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Easter in Italy

Italians pride themselves on their unmatched sense of celebration and occasion. So it’s no surprise to learn that that also applies to the way they see in Easter.

Because as the Easter period homes in, homes in Italy get ready to party. If you’re lucky to spend the period in Italy, you may not encounter the Easter bunny, but you will certainly discover distinctive festivities without parallel the world over.

The festive period, Pasqua in Italian, is a flurry of festivals and fun, games and gigs, particularly on Easter Monday – La Pasquetta.
Every major city and region of Italy has its own special exhibitions, often forged over centuries. And they are dazzling displays, far removed from the sedate trips to church that accompany Easter in Britain and the US.

Take Florence, for instance. For more than three centuries, Easter Sunday has seen Florence resound to a massive blast to mark Scoppio del Carro – the explosion of the cart.
Thousands of spectators throng the pavements as a fleet of white cattle, festooned in garlands, pull a wagon property in Italy’s most famous art city.

This kaleidoscope of kitsch concludes outside the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. During noon mass, the Archbishop sets off a dove-shaped rocket that flies along a wire to smash into the cart, igniting a magnificent fireworks display.

In medieval times, a big bang was a harbinger of a plentiful yield of crops. These days, it probably ensures no-one in the congregation nods off during the service. This display is followed by a medieval costumed procession.

Elsewhere across Italy, Easter Sunday celebrations may be slightly less explosive but are certainly no less eye-catching.
The women of Palermo, Sicily, don elegant 15th century costumes and give out red Easter eggs in the city's Piana degli Albanesi.

In Lanciano, Abruzzo, the town's main Piazza Plebiscito square is the setting for a re-enactment of the Biblical meeting of Mary, St John and Christ, with statues depicting them.
In Sulmona, also in Abruzzo, there is the La Madonna Che Scappa in Piazza (The Madonna who flees in the square).
Locals wear green and white while the woman depicting the Virgin Mary is clad in black. As she approaches the square's fountain, doves are released and she suddenly appears in green. The event is rounded off with music, wining and dining.

And in St Peter's Square in the Vatican there is the Pope's famous Easter Sunday Mass, which draws thousands from the ranks of worshippers and non-worshippers.
There are also scores of events across Italy in the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. Venerdi Santo (Good Friday) witnesses colourful parades through most major Italian cities to commemorate La Via della Croce, Christ's carrying of the cross.

In Enna, Sicily, more than 2,000 friars in ancient costumes silently parade through its streets.
Other solemn religious ceremonies take place in Chieti, Abruzzo, where people in black tunics and grey mantles stage a torchlight procession.

And in Taormina, Sicily, people in black robes and bearing lanterns parade through the town in homage to the legend of Christ's mother looking for her dead son.
Festivities go on over the weekend and into Easter Monday, when many cities stage dances, free concerts and eccentric contests.

These often bizarrely involve eggs, such as in Tredozio, Emilia-Romagna, which stages a Palio dell'Uovo, an entire competition devoted to them.

Residents of Panicale, Umbria, meanwhile, compete with one another to roll 9lb lumps of cheese around the village using the fewest strokes possible.
The losers? They end up cheesed off, no doubt…