Easter in Italy officially kicks off the high season and is one of the busiest times tourism-wise.
Traditionally, Easter in Italy is when we commemorate the Passion, the Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the Holy Week starts on the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, in commemoration of the triumphal entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem that in Italy is celebrated with a Mass where the priest blesses the palm and olive branches brought by the worshippers.
Even though it is officially a Christian festival and it has been so for centuries, there are aspects that remind of much older origins and are influenced by other cultures. The tradition of painting eggs, for example, is what you will see in Iran if you visit during Nowruz, the Persian New Year dating back to Zoroastrian times, much before Christianity.
The same fact that the date is not a fixed one but depends on the full moon, makes Easter firmly anchored to ancient roots linked to welcoming the new season and the new harvest typical of pre-Christian pagan rituals. Usually held in April, some years have an early Easter around the end of March.
Easter in Italy as we know it was inspired by the Jewish Passover or Pesach, which commemorates the exodus of the Israelite people from Egypt towards the promised land.
A time of the year rich in traditions, every region and every town has its own customs and rituals that will make your Easter holiday in Italy unforgettable.
This easy guide of ours wants to be a complete manual for those of you who are planning to spend your Easter holidays in Italy. We will include important planning tips such as what it’s necessary to book ahead, what are the best places to visit, and what to expect on the most important days of the Holy Week.
Is Easter a good time to visit Italy?
Easter is a fantastic time to visit Italy because the weather is usually great and the celebrations are beautiful to watch and attend. However, Easter in Italy can be extremely busy, especially in some locations such as Rome. This is why, here, we are giving you a wide range of options for where to go and what to do during the Easter week in Italy depending on your travel preferences.
Does Italy shut down over Easter?
The only holidays for Easter in Italy are Sunday, when schools, banks, and offices are closed anyway, and Easter Monday, when offices and banks will still be closed but restaurants and major museums and attractions will be open. Only the Vatican Museums will be closed on Easter Monday.
Schools are closed from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday and they reopen on Tuesday. But the rest of the activities will be open as usual. On Easter Sunday and Monday, food stores might have a different time schedule so maybe they won’t be open until late in the evening, but it changes depending on the store and the city.
In the historic centers of the largest cities in Italy, shops and restaurants will be open every day.
Important dates of Easter in Italy in 2023
- April 2nd – Palm Sunday (Domenica delle Palme).
- April 6th – Maundy Thursday (Giovedì Santo)
- April 7th – Good Friday (Venerdì Santo).
- April 9th – Easter Sunday (Pasqua).
- April 10th – Easter Monday (Lunedì dell’Angelo or Pasquetta).
Palm Sunday in Italy
The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday because the worshippers have branches of palm, olive, or other native trees blessed during the Mass. This is to commemorate the triumphal entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem as mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19.
On this day, in the Mass celebrations all over Italy, you will see plenty of palm and olive branches. In Saint Peter’s Square, the Mass will be held by the pope and you are likely to see a forest of palm and olive branches.
Depending on the region and town, the branches will be more or less decorated. In Rome, I see them as very simple, mainly just branches, while in other places like Sardinia and also Liguria, they are beautifully decorated and make a lovely ornament in our homes.
The branches blessed by the priest on this day are kept the whole year in the house and will be burned to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday in the following year.
Known also as Holy Thursday or Sheer Thursday, this is the day that ends Lent and when the Mass commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus before he was arrested and sentenced to death.
The Last Supper is commemorated in the Mass that takes place late afternoon, while the Mass of the morning has the purpose to bless the oils during the whole liturgic year and will be used to perform the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Order.
Maundy Thursday is also the day devoted to the washing of feet, a rite practiced by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and some other Christian churches during their worship services. In the Bible’s New Testament, foot washing is only mentioned in John 13:1–15.
Good Friday in Italy
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter and Catholics commemorate the passion and the death of Christ through functions and religious rites such as the Way of the Cross (Via Crucis). In Rome, this is a pretty spectacular ritual as it’s performed by the pope in the Colosseum after a procession from Piazza Venezia along Via dei Fori Imperiali.
This is when the pope carries the Cross from station to station to pay tribute to the suffering of Christ that ended with his death.
The ritual of the Stations of the Cross is performed in the churches of all towns and cities, even though not as spectacular as in Rome’s Colosseum. A religious procession led by the local priest will parade in the town’s main streets carrying the cross to the local church.
The last day of the Holy Week is when Catholics celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and depending on the city or town, Italians either have lunch at home or go out to a restaurant. In Rome, locals like to eat out on Easter Sunday, while in smaller towns, you will see the locals mainly eating at home with the family.
In smaller, not very touristy cities, on Easter Sunday shops will be closed, but in bigger tourist draws like Rome and Florence, you will find shops and restaurants open especially in the city center.
