Celebrating Easter in Italy

Easter or Pasqua, in Italian, is a joyous celebration marked with rituals and traditions. Celebrating Easter in Italy is one of the things we did during our RV travels in Europe. Read this post to find out about Easter traditions in Italy, and tasting the traditional Easter cake, Colomba di Pasqua.

We spent the better half of March 2015 traveling throughout Italy. It was apparent that Easter was near since every single grocery store had Easter goodies on display.

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From specially baked breads to chocolate Easter eggs, the stores were decked out in preparation for Easter!

Visiting Italy During Easter

While most Italians go on vacation during Easter, the country has a large influx of tourists. We highly recommend booking your accommodation in advance if you happen to be traveling to Italy during Easter. For large families, we suggest looking into renting an Airbnb.

During most of our travels through Italy we stayed at campsites in our RV – in Venice we stayed at Venezia Village – Click here to check their availability. In Rome, we opted for a hotel so we could stay in the city center and walk around to explore the city.

Click here to check and compare prices of hotels in Rome City Centre.

Easter Traditions in Italy

Catholicism is the main religion in Italy, and as a result, the entire country takes Lent and Easter seriously. Easter is a major Roman Catholic holiday celebrated after a period of mourning and fasting (during Lent and Good Friday) – it is the day Catholics believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and was resurrected after his death on the cross at Calvary. While Easter differs every year, it always falls on a Sunday and is usually after the first Full Moon occurring on/after the March equinox.

Here are 5 traditions we experienced while celebrating Easter in Italy.

Painted & Chocolate Eggs

colomba di pasqua

The kid-foodies were in chocolate egg heaven at the grocery store. In Italy, it’s very common to have chocolate eggs with an interior filled with goodies for the little ones. A common tradition for kids is to paint hard-boiled eggs together, but unlike in America where we have easter egg hunts, in Italy, the painted eggs are used as a decoration on the Easter dining table.

Mass at the Vatican

There’s nothing quite like listening to mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican state…even if it is in Italian! On Good Friday, many pilgrims gather in the square to listen to the Pope’s mass which begins at 5:00pm, followed by a candlelit crucifixion walk that starts at Palatine Hill and ends with the Pope at the Colosseum. Even if you’re not Catholic or religious, it is something worth experiencing.

Religious Parades

While the days leading up to Easter are solemn with plenty of masses and rituals, Easter day itself is a joyous occasion. Towns and cities have a variety of religious parades and celebrations. Statues of Jesus and Mary are carried during the parades that usually include most of the townsfolk.

Easter Monday

Easter Monday aka little Easter or Pasquetta in Italian, is a national holiday in Italy, and is just as important as Easter Sunday. There’s a saying in Italian,

“Natale con i suoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”

that means you spend Christmas with your family, but Easter is a holiday you spend with whomever you like. Easter Monday is a day when people get together and spend time with their friends; a popular way to do so is by packing a picnic and heading out to the countryside to celebrate.

Trying Colomba di Pasqua

Ah, this is quite possibly our favorite Italian Easter tradition, a delicious cake specifically made every year for Easter. This delightful sweet bread, made from almonds, sugar, and egg whites, is shaped like a dove as it symbolizes peace to the Italians.

Colomba di Pasqua

What was most addicting, and a “must-have” for the kids during Easter in Italy was Colomba di Pasqua or Colomba Pasquale (which translates to ‘Easter Dove’ in English).

Colomba di Pasqua
Trying some colomba pasquale for the first time…so excited 🙂

This traditional Easter cake is the counterpart of the two well-known Italian Christmas desserts, panettone and pandoro.

colomba di pasqua
Can’t wait to unpack it!

We found colomba to be similar in taste to King’s Hawaiian Sweet Bread; it is shaped in the form of a dove. Traditionally, a dove has been used to represent peace, and is synonymous with its Italian meaning.

colomba di pasqua
We learned that Colomba di Pasqua is most often eaten in Italy as part of Easter brunch or dinner. In fact, many European countries, have similar traditions surrounding the use of bread during the Easter holiday. Traditionally, the practice of eating Easter bread or sweetened “communion” bread can be traced back to Byzantium and the Orthodox Christian church.

Learning How to Make Colomba di Pasqua

The dough for the cake is made in a similar manner to panettone, with flour, eggs, sugar, natural yeast, and butter. However, uncommon to panettone, it usually contains candied peel, and no raisins.

The dough is then fashioned into a dove shape and topped with pearl sugar and almonds before being baked. Some manufacturers produce other versions including a popular bread topped with chocolate.

colomba di pasquaThe Colomba di Pasqua was first commercialized by a Milanese baker and businessman, Angelo Motta, as an Easter version of the Christmas speciality panettone.

When the kids reminisce about their time in Italy, Colomba di Pasqua is the first dessert cake they remember. In fact, they are looking forward to baking one once we get back from Japan. Here’s the recipe we’ll be using: Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove Bread).

Buona Pasqua a tutti!

Recommended Reading for Planning your trip to Italy with Kids


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3 thoughts on “Celebrating Easter in Italy”

  1. We celebrated Easter in Italy in 2008 on a multigen trip! It was wonderful, all of those gigantic easter chocolates and delicious colomba 🙂

  2. This looks so good! We have easy access to Italian foods here in Switzerland so I must see if I can get my hands on some.

  3. This bread was amazing. I made this a hot cross buns for Easter. While both good, this was definitely the superior bread. It’s light, tasty, with a pleasant, sweet crust.

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