What do you know about Easter in Italy and Tuscany? Are you aware that Easter is here the second most important religious holiday after Christmas, and many traditions are related to its celebrations? I’ll try to open a window on this period of the year and give some suggestions for places to visits and activities to do if you’re in Tuscany these days.
From a religious point of view, being Easter the resurrection of Christ, its celebration is the basis of the Christian religion and Italians consider this day very important. Schools close usually from the Thursday before Easter (Holy Thursday) till the Tuesday after.
Good Friday (Venerdì Santo in Italian) is the day on which Christ was crucified, and the Church – stripped of its ornaments, the altar bare, with the door of the empty tabernacle standing open, – is as if in mourning. Traditionally, the organ is silent from Holy Thursday until the Midnight Mass at Easter Eve, as are all bells or other instruments. In many villages and towns, at night priests lead the torchlight procession of the via crucis (way of the Cross), the biggest and most popular one being that in Rome, led by the Pope at the Coliseum. Easter tradition means that several Italians don’t eat meat on Good Friday, even if restaurants serve any kind of food.
Easter Eve represents the one full day when Jesus is dead and churches don’t have any service until the Midnight Mass that starts the Easter celebrations. Easter Day is finally a happy and joyful day after the long period of Lent! In Tuscany, it starts in Florence with the traditional “explosion of the cart” (Scoppio del Carro) having its roots in the pagan ritual of ensuring a good harvest and considered a symbol of good luck for the city.
After the solemn Mass, on Easter Day food plays a big role in traditional lunches, both at home or restaurants. Recipes vary according to the regional traditions, but eggs are common everywhere as represent life, fertility, and renewal, all essential symbols of Easter. Hard-boiled eggs – often dyed – are blessed by the priests during the Mass at Easter Eve, and then accompany breakfast and lunch of many Italian families. Also, the most popular Easter tradition are beautifully decorated chocolate eggs, that everyone gets for friends, dearest persons and children.
Passing to things to do in the Easter weekend between Arezzo and Siena, here are our recommnedations:
1) You should definitely visit the beautiful Arezzo, whose medieval historic centre boasts many splendid works of art: the most famous one is “The Legend of the True Cross” fresco cycle painted by Piero della Francesca in the Church of St. Francis, but many others are the monuments and the museum that are worth a visit (from the main square Piazza Grande, to the Cathedral and the minor churches, to the archaeological museum). From the town, you can easily move to one of the marvellous valleys of its countryside, such as the green Casentino, with its magnificent Park of Forests where you can walk and hike in an enchanted natural environment, or the Valtiberina, where you can visit the beautiful medieval hamlet of Anghiari. Find out what else to see around town in our post.
2) just a few kilometres away from Arezzo, Cortona is a splendid hamlet you can’t absolutely miss. Dating back to the Etruscan times, made famous all over the world by Frances Mayes book “Under the Tuscan Sun”, it offers many things to do: visiting the Archaeological Park and the Etruscan Museum, strolling around the splendid medieval centre, hiking to the Sanctuary of St. Margherita, all are excellent ways to discover this fascinating hill town.
3) on Monday, April 6th (the day after Easter, that in Italy is a festivity) the fascinating steam train of the Sienese Crete will depart from Siena railway station to reach Buonconvento, near Montalcino, for the Antiques Fair through the streets and alleys of the nice hamlet. Travelling on board of an authentic historic train, with a background noise made of whistles, puffs, squeaks and the pumping of the pistons will be a great experience for adults and an unforgettable day for children! All the detailed info here!
4) finally, in the countryside of Siena, an itinerary in the splendid Val d’Orcia is always the perfect decision: since 2004 its landscape has been a UNESCO World Heritage site to be is “an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures”. Its smooth hills, cypress trees that line its winding roads, lovely farmhouses and hilltop hamlets like Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignoni correspond, in the mind of many people, to the image of Tuscany itself. In Spring its picture postcard views are dominated by the intense green that make the landscape bright. Here the complete itinerary through one of the most beloved areas of Tuscany.
In conclusion, “Christmas at home, Easter with whomever you want” is an old Italian saying, even though many people pass Easter Day with their families. On the other hand, Easter Monday, is traditionally spent outside, with family and friends either picnicking or visiting the towns, hamlets and typical corners of the territory.