Known as Lunedì dell’Angelo or Pasquetta in Italian, Easter Monday is the day that nationwide is spent as a day out, better if in nature and having a picnic lunch.
The name of Lunedì dell’Angelo, “Angel’s Monday”, comes from the fact that the Gospels narrate that the three women Mary of Magdala, Mary mother of James and Joseph, and Salome met the Angel when they went to Jesus’ burial place with oils to embalm his body.
In reality, the expression of “Lunedì dell’Angelo” is a traditional one and finds no place in the liturgic calendar of the Catholic church, and this is why it’s not a day of precept for Catholics. It was introduced as a holiday in Italy after WWII.
What to do in Italy during Easter
Attend a religious celebration
Whether you are in Rome or in a small town, there will be several religious celebrations during Easter in Italy.
Starting from the branch-rich Mass of Palm Sunday to the Via Crucis of Good Friday, you will be only spoiled for choice over which celebration to attend.
From northern to southern Italy, different cities, different traditions.
Go for a hike
Easter in Italy is synonymous with spring and nice weather. And hiking. Italians love to go hiking and thankfully, in whatever region you are, there will be plenty of places that make for fantastic hiking and trekking locations.
In Sardinia, this is a great time to hike Su Gorropu gorge, in Sicily, you can hike Mount Etna, while in the Lazio region, you can spend a fantastic day hiking the beautiful Terminillo Mount in the Apennine mountain range.
Have a picnic
Just like hiking in spring, Easter Monday in Italy rhymes with picnicking. This day, pretty much all over Italy, you will see the city parks crowded with people on a picnic, eating, barbecuing,
In recent years, the places equipped for barbecue are always more, including parks, on the shores of a lake, on the beachfront, by the river, and even in devoted areas of mountains and hills. Many spots will also have stone or wooden benches and tables, but I still suggest you bring your own picnic blanket in case they are all taken.
Take a day trip
If you are visiting a big art city, this is the perfect time to plan a day trip to discover more of the region you have decided to visit. If you are in Venice, explore the islands of its famous lagoon, if you are in Florence, this is a great occasion to visit the Chianti vineyards or the Val d’Orcia.
Travelers who are spending Easter in Rome will love a day trip to Bracciano Lake, Calcata old town, or the UNESCO-listed sites of Tivoli. There are also many day trips you can take from Trento, such as the beautiful Castel Thun and the scenic San Romedio Sanctuary.
You will be able to plan fantastic day trips also from Milan and Turin to explore the mountains all around.
Try local foods
Trying the local food in Italy is always a good idea, no matter the season and the occasion. Every region of Italy has its own Easter dishes and cakes that you will certainly love.
In Rome, some of the dishes you can find on restaurants’ menus for Easter include coratella con carciofi, meaning offal with artichokes, and vignarola pasta dish with all the seasonal veggies such as artichokes, fresh green peas, and fava beans.
In Sardinia, I guarantee you will love the pardulas or formaggelle Easter pastries made with fresh ricotta cheese, while in Naples, you can’t miss their famous pastiera made with wheat cream and ricotta.
All over Italy, you will find lamb cooked in different ways depending on the region but it’s a typical dish linked to the Easter tradition. For dessert, you will see the dove-shaped colomba cake and the chocolate Easter eggs everywhere you go.
Enjoy cultural sightseeing
Apart from excursions in nature common this time of the year, the beautiful weather of April inspires also to stroll around the historic center of important cities such as Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan that in summer become too hot to walk for hours on end.
Easter in Italy is a perfect time for any type of outdoor activity. If you are not into hiking or trekking, fantastic things to do outside are also exploring the streets of large cities as well as smaller towns and quaint villages.
Thankfully, Italy is rich in all of those, so whether you are in big cities such as Turin or Rome, smaller towns like Bressanone in Italy’s South Tyrol, or little villages in Sardinia, venture out to discover the alleys and backstreets of historic centers and offbeat corners.
Since April can still bring some showers, if it rains, you can always visit the local museums.
Where to go for Easter in Italy
The capital of Christendom, spending Easter in Rome is a fantastic experience. Big celebrations are organized in the Vatican with Saint Peter’s Square being the hub where crowds from all over the world flock to attend the Mass and the Papal Audiences.
On Good Friday, the Via Crucis ritual (Way of the Cross) is held by the pope inside the Colosseum after a procession from Piazza Venezia. This is a very spectacular event where the public is not allowed in the Colosseum but can stay along Via dei Fori Imperiali and around the Colosseum in the streets devoted to the worshippers attending.
Sardinia is a fantastic region to visit during Easter because the warmer weather is perfect for enjoying the region’s towns, beachside, and hiking opportunities, all things that in summer it’s really too hot to do.
I often go to Sardinia in summer but sightseeing around the island becomes quite hard and we usually end up staying near some beach.
