Easter is an incredibly special time here in Italy. It’s our second most important religious holiday (after Christmas, of course!) and is celebrated on a grand scale from the Amalfi Coast to the Veneto. Easter and the surrounding days also mark the beginning of “spring” (the inizio della primavera!) and are used by Italians as a great excuse for socializing outdoors.
In Italy, a popular saying is, Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi! It basically means that Italians spend Christmas with their parents, and Easter with whomever we want! Easter is a family holiday, of course, but it’s also a time when we get together with our friends for great food and wine – both at home and at restaurants. My sister, Caterina, and I often organize a dinner at a fabulous local restaurant with our husbands and friends the Saturday evening before Easter. Of course, we always have Easter lunch at the Candoni De Zan vineyard with our parents, Armando and Elviana! No one makes lamb quite like our mother.
Italy has some pretty fantastic Easter traditions, most of which you’ve probably never heard of. Here are a few of our favorites.
Here in Italy, Pasquetta (“Little Easter,” the Monday after Easter) is almost as important as Easter itself. The day marks an end to the more formal celebrations of Easter and is an invitation to be outside. A typical Pasquetta is spent with both family and friends somewhere beautiful like a park or, for us, on the grounds of the Tenuta Polvaro Estate Winery. Everyone brings picnic food – sometimes including leftovers from Easter’s feast! – and bottles of sparkling wine are shared. Kids and adults alike frolic, chat, and even play silly games. It’s magical.
Scoppio del Carro
One of the most unusual Easter traditions takes place in Florence. On Easter Sunday, a 500+ year old “cart” is pulled by oxen, musicians, and soldiers into the city’s main plaza. The cart is loaded with fireworks which are then set off by a lighted wire; as the Duomo’s bells ring, the fireworks show is enjoyed by revelers!
Ever heard of Colomba? It’s an Italian bread-cake, mastered in the region of Veneto and it’s shaped just like a dove. It’s actually very similar in recipe to Christmas panettone, and can be eaten at all hours of the day. Italians love toasted Columba with Easter tea in the afternoon, as a snack with Italian wine, or even for breakfast the next day. It’s traditional for Italians to bring Colomba as gifts to Easter celebrations they attend.
Spring Harvest Feast
No Italian Easter is complete without a spring harvest feast. The feast usually takes place on Easter Sunday and is a grand affair. Featuring all kinds of springtime delicacies like pasta primavera (pasta with spring vegetables), lamb, and Sguta (Easter bread stuffed with whole eggs, shells and all!), it’s quite a spread. Lots of wine is consumed in the spirit of communion, particularly lighter varietals like Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. And of course, no harvest feast is complete without a Pastiera Napoletana, a wheat cake infused with the flavor of orange. Buon Appetito!
What are your favorite Easter traditions? We’d love to know how you celebrate the holiday with your family and friends. Share your best pictures with us over at Candoni De Zan’s Facebook page!
From our family to yours, Auguri di Buona Pasqua!
-Barbara Candoni De Zan