Rome has been an international hub for centuries. Today, tourists flock to the Italian capital to discover history, art, culture, food, and beauty. Rome also remains a major spot for religious tourism and pilgrimages. The city has over 900 churches and is home to the Vatican, the head of the Catholic Church. This means that major Christian religious holidays like Christmas and Easter are pretty important in the Eternal City. When you study abroad at John Cabot University, you get the privilege of experiencing all of these special holidays and events “from the inside”, as it were. Chances are you will have many Italian friends, which will mean opportunities to experience life in Rome as more than just a tourist!
If you are in town for Easter–Pasqua–there are a few typical traditions you should experience.
Here are 3 ways to celebrate Easter in Rome!
1. Attend Easter Mass at the Vatican
If you want the chance to see the Pope hold Easter mass, head over to the Vatican. Just be aware that there will be more crowds than usual (and long security lines), so you will be standing in a sea of people. But it will be worth it just to experience such a time-honored tradition. If you can’t make it on Sunday, you can attend the Good Friday mass or Holy Saturday mass, also at St. Peter’s Basilica. Another great way to get the Roman Easter experience is by checking out the Via Crucis, or “Way of the Cross,” on the evening of Good Friday. The Pope leads a candlelit processional starting at the Colosseum up to the Palatine Hill, stopping 14 times to recall Christ’s journey to the cross. Even if you aren’t religious, it is beautiful to watch!
2. Eat Lamb and Artichokes
One of the best parts of any Italian holiday is the food! For Easter it’s no different. Many restaurants will be closed during the holiday, so be sure to check and make a reservation in advance if you want to eat out. But you could also get together with some Italian friends and try to cook some specialties yourself! Typically, Romans eat lamb and artichokes–among many other things–during Easter lunch. They finish off with a traditional Easter cake for dessert called colomba di Pasqua or colomba pasquale. They also often eat chocolate Easter eggs!
3. Relax on Pasquetta
Easter Monday is called Pasquetta, which literally translates to “Little Easter.” This is also a holiday, but it is much more relaxed and less solemn than the events leading up to it during Holy Week. On Pasquetta, families traditionally spend time together outside, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. They usually pack up their Easter leftovers and sweets and head out to the park for a picnic. Many Italians also head out to the countryside, or to the beach for a little getaway. So, on Easter Monday, be sure to do as the Romans do and spend the day with good people, eating good food, relaxing in the sunshine.