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Easter in Rome: a quick guide

Italy celebrates Pasqua with traditions, food and public holidays.

The Vatican marks Holy Week with a series of liturgical celebrations and traditions, presided over by Pope Francis, leading up to Easter Sunday on 31 March 2024.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday Mass in St Peter's Square on 24 March, followed by Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning, 28 March, also at St Peter's.

Later on Thursday the 87-year-old pontiff will make a private visit to the women's prison at Rebibbia in Rome where he will preside over Mass.

The Via Crucis or Way of the Cross will take place at the Colosseum on the night of Good Friday, 29 March.

This solemn candle-light procession - a tradition which dates to the 18th century and was revived in 1964 - attracts thousands of faithful who listen to meditations re-enacting Christ's crucifixion.

Via Crucis at the Colosseum

 

Pope Francis will preside over the Easter Vigil Mass in St Peter's Basilica on the evening of Holy Saturday, 30 March, as well as Easter Sunday Mass in St Peter's Square the next morning.

Traditionally the pope imparts the Urbi et Orbi papal blessing from the balcony of St Peter's at midday on Easter Sunday.

For full details of the Vatican's liturgical programe see official website.

What to eat in Rome at Easter

Roman restaurants typically offer menus featuring abbacchio (lamb) at Easter, or Pasqua, however you will need to reserve your table in advance due to high demand.

Easter Sunday brunch in Rome is a savoury occasion with Romans laying out a delectable spread of hard-boiled eggs (often painted brightly), salami and cheese, accompanied by the classic pizza al formaggio.

Rome's bakeries sell a sweet cake made in the shape of a dove, known as a colomba, which has been a firm favourite on the Easter calendar in Italy for almost a century.


Colomba Easter cake

Pasquetta

Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, or Pasquetta, are national holidays in Italy, with all public offices and schools closed on Monday 1 April.

Many Romans mark Pasquetta with a picnic in the city's parks.

Some museums will open exceptionally for Pasquetta however the Vatican Museums will be closed on both Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

In contrast to Christmas, which is very much a family-oriented occasion in Italy, Easter is a time to celebrate with friends.

As a popular expression goes: "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi", meaning Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want.

Photo credit: A.J. Olnes / Shutterstock.com

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