Easter time is great also because of the celebrations, especially on Palm Sunday because Sardinia is one of those regions where palm or olive branches are prepared with beautiful and sophisticated decorations.
If you visit Sardinia at Easter, don’t miss its wonderful capital, Cagliari, a sunny city with so much to see and do, beautiful beaches, exciting neighborhoods, and great food.
In Sicily, religion is very heartfelt and for Easter, there are several celebrations across the island.
One of the most famous Easter events in Sicily takes place in Trapani and is known as “Processione dei Misteri” which roughly translates into Procession of Mysteries. This festival dates back around 400 years ago and sees several sacred sculptures being carried around the streets of Trapani for 24 hours starting at 2 pm on Good Friday.
If you are not into religious celebrations, fret not, Sicily offers a huge range of diverse activities. Visit the stunning Syracuse and its beautiful Ortigia island, soak in the history at the Valle dei Templi near Agrigento, or spend Pasquetta (Easter Monday) in the beautiful and ancient village of Palazzolo Acreide in Siracusa province.
Gorgeous all year round, Florence experiences a re-birth in spring so if you are spending Easter in Italy, this is a great place to be. On the morning of Easter Sunday, a tower filled with fireworks pulled by two pairs of bulls is positioned between the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The cart is set off to give the bystanders a stunning pyrotechnic show at 11 am.
Florence and the whole Tuscany region are lovely travel destination in spring so if you are planning your Easter Italy trip here, make sure you include also towns like Siena, Pisa, Lucca, San Gimignano, and the green countryside in your itinerary.
Limited in time? Check out our tips to decide whether you should visit Rome or Florence!
Not only the capital of fashion, Milan is also a cool destination to be spending Easter in Italy. The weather is not too cold anymore and the summer heat and humidity hasn’t reached Lombardy yet so you are good to go.
Plus, on Easter Monday, the Italian Pasquetta, if you enjoy strolling around the alleys of local markets, you should totally visit what’s known La Fiera dell’Angelo, the Angel’s Fair. This is an annual appointment taking place near Chiesa di Sant’Angelo church in Milan and they sell a huge variety of flowers and plants.
Apart from this, you can enjoy the main landmarks in Milan and take some cool day trips to Lake Garda or Lake Como.
Another town in the Lombardy region to visit for Easter is Bormio, a lovely town in the local Alps. Here, every year takes place one of the oldest Easter Italian traditions where allegoric floats parade through the streets of the town all the way to the church of Saints Gervasio and Protasio.
Check out our guides to spending two days in Milan.
One of the best things to do in Turin is to eat chocolate, so for Easter, here you can find some pretty exquisite artisan Easter eggs to start your holiday with. Whether you are spending a long weekend in Turin or the whole Holy Week, the city has plenty of initiatives, events, and exhibitions lined up for the holiday.
The weather in April in Turin is colder than in central and southern Italy but still pleasant to spend sightseeing in the beautiful city, Italy’s former capital. Visit Turin’s landmarks and museums and plan some days out to places like Venaria Reale and up on the hill to see the beautiful Basilica of Superga.
Another great destination to visit for Easter in Italy and in spring, in general, is Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region. Famous for its delicious food, a trip to Emilia Romagna calls for culinary experiences and plenty of tasting of lasagna, fettuccine, tortellini, Parmigiano, and balsamic vinegar.
Bologna is an utterly elegant city and the nice weather of April is perfect for sightseeing and walking around the central streets of the Quadrilatero area. You can spend as long as a day in Bologna or a week and never run out of things to do and places to visit.
What to pack for Easter in Italy
- Walking shoes. Whether you are spending Easter in Italy in nature or in a big city, a pair of comfortable walking shoes is a must.
- A pair of fancier shoes. Ballerinas for women and camper-style shoes for men would work well if you are dressing up for an event or for a restaurant meal.
- A fancy outfit. You might want to dress a little fancier than the everyday sightseeing outfit if you are attending some party or celebration or going out for lunch or dinner during the holiday.
- Jeans or cotton trousers. Even in the case of rain, the weather won’t be too cold so no need for wool trousers. Light trousers that are loose and comfortable are your best bet if you are spending the week of Easter in Italy.
- Long-sleeve tops. These are essential items to pack for spring in Italy because very versatile as you can wear them under a jacket or just as a top if it’s a hot day.
- Spring jacket. You are likely to wear this all the time as the weather will be mild but not too hot to go out without an outer garment.
- Shawl. Either a shawl or a light scarf will come in handy in the evening or if there is a bit of wind.
- Sunglasses. Days will be sunny so whether you are going to the beach or to the mountain, make sure you have a pair of sunglasses with you.
- Sunscreen. I don’t apply sunscreen in spring in Italy but if you have fair skin and it’s very sunny, especially in southern Italy, it might be necessary for you.