One of the many benefits for international students in Italy is experiencing the unique cultural traditions that come with the biggest holidays. With Easter coming up, it’s a great time to become acquainted with all of the special celebrations that happen only in Rome. The best way to make the most of your time when you study in Italy is to get out and experience some of the exciting activities that Rome has to offer. At an American university in Italy, because of the proximity to the Vatican, you’ll have the chance to observe once in a lifetime events like seeing the Pope speak, and much more!
The Holy Week in Rome
Rome does Easter right, gearing up for the holiday a week before the date with a wealth of ceremonies. On Palm Sunday there’s the “Blessing of the Palms” ceremony that’s performed by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, and on the Holy Thursday there’s a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. John Lateran in the afternoon. Even if you’re not religious, these events are a great glimpse into a whole new world of ceremonies and culture that are sure to enlighten you – even if it is just educationally.
Italian Easter Traditions
Easter traditions in Italy are not wildly different from those in North America, but they’re definitely ones to check out if you’re a foodie! The traditional Easter breakfast in Rome is the one time of year that Romans sit down for a big breakfast of hard boiled eggs, cold cuts, quiches, and “pizza di Pasqua,” or Easter cheese bread.. The traditional lunch is a delectable roast lamb with vegetables, as well as a type of cake called “colomba pasquale,” which is molded in the shape of a dove. Of course, what Easter celebration would be complete without chocolate eggs? They’re available all around Rome, but if you prefer the less edible kind, check out the annual Art of Easter Eggs exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni.
The Canonization of Two Popes
This year’s Easter celebrations are especially unique in Rome, as it prepares for the canonization of two former Popes. Sainthood will be bestowed upon Popes John XXIII and John Paul II this year, as Pope Francis has expedited the canonization of both. The two popes will be canonized together in St Peter’s Basilica on April 27th, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to make the pilgrimage to witness the event. Four giant screens will be set up so onlookers can watch the ceremony, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will attend, meaning that two living popes will be present at the ceremony – certainly a once in a lifetime occurrence.
So while it’s a bit different than what you were used to at home, the long list of things to do in Rome means you’ll be far too occupied and full of delicious food to be homesick!