Thinking about spending the Easter holidays in Florence?
It can be a great time to visit Florence so keep reading to find out all about the Easter celebrations.
Easter is traditionally the weekend when ‘high season’ kicks off in Italy.
Not only do more and more foreign tourists flock to Italy in the months after the Easter festivities, for Italians it’s usually the first weekend in which they start going out and about a bit more.
Along the Italian coastline the beach bars start reopening after winter closure, most gelato places will have longer opening hours and very importantly, the weather tends to get better and better from Easter onwards.
On this page we'll be talking about:
There is a lot to do during the Easter period, with some key dates to be aware of:
A big tradition is bringing your eggs to church.
Yes, you read that right!
Italians, especially outside of the big cities, will take a basket of boiled eggs to the church, to have them blessed by their local priest.
Don’t be surprised if you see people walking around with baskets full of eggs, even the chocolate ones, heading for a church service!
On Easter Monday many Italians head out to the beach or countryside, for their own leisurely picnic alongside family and friends.
The culinary tradition is to use up leftovers from lunch the day before.
Depending on when Easter takes place, the citrus trees in the Boboli gardens will already be out (if Easter is a bit later in April).
Head for the ‘Vasca dell’isola’ to admire them.
Around this time of year, the garden is at its most beautiful, with its main attraction in full bloom.
From the beginning of April the wisteria start to bloom, which cover a tunnel located at one of the highest points in the garden.
From here you'll also have beautiful views of the city, surrounded by the gorgeous purple flowers.
If you go during Easter, make sure to check opening hours and come early.
The wisteria has become famous over the past seasons and people tend to line up to admire them during the weekends.
While Florence celebrates you are free to explore the city as normal during your trip.
It's a good idea to book entrance in advance where possible, as there will be lots of people visiting.
There will be an Easter mass at churches all over the city, but here's what to expect from the main basilicas that day:
These services are generally well attended, especially the main one at the Duomo, so make sure to arrive with plenty of time to secure a seat.
The most famous and important tradition in Florence for Easter is the so-called ‘Lo Scoppio del Carro’, which translates as 'explosion of the cart'.
However, it’s probably not (just) what you think it is.
This tradition dates back more than 900 years to the time of the First Crusade.
It's said a Florentine man was the first to scale Jerusalem's walls during the conflict, and was rewarded for his bravery by being gifted three flints (used to start fires) from the great Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
He brought these flints back to Florence, and it became tradition to start fires from these flints at Easter, with torches paraded around the city.
This evolved over time into the tradition we see today, where a cart carrying a large candle lit by the sacred flint is pulled through Florence to the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore to allow people to light their own fires.
In 1622 the elaborate cart still in use today was built, designed to hold fireworks mounted on the different levels, which are lit by the same sacred flint.
The flint pieces are kept in the small church of Santi Apostali in Piazza del Limbo, near the Ponte Vecchio.
The event takes place at around 10AM on Easter Sunday in the Piazza Duomo.
It all starts with the ‘Brindellone’ (the name of the cart) being escorted out of its home in via il Prato.
It is pulled by two white oxen and is escorted by around 150 people, including musicians and people in traditional Florentine costumes.
In the past an actual dove had the important job of setting the cart on fire, but as you can imagine this led to some problems every now and then!
Therefore, the real dove was replaced with a small rocket shaped like a dove that ‘flies’ along a line spun between the altar inside the cathedral out to the cart in front of the building.
Around 11AM Florence’s archbishop from the altar lights the holy fire which pushes the dove shaped rocket (known as the colombina) forward along the string.
In a blink of an eye, the dove makes her way out of the building and reaches the cart.
There, if it lands correctly, the rocket sets fire to the fireworks attached to the cart and there is a big explosion from every direction.
For many Florentines a large explosion is fundamental, as a good scoppio is said to bring good luck and a full harvest during the year ahead.
Large crowds watch the great event in the piazza, so if this is an event you don’t want to miss, get there early for the best viewing spots.
A lot has changed in Florence over the last couple of years.
Where a few years ago everything was closed both on Easter Sunday and Pasquetta as Easter Monday is called here, now quite a lot of shops are open.
Restaurants rarely close on these days and often serve a special menu for lunch on Easter Sunday.
In Italy there’s a phrase saying ‘Natale con I tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi’, which basically means that you celebrate Christmas with your family, but that you can celebrate Easter with whoever you want.
This describes the attitude of Italians towards Easter; it’s a celebration where you go outside and meet with family, friends and basically anyone else you can think of.
Weather around Easter is usually quite good, with mild temperatures and at least a little bit of sunshine.
However depending on when precisely Easter takes place, it can still be early in the spring and so the weather has the potential to be more unsettled.
Rainy days and beautiful sunny days are both very possible, so make sure to check the forecast ahead of your visit and bring a travel umbrella or light jacket with you in case of unexpected rain showers.
As I said earlier, Easter is usually one of the first weekends when Italians start making their way out of their houses again.
This means lots of them head for their second houses near the beach, in the mountains or in the countryside.
It is also an important weekend for travel in Italy and in other places in Europe, as most European countries celebrate Easter.
So, consider that Florence can get quite crowded over the Easter weekend with both Italians and visitors.
Make sure to book tickets for important attractions in advance and check the procedure for attending religious services in churches, as Easter is the most important celebration in the Roman Catholic Church.
If you would like to enjoy a traditional Florentine meal on Easter Sunday, it's important to book this in advance as the popular places generally fill up fast!
No matter what season you visit Florence, here are 4 things never to leave at home:
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Of course, there is no way you’re coming to Italy for Easter and not tasting some of the traditional foods and snacks!
Definitely get yourself a huge Easter egg.
Italians gift chocolate eggs to each other (mainly to kids) and they usually contain a small surprise.
Get your chocolate eggs of varying sizes at local supermarkets or splurge on a super delicious version at one of the many pasticcerie (pastry shops) all over the city.
An Easter egg hunt is not particularly traditional but sometimes they are arranged for kids.
But these eggs are not the only sweets around for Easter!
Another very traditional food is the colomba.
For anyone who ever had panettone for Christmas, this is its Easter sister.
The colomba is a leavened cake shaped like a dove with candied fruit inside, covered in a layer of sugar and decorated with almonds.
You can find different versions in supermarkets, but head to a bakery to taste a really great one.
They come in many different versions, such as with pistachio or chocolate filling. Find your favorite!
Typical to Tuscany and Florence is the Pan al Ramerino, a sweet bun with raisins and rosemary in it.
It’s actually a traditional food for the period of Lent but has become a staple at most Tuscan bakeries all year around.
During Lent you will also find letter-shaped cookies at many bakeries.
These are called querismali and are chocolate cookies very much loved by kids.
As for the savory part of Easter food, eggs (preferably blessed) are almost always on the menu as well, prepared in many different ways.
Another important ingredient for a lavish Easter lunch is lamb.
As with eggs, it is prepared in many different ways and every family (and restaurant) usually has their own version.
You can also enjoy the special Florentine steak.
Many restaurants will have set menus in place, especially on Easter Sunday, so ask them for the possibilities.
Most menus will end with one of the typical desserts that we mentioned before but you can enjoy them at any time over the Easter holiday.