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Easter in Rome: a quick guide

Italy marks Pasqua with traditions, food and public holidays.

Easter celebrations in Rome this year follow the recent hospitalisation of Pope Francis, with a respiratory infection, days before his busy Holy Week schedule.

The 86-year-old pontiff returned to the Vatican on Saturday in time for Palm Sunday Mass and the Easter ceremonies at St Peter's, which may be a little different than usual.

Francis is set to preside at all Holy Week liturgies, with a cardinal as principal celebrant at the altar, the Vatican confirmed on Saturday.

The Via Crucis or Way of the Cross will take place at the Colosseum on the night of Good Friday, 7 April.

This solemn candle-lit 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

 

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. There are also numerous English-language religious services in Rome over Easter.

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 with 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 10 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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