Celebrating Easter in Rome

Guide to Holy Week and Easter in Rome and the Vatican in 2019.

Holy Week, or Settimana Santa, the week of religious events leading to Easter, began on 14 April with Palm Sunday, the final Sunday of Lent, and continued on 18 April with Holy Thursday, commemorating Christ's Last Supper. 

On 19 April, Good Friday, Pope Francis celebrates the Lord's Passion in St Peter's Basilica at 17.00. This is followed at 21.15 by the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross, a solemn torch-lit procession at the Colosseum.

The annual ceremony - which dates to the 18th century and was revived in 1964 - attracts around 20,000 faithful who listen to meditations re-enacting Christ's crucifixion.

Via Crucis at the Colosseum

At 20.30 on Saturday 20 April Pope Francis celebrates the Easter Vigil at St Peter's Basilica, while the next morning the pope celebrates Easter Sunday Mass in St Peter's Square at 10.00, concluding at midday with the traditional Urbi et Orbi papal blessing from the balcony of St Peter's.

Tickets, free of charge, are required for the papal Masses but not for the Via Crucis or Urbi et Orbi. For details see Vatican website. There are also numerous English-language religious services for Easter in the city.

Roman restaurants typically offer menus featuring abbacchio (lamb) on Easter Sunday however you will need to reserve your table in advance due to high demand. In the lead-up to Easter, Rome's bakeries sell a sweet cake, made in the shape of a dove, known as a colomba.

Colomba Easter cake

Easter Monday, or Pasquetta, is a national holiday in Italy, and all public offices will be closed. Many Romans mark this day by having a picnic with family or friends in the city's parks.

Tourists should note that Rome's state and city museums will be open on Easter Monday but the Vatican Museums will be closed.

The uncovered Holy Stairs can be visited for a limited time. Photo Adnkronos.

This Easter in Rome offers the unique opportunity to visit the Holy Stairs - a sacred staircase which Christ is said to have ascended to be sentenced to crucifixion by Pontius Pilate -  which have been uncovered for the first time in 300 years.

Cover image: Vatican News