Celebrating Easter in Italy with Feasts & Festivals

by Ashley in Italy /
Ashley in Italy's picture
Apr 06, 2010 / 0 comments

Italian Easter Bread


In Central Italy's region of Le Marche we are all abuzz for Easter!
Le nonne (the grandma’s) are busy baking crescia di pasqua (a local Marche Easter bread in two types:sweet or dolce & the more common savory, brusca). I stopped off early Wednesday morning at our neighbor Pia’s house to visit with her & marvel at the 50 + loaves she had rising about the house (using over 200 eggs & about 6lbs of cheese). The most incredible (& hysterical) scene was in the bedroom: the special dolce (sweet) bread was snuggled up, wrapped tightly under layers of blankets (including an electric blanket) in their bed! Kept warm, safe & sound to rise slowly. (Before electric blankets they used coals from the fire!)

bread in bed

Other pots were nestled about the house around the fireplaces, stove & couch all huddled together. After a day of rising I returned that afternoon as Olavio had built the perfect fire for the bread in their outdoor wood burning oven. Twenty five loaves of bread in at a time- now that’s an oven! I had timed it just right, arriving as they are pulling out the first loaf of bread! Pia admired her work & the beautiful toasty golden color - brava!

wood burning oven with bread

We are all eager to taste the goods - so we closely follow Pia into the main house. She has cut into 1 sweet & 1 savory for us to compare. I have eaten the savory cheesy version many times - its nice, dry & crumbly perfect with a glass of wine. This was the first time to try the dolce/sweet version - which is a bit like panetone but WAY better! “I’ll just take a little skinny slice, I’m not really hungry”, but after a quarter of a loaf I realized I couldn’t stop eating it! That paired with the deep red wine & the homemade visciolino (cherry liquor) everything was going down nice & easy!! I returned home (with a bit of a buzz) in awe of these ladies & the work they put forth to offer up these loaves of bread as gifts to lucky family & friends. I was also so very thankful that I too had a nice bundle of warm bread to share with Jason (who'd been busy building a chicken coop as I was boozing it up with the grannies!)

Then comes Good Friday (with a proper fish dinner of course)- where almost every village celebrates with living scenes of the stations of the cross & a candle-lite procession through town. Religious or not it is always a sight to see! This year we visited Cantiano for its absolutely amazing play of the Passion. Talk about a production - gorgeous Romans arriving on horseback to an incredibly huge stage in the center Piazza of town, flowing costumes, huge cast, complete with lights, music & some serious over acting! As we made our way home we thought we’d stop off for a quick gelato in Cagli - wrong! They too were celebrating - however this scene was a bit more intense. Over 350 barefooted, cloaked & hooded men make their way through town with torches - oh! did I mention the hoods are white! It was a bit too KKK & gave me the chills! I had never seen anything this haunting before! Nevertheless, this ritual has remained unchanged since the 16th century.

Cagli Le Marche Easter celebrations

So today, Saturday we eat lightly because Easter Sunday lunch at the good Doctor Gaggi’s house we will be fed a feast among family & friends.

Buona Pasqua!

Ashley Bartner is the Living in Italy Editor for Wandering Educators.
La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking Holiday