In Italy, Easter—or Pasqua—is a major national holiday celebrated on the first Sunday following the Spring Equinox’s first full moon. And Easter isn’t only celebrated on Sunday. It’s a week-long celebration with many religious processions and rituals, culminating in feasts and celebrations on Sunday. 

The day after Easter, known in Italy as La Pasquetta or “Little Easter,” is a national holiday where many Italians escape to the countryside for outdoor activities and picnics. With an entire week to celebrate, there is plenty of delectable cuisine centering around the holiday. Even if you can’t make it to Italy this Easter, you can always infuse a little Italiano into your celebrations at home! 

We previously created a Food Lover’s Guide to Christmas in Italy, but with Spring upon us, Easter has its time to shine. To help you make decisions about the dishes you want to incorporate into your own feast, we’ve curated a guide to the top Italian Easter food traditions for you and your family to try. 

easter in italy traditions

Italian Easter Traditions

Traditionally a Catholic nation, Easter in Italy is a time of profound spiritual significance, marked by customs and rituals that vary from region to region. While religious observances play a central role, Easter is also a celebration of renewal, rebirth, and the long-awaited arrival of spring.

The week leading up to Easter, Holy Week, or “Settimana Santa,” is marked by solemn religious processions, elaborate church services, and symbolic rituals. But, when Easter Sunday itself finally arrives, the towns become colorful celebrations of life accompanied by music, prayers, and festive cheer. Festival celebrations that always include food.

Easter Eggs are a large part of the celebration, as they are in American culture. Hard-boiled eggs are often dyed with pastel colors to be used in games and decorations. It’s also customary to exchange chocolate eggs filled with surprises. In fact, some of the largest chocolate Easter eggs we’ve seen have been in Italy, and often the high-end confectionery goes beyond 50 euros an Easter egg.

Another beloved tradition in many Italian households is the blessing of Easter foods, or “benedizione di Pasqua.” On Holy Saturday, families bring baskets filled with traditional Easter fare—such as bread, cheese, salami, and eggs—to the local priest to be blessed. Then, the blessed foods are enjoyed as part of the Easter feast.

From the North to the South, Easter celebrations are a time-honored tradition that many look forward to all year—for both the joyous celebrations with family and the food! 

The Ultimate Food Lover's Guide to Easter in Italy

Traditional Easter Foods

In Italy, Easter is synonymous with indulgent feasting and culinary delights. From succulent roasts to delicate pastries, the Easter table overflows with dishes that symbolize abundance, renewal, and the bounty of spring. Let’s explore some of the traditional foods that grace Italian tables during this festive season:

  • Agnello (Lamb): Perhaps the most iconic Easter dish in Italy, this is a favorite for many families. The roast lamb is seasoned with aromatic herbs and garlic, particularly in Central and Southern regions. If you’re dining out on Easter Sunday in Italy, you’ll find that lamb is ubiquitous across all of the set menus.
  • Pizza Rustica: Also known as “pizza chiena” or “pizzagaina,” this savory pie hails from the southern regions of Italy and is a beloved Easter tradition. Filled with a hearty mixture of ricotta, cured meats, eggs, and cheese, pizza rustica is a rich and satisfying dish that symbolizes the bounty of the spring harvest.
  • Torta Pasqualina: Originating from Liguria, torta pasqualina is a savory pie filled with tender spinach, creamy ricotta cheese, and whole eggs nestled within layers of flaky pastry. 
  • Agnolotti di Magro: In some regions of Italy, particularly in Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, agnolotti di Magro is a traditional Easter specialty. These delicate pasta parcels are filled with a savory mixture of ricotta cheese, herbs, and spinach, then served in a rich broth or topped with a buttery sage sauce.
  • Pizza di Pasqua: Hailing from central Italy, particularly Umbria and the Marche region, pizza di Pasqua is a fluffy and aromatic bread enriched with eggs and flavored with cheese, cured meats, and herbs. Served warm from the oven, this traditional Easter bread is a beloved staple of the holiday table.
  • Pasqualino di Cacio: A rustic cheese bread from Abruzzo, Pasqualino di cacio is made with simple ingredients – flour, water, cheese, and eggs – yet yields a deliciously rich and flavorful loaf. Traditionally enjoyed on Easter Sunday, this humble bread embodies the spirit of Italian peasant cuisine.
The Ultimate Food Lover's Guide to Easter in Italy

Traditional Italian Easter Desserts

No Italian celebration is complete without a selection of indulgent sweets and desserts to satisfy the sweet tooth. Easter is no exception! Here are some of the classic Easter desserts enjoyed across Italy:

  • Colomba di Pasqua: A close cousin to the Christmas panettone, the Colomba di Pasqua (Easter dove) is a sweet and fragrant cake shaped like a dove – a symbol of peace and resurrection. Made with buttery dough studded with candied fruits and almonds and topped with a crunchy sugar glaze, the Colomba is a delightful treat enjoyed by Italians of all ages. If you’re traveling to the Northern regions of Italy, you also may find this traditional easter cake called by a different name: focaccia. Yes, just like the savory bread! 
  • Pastiera Napoletana: Originating from Naples, pastiera Napoletana is a classic Easter dessert with a rich history dating back to ancient times. This indulgent tart is made with a creamy ricotta filling flavored with orange blossom water and studded with cooked wheat berries, candied citrus peel, and aromatic spices.
  • Torta di Ricotta: Another popular Easter dessert is torta di ricotta, a creamy and decadent cheesecake made with fresh ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and a hint of lemon zest, alongside fresh berries and whipped cream. 
  • Ciambellone: Resembling a large donut or bundt cake, ciambellone is made with basic pantry ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, and olive oil, which results in a moist and tender crumb with citrus zest or vanilla extract for flavor.
  • Zeppole di San Giuseppe: While not exclusively an Easter dessert, zeppole di San Giuseppe is often enjoyed during the Easter season, particularly in southern Italy. These light and airy pastries are typically filled with sweetened ricotta cheese or pastry cream, dusted with powdered sugar, and adorned with cherries or candied fruit. This dessert is also often included in father’s celebrations, which usually fall close to the Easter holiday in Italy. 

From rich and creamy tarts to light and airy pastries, Italian Easter desserts are something awaited year-round, much like Christmas! Read more on Italian Christmas Desserts. 

With all of these mouthwatering dishes on the table, you’ll need the perfect wine to accompany the flavors! 

easter in italy wines

Wines for an Italian Easter

The key to Italian cuisine is the perfect wine pairing. Whether you prefer a crisp white, a robust red, or a sparkling prosecco, there’s a wine to suit every palate. Here are some of the classic Easter wines enjoyed across Italy:

  • Prosecco: Start your Easter celebration with a glass of refreshing prosecco, Italy’s beloved sparkling wine. Prosecco is known for its light flavor, making it the perfect starter for your feast. The crisp acidity and delicate fruit flavors pair beautifully with appetizers and antipasti. For more information on what to pair with Prosecco, check out the guide by clicking here.
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: This wine is characterized by its deep ruby color and flavorful blend of ripe red and black fruits with hints of spice, earth, and herbs. Its lively acidity and smooth texture make it a good match for a wide range of dishes, from roasted meats and hearty pasta dishes to aged cheeses and cured meats. Read our full guide to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo here!
