Easter in Tuscany is a feast for the senses; a much-anticipated celebration on the Italian calendar each year where the religious ceremony is intricately entwined with ancient traditions, a sense of celebration, lunches with family, picnics in the countryside and the renewal of life in Spring. We’ve been back here in Chianti for a couple of weeks now and the sense that Spring is in the air, is well and truly alive; people are out and about, the air is cool and fresh, and full of sweet aromas, and the days are filled with light and saturated with colour; the advent of Spring makes the whole context of Easter very special.
Here we celebrate 8 things we’ll be enjoying in Tuscany this Easter and Spring.
1. Riding amongst the continual burst of Spring scenes and wildflowers
The days are cool, yet the sun shines brightly. The roads are calm and quiet, yet you can feel that with Easter arriving, there may be a few more to share the road with. In any case, every ride at the moment is pure joy – with Spring scenes of colour and wildflowers popping out, and every day the landscape becoming more green. However it’s the quiet roads that climb up into the hills, connecting the many stone hamlets, that is nothing short of stupendous…… just you and the crisp air when you’re in the shade, and the warm sun on your back when you’re not, and of course, the mesmerising landscape.
2. Aperitivo in the piazza
One of our favourite times of day in Italy is aperitivo hour and there’s nothing more enjoyable than being able to enjoy it outdoors in the piazza. While it’s still cool, the onset of Primavera (Spring) in Italy and the rise in temperatures above 15 degrees, guarantees that the Italians start to head outdoors, and we’re loving the mood that this brings. Staking out our spot in the piazza in the late afternoon sun each day, and enjoying a much loved Aperol Spritz or Negroni with the locals, is definitely part of the joy of being in Italy in Spring.
3. Easter events
Easter, or Pasqua in Italian, is an important celebration and it’s marked across the country by days off work (although believe it or not, Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy), processions, and plenty of food.
Many towns in Tuscany feature historical re-enactments and festivals that celebrate Tuscany’s Easter traditions, with the most famous being in Florence where the iconic Scoppio del Carro (or Explosion of the Cart) is held on Easter Sunday, with a two-storey wagon packed full of fireworks lit up after mass in the city’s central Piazza Duomo. Also, on Good Friday evening in Grassina, a small town just outside of Florence, there is the incredible re-enactment of the Passion of Christ in which over five hundred locals come together to perform. The procession passes through the city’s centre, while close by the scenes of Christ are re-enacted with narration and music.
We’ll however be saving our outings for Easter Monday or Pasquetta as it is known here. Italians typically enjoy being out and about on this day, often enjoying a picnic with family and friends outdoors with traditional foods of the season such as pecorino cheese, fresh fava beans, bread, olives and red wine. We’ll enjoy our version of Pasquetta by visiting a couple of local celebratory events and markets including an Easter market in Siena, which focuses on local seasonal foods and artisanal products, and a festive market that is also close to home in Greve in Chianti, which focuses on antiques.
A visit to Pistoia is also on our radar with friends to enjoy the Festa della Farina Dolce held there on Easter Monday afternoon, where you can sample sweet Tuscan Easter favourites such as Polenta Dolce, Frittelle Dolci and Necci – this sounds delicious and right up our alley.
4. Time with Friends and Family
Easter is a time for family and friends to come together, and there is an Italian saying that says, ‘Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi’ which translates as, ‘Christmas with your relatives, Easter with whomever you want’. We’re fortunate to have family and friends to enjoy Easter with in Italy and we’ll enjoy celebrating many of the local traditions with them, including the fun of Easter for the kids. While there is no Easter Bunny in Italy, children enjoy receiving large chocolate eggs with a surprise inside and we’re guessing the adults don’t mind a little Easter chocolate too, given the fairly large and extravagantly wrapped eggs, and some of the amazing creations we’ve seen around the country.
5. Pan di Ramerino from Easter Thursday
Easter breads, sweet or savoury, are one of the highlights of Easter festivities in Italy. One of the best is the Tuscan Pan di Ramerino, a criss-crossed raisin bread, flavoured with rosemary. (You could almost say this is the Italian version of a hot cross bun).
We can’t wait to enjoy a local version of these when they become available on Easter Thursday, when we can buy them from street vendors and bakeries in the region. Local priests often bless the bread too.
6. Easter Sunday Lunch
We are very much looking forward to our Easter Sunday long Tuscan lunch. With a very traditional menu on our agenda, each of the courses tell a story of time and tradition, and continue to thrive in the kitchens of families throughout Tuscany, which we think is very special to be a part of.
Easter lunch is also very much about bringing together tradition with the best seasonal produce, which in Tuscany means fresh pecorino cheeses, freshly laid eggs, asparagus, peas and artichokes, which are often more than side dishes and form the basis of family recipes across multiple courses.
What’s on our menu?
A selection of local pecorino cheeses and Uova benedette (blessed eggs) will be enjoyed with a celebratory Prosecco.
The blessed eggs are a deep tradition across Tuscany where people take hard boiled eggs to church to be blessed, and they are then filled with a delicious mayonnaise cream (and a slice of truffle in our home region of Chianti), to be enjoyed at the start of Easter family lunch.
Crespelle con carciofi (artichokes)
Crespelle are a typical Florentine dish which resemble light savoury crepes and while they are often filled with spinach and ricotta, and baked with a delicious layer of parmigiano cheese or a local Tuscan pecorino, at Easter time they are made with artichokes and are simply amazing.
Roasted lamb flavoured with rosemary and lemon, roast potatoes, spring peas, and carciofi fritti.
Lamb is at the centre of nearly every Italian Easter Family lunch across the country. A symbol of Spring and with a religious connection as a symbol of the ‘Lamb of God’, this is a dish that this enjoyed in many different ways, with every family and restaurant having its own special recipe. We’ll be enjoying it as most Tuscans do – slow roasted. Delicious.
Yes, carciofi (artichokes) are everywhere in Spring and feature in many different ways across all of the regions of Italy, and often across multiple courses. Stuffed, braised or fried, artichokes are a springtime staple and are a common feature of the Easter meal….it’s a great thing that we love them!
Colomba di Pasqua e Vinsanto
The Colomba di Pasqua is the most widely known culinary symbol of Easter in Italy. Colomba means ‘dove’ and the cake is baked in the shape of a bird to symbolise peace. The recipe is similar to that of a Christmas panettone, studded with candied citrus peel and sometimes almonds, and with a glass of our local Vinsanto (dessert wine) of Chianti, it is a fitting way to finish off a delightful Easter meal.
7. A Pisolino after Lunch
The wonderful thing about enjoying a long lunch in Tuscany (or anywhere in Italy) is that it is absolutely acceptable (and in most cases recommended) to enjoy a pisolino – a word of Tuscan origin, meaning ‘nap’ or a sonnellino (a ‘little sleep’), either on the couch or it’s even acceptable to curl up in bed for an hour. We’ll probably enjoy some time on the couch talking amongst friends, with a little doze here and there. Ah, the slow life….
8. A Tuscan Sunset
They say that Spring is one of the best seasons to watch a sunset in Italy, and particularly in Tuscany, as the clear skies and sunlight give the sky unique shades of orange, red or indigo.
To wrap up our Easter week and continue to enjoy Tuscany this Spring, we’ll be sure to catch the ‘magic hour’ at a few of our favourite sunset spots across Chianti. Keep an eye on our social channels to enjoy some of these with us.