Pasqua (Easter Sunday) is a very important holiday for Italians, second only to Christmas. If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend the Easter holiday in Italy, you will be mesmerized by the incredible variety of symbolism, traditions, and celebrations that characterise this religious festivity.
However, before we dive into all these marvellous facets of the Italian Easter, let’s explore some Easter vocabulary and phrases first.
Learning a bit of language is always beneficial, especially if you decide to take a trip to Italy at some point.
Let’s see our recommended vocabulary and phrases:
Uovo di Pasqua – Easter egg
Coniglio di Pasqua – Easter bunny
Buona Pasqua – Happy Easter
Tanti auguri di buona Pasqua – Easter greetings
Le campane – Bells
L’agnello – Lamb
La colomba – Easter cake
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Now, it’s time to practise what you learned by matching the Italian words with the corresponding pictures.
Write your answers in the comment box at the end of this article so I can get back to you.
Source: Mondadori Edizioni
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Easter in Italy
On Easter Sunday, as well as in the days leading up to Pasqua, masses and solemn religious processions are held in most of the Italian cities, towns and even the smallest villages. Some towns hold live passion plays (Via Crucis) during the night of Good Friday; statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus get paraded in the streets carried by characters often dressed in traditional ancient costumes; fireworks, performers and music played by little orchestras complete these elaborate and dramatic representations.
Every community has its own special way to celebrate, but there is an easy-to-spot common denominator valid for the entire country: the celebrations do not end in the streets or the churches, they actually continue while sitting around the table. Yes, because conviviality is the real deal, nonetheless the most Italian way to celebrate any possible occasion!
The Holy Sunday is usually enjoyed indoors, while the Holy Monday – or the Monday of the Angels, which Italians call ‘Pasquetta’ (little Easter), is often a good occasion for an outdoors gathering (scampagnata).
In Italy, there’s a saying: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi!” (Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want!), but most Italians prefer to spend this holiday with their family and closest friends, sitting around the table – of course – eating, drinking and chatting for hours!
Italian Easter Traditions
Easter comes after forty days of lent, when people who like to follow religious traditions undergo some sort of sacrifice, typically depriving themselves of certain types of food. Moreover, Good Friday is a day customarily spent by the most religious in complete starvation.
Regardless of being hungry or not, religious or not, you can be sure that on the occasion of this festive holiday there will be gargantuan meals served on the tables throughout the country.
From the North to the South, from the Alps to the Sicilian coasts, there is one and only constant certainty: the huge amount of food. Because this is how Italians do it! Impressive is not only the quantity, but also the variety: just like every community has its own celebrations, every region and/or city has its own traditional food. Hence, Easter food in Italy is very diverse, plentiful and rich in symbolism.
Most traditional dishes originated from ancient recipes usually based on ingredients initially considered a symbol of the feast, something that would represent the deep meaning of the celebration. The two main symbols of Easter in Italy are the egg and the lamb.
In ancient cultures, the egg has always been seen as a representation of life itself. With Christianity, this nutritious food, hidden inside a hard shell that looks like a stone, eventually became an emblem of the resurrection of Jesus, metaphorically recalling the event of him coming out of the sepulchre alive, leaving it empty. Hence, many are the recipes based on eggs, where eggs are either in the mix or, even better, showed off in their holy wholeness!
The second and more obvious symbolic food is the lamb, which is used by Jews and Christians both: Moses and his people sacrificed a lamb to God the day before the exodus; Jesus, also called ‘the Lamb of God’, sacrificed Himself on the cross.
The most delicious Italian Easter foods from all over Italy
Uova di Pasqua
The uova di Pasqua are hollow chocolate eggs that usually come with a surprise inside, normally gifted to children, but also to adults. Who doesn’t like chocolate and surprises?
Colomba di Pasqua
The colomba is a sweet yeast egged bread, filled with candied fruits or chocolate, often with almonds and sprinkled sugar on top. It originates from Milan and is made in the shape of a dove (hence the name colomba), the Christian symbol of peace and salvation.
The pastiera napoletana is a typical Neapolitan Easter dessert, originally baked in a convent in Naples and inspired by the flowers growing in the spring garden. It consists of cooked wheat berries (symbolizing fertility), ricotta, eggs, lemon zest, candied orange peel, orange flower water and spices. So delicious!
L’agnello pasquale is a rich sweet cake originating from Sicily, made with almonds and pistachio.
Torta al Formaggio
Torta al Formaggio, also known as pizza di Pasqua comes from Umbria region and consists of a savoury cake made with eggs, flour, grated pecorino and parmigiano. Its shape is similar to the panettone Christmas cake.
Torta pasqualina is a puff pastry pie originating from Genova, traditionally made with 33 layers, to symbolize the years of Jesus. It is stuffed with hard-boiled eggs, green beets or artichokes, prescinseua (an acidic soft cheese from Liguria) and marjoram.
Created in Naples, Casatiello is one of the most famous Italian Easter foods – and my absolute favourite! It’s a ring-shaped bread filled with boiled eggs, pancetta, salami and cheeses, such as provolone, parmigiano and pecorino. There are probably 500 calories in just one slice, but casatiello is so incredibly tasty that it is worth to take the calories in!
The prinza triestina is a soft sweet bread similar to a brioche, made with orange and lemon zest. It originates from the northeast Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, usually served for breakfast with salami and cheese. The three incisions on the loaf form a Y that symbolizes the martyrdom of Christ.
Crescia di Pasqua Valdostano
Crescia di Pasqua Valdostano is bread from the Valle d’Aosta region, made with aged cheese and extra egg whites, resulting in a soft and fluffy texture.
Pan di ramerino
Pan di ramerino is a Tuscan Easter bread made with raisins, walnuts and rosemary.
Traditionally, the women of the family used to bring the eggs to church in order for the priest to bless them; nowadays, this practice is still in use in some Italian villages. Blessed or not, dozens of boiled eggs are always served on the Easter tables.
This Easter salad is typical of the Veneto region; made with asparagus, shrimp tails, hard-boiled eggs, quail eggs, olives and extra virgin olive oil.
Insalata Buona Pasqua
In the Molise region, the Easter salad includes green beans, boiled eggs, tomatoes, strawberries and mango pieces.
Easter pasta dishes are diverse and vary from the north to the south of Italy, including lasagna, ravioli, risotto and baked pasta.
In the Emilia-Romagna region, lasagna filled with lamb is the preferred choice. Instead, Southern Italians enjoy lasagna filled with pork, tomato sauce, ricotta and hard-boiled eggs.
Culurgiones is a dish served in Sardinia, consisting of ravioli filled with potatoes and pecorino cheese, garlic, mint and nutmeg. Also from Sardinia is Pillus (similar to tagliolini) cooked in beef broth.
Orecchiette pasta cooked with artichokes and almonds is the traditional dish enjoyed in the Puglia region, as well as the Tiella, a casserole made from rice, muscles and potatoes. In the Veneto region, risotto cooked with asparagus is the go-to-dish. In Piemonte, Agnolotti del Plin (fresh pasta mixed with pork, veal, rabbit, spinach and Parmesan) is a traditional dish.
Cosciotto di agnello
Cosciotto di agnello is roasted lamb with potatoes, often served with peas or asparagus, popular in the northern regions including Veneto, Piemonte and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Lamb in Lazio region
In Lazio there are three popular lamb based Easter dishes:
Abbacchio alla romana, is baby lamb cooked in white wine, with anchovies, garlic and rosemary.
Coratella is made with every part of the animal, including the lamb’s heart, lungs and liver. It’s oven cooked with white wine, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, broth, salt and pepper, often served with artichokes.
Abbacchio alla scottadito is grilled marinated lamb cutlets, sometimes barbecued to add extra crispiness. So yummy!
Polpettine pasquali are Easter meatballs made with lamb meat, served in the Trentino region.
Impanata Ragusana is an ancient Sicilian recipe that consists of a pork or turkey based pie, cooked with tomatoes and red wine.
Brodetto pasquale is a broth originating from Bari (Puglia region), made with lamb, eggs and peas or asparagus.
Cutturidd, from the Basilicata region, is a lamb stew with potatoes, carrots, chicory, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Cordula is a traditional Sardinian dish, very popular for Easter and Christmas, comprising of lamb intestines and guts weaved into a braid.
I am sure that with this list I’ve managed to tickle your curiosity and make you feel like tasting all this deliciousness!
Now that you know what to eat – and where to eat it, why not plan a last-minute trip and spend the Easter weekend somewhere in Italy? You have also learnt some basic vocabulary related to the Italian Easter, such as:
Buona pasqua! > Happy Easter! | Agnello > Lamb | Uova di cioccolato > Chocolate eggs | Colomba di Pasqua > Easter colomba (dove) cake.
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