee ow-goo-roh oo-nah Boo-woh-nah Pah-skwah, meaning I wish you a happy Easter
– Vorrei augurarvi una Buona Pasqua, pronounced Voh-rray ow-goo-rar-vee oo-nah Boo-woh-nah Pah-skwah, meaning I would like to wish you all a Happy Easter (in a formal setting such as with colleagues or people you don’t know well, for example).
But whilst they probably won’t keep Clintons Cards in business, Italians go all in for Easter eggs called L’Uovo di cioccolatta, pronounced Oo-oh-voh dee choh-coh-lah tah, or L’Uovo di Pasqua, pronounced Oo-oh-voh dee pah-skwah. In fact, it seems that the bigger and brighter the egg (plus packaging), the better! The typical egg is made of chocolate with sweets or a surprise inside but, as with so many things Italian, the packaging is all important and rather flamboyant often almost doubling the height of the egg!
The very best, however, are made by artisan chocolatiers such as Vizio Virtù in Venice – if you like chocolate it is the place to be this weekend and even if you don’t you should still check out their window display.
“Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi!” pronounced Nata-lay con ee tw-oee, pas-kwa con key vw-oy-ee, is a phrase you hear a lot around Easter-time. Literally it means “Christmas with your relatives, Easter with whoever you want”, so you can pretty much do what you want, within reason of course, this is Italy! And so that’s exactly what Italians do, often having big picnics in the countryside, short breaks or meals out with friends especially on Pasquetta (little Easter) or Lunedì dell’Angelo, (Angel’s Monday), both meaning Easter Monday. So if you’re coming to Italy for Easter you should expect the cities to be full of tourists, many of whom will be Italians taking the opportunity for a short vacation.
Obviously you can’t turn up at a picnic empty handed but fortunately there are a few traditional Easter foods to pick from (apart from the obvious Easter eggs of course!!) Bakeries and paticerie around Italy are currently bursting with biscuits, the Easter Bunny, Il coniglietto pasquale, is making his final preparations and Italians are on the countdown to the end of their Lenten fasting.
As in the UK Easter Sunday lunch is a chance to eat together. In Naples the meal might start with a minestra di Pasqua soup and be followed by roast or grilled spring lamb, agnellino al forno, roast kid goat, capretto al forno, or kid stewed with peas, eggs and cheese, capretto cacio e uova. Meals are often accompanied to by carciofi fritti, fried artichokes or patate soffritti, fried potatoes.
And of course a meal wouldn’t be complete without dessert – at least not in our house! – so you may want to check out the options there. One of the most evocative is the Easter bread, pane di pasqua, a rich bread shaped into a crown or cross with a coloured egg embedded in it. Sometimes the bread also includes Easter candles – La candela pasquale. Another classic is the Colomba cake, a sweet, eggy bread similar to the Christmas Panettone, shaped like the dove of peace or if you happen to be down in Calabria, you might try una pastiera Napoletana, a very tasty grain pie made to ancient family recipes so each one is different. And finally, if you’re in Sicily you may well get a little lamb made out of marzipan. Yum!!
So wherever you are and however you’re spending this weekend, may I take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Easter, or for the non-religious a happy spring weekend! Leave me a comment to let me know what you’re up to and any memories you have of spending Easter in Italy! Buona Pasqua tutti, Happy Easter everyone!!
PS If you’ve found this useful you might want to check out more of our DreamDiscoverItalia Italian 101 ideas such as How I love you, How to say hello or How to say please, thank you and you’re welcome all of which are easy to learn! I can’t promise that we’ll make you fluent in Italian overnight, but with the help our our Italian 101 posts you can learn a little and often and hopefully have a bit of fun doing it!
Good Friday, Holy Friday or Venerdi Santo, pronounced Veh ner-dee San-toe, falls on Friday 3rd April this year.
Easter Saturday, Sabato Santo, pronounced Sah-bah-toe San-toe and meaning Holy Saturday, falls on Saturday 4th April.
Pasqua, La domenica di Pasqua (pronounced La Doe-men-ee-ka dee Pah-skwah) or Easter Sunday is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (simple eh!) This year it falls on Sunday April 5th.
Pasquetta, pronounced Pas-kway-ta literally meaning Little Easter, otherwise known as Lunedì dell’Agnello pronounced Loo-nah-dee dell an-yellow and meaning Lamb’s Monday or plain old Easter Monday, falls the next day. It is a national holiday.
Many museums and sights will be open on Easter Sunday and Monday, but many shops and restaurants will be closed so get ready for some long queues! The Doge’s Palace in Venice is just one of the sights that will be open in Italy.
In Florence look out for the annual Scoppio del Carro on Easter Sunday. It’s a spectacular display after Mass as a cart filled with firecrackers and fireworks explodes outside the beautiful green and white marble cathedral or Basilica Di Santa Maria del Fiore. A big bang ensures a good harvest.
In Rome there are a series of events that culminate in an open-air Easter Sunday Mass in St Peter’s Square.
Note : the Vatican, whose museums (including the Sistine Chapel) will close both Sunday and Monday