Have the Perfect Easter Break in Tuscany
Posted by Dympna Docherty (13/03/2015)
Tuscany has a number of colourful traditions based around Easter, making it the perfect place to visit during the holiday. In Italy celebrations traditionally last for five days – from the Thursday before Easter Sunday through to the following Monday, so it’s well worth timing your trip to take in the whole period. Here are some of the highlights we recommend.
Holy ThursdayTraditionally on the Thursday before Easter Sunday Italian churches elaborately decorate their altars with floral displays to pay homage to Jesus for the whole period of his death and rebirth. Visitors are welcome to tour the churches making this an excellent time to view Tuscany’s many historic religious buildings.
Churches particularly worth a visit include Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence which is the largest Franciscan church in the world, and Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, also in Florence, which contains artwork by Botticelli and Duccio amongst many others.
Good FridayMany Italians take to the streets on Good Friday, dressed in historic costumes and forming processions to carry statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary through the towns and cities where they live. This local tradition is certainly worth observing, however one of the real highlights of the whole Easter period in Tuscany is the annual play of the Passion which is performed in the town of Grassina, just outside Florence.
The play involves hundreds of the town’s people recreating various stories from the Bible’s New Testament ending with a re-enactment of Jesus’ crucifixion. Grassina’s residents create costumes, paint backdrops and record music for the play making this an important focal point for their community. The play begins with a procession of people dressed as ancient Galileans and Romans making their way through the streets of Grassina while scenes from Christ’s life are acted out on a nearby hill.
This powerful local ritual has been happening on and off for over 300 years so is a wonderful event to be part of for the religious and non-religious alike.
Easter SaturdayThis is usually a quieter day that Italians spend getting ready for Easter. Many people spend the day cooking the traditional Easter dishes of their region, which in Tuscany means roasting a whole leg of lamb. Tuscans will generally chose seasonal side dishes which represent the coming of spring, such as fava beans (broad beans) and artichokes.
In the late evening most Italian churches hold long, elaborate evening masses which end at midnight with the ringing of all the church bells to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
Easter SundayIn a tradition dating back almost 400 years, the people of Florence mark Easter Sunday with the Scoppio del Carro which means the “explosion of the cart”. The ceremony involves an elaborate wagon, loaded with fireworks, being hauled through the city from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo by white oxen festooned with garlands of flowers and spring herbs. The wagon, which is three stories high and has been in use for hundreds of years, is accompanied by a huge crowd of soldiers, musicians and locals in old Florentine fancy dress.
The wagon stops outside the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore where a dove-shaped rocked is fired from the cathedral into the cart, igniting the fireworks on board. Traditionally, a big explosion is believed to signify a lucky year and good harvest ahead.
In Italy the day after Easter Sunday is known as Pasquetta, which means ‘little Easter’, and is a national holiday that celebrates Jesus after his resurrection. Italians traditionally spend the day with their families where going for a picnic is a popular option. However, Pasquetta is also a day when many markets spring up all over the country selling a wide range of things including food, clothing and various homemade goods.
Sienna holds a large market specialising in food, leather goods, ceramics, toys and books while the ancient city of Lucca hosts a massive antiques market. For those looking for something a little smaller, Greve in Chianti has its own more modest antiques fair and the Fiesole market overlooking Florence offers local food, wine and crafts.
If you’re planning a holiday to Tuscany during Easter, we offer a wide variety of villas in Florence, Siena and throughout the region. To find out more, simply search our available villas or call us on (+44) 121 286 7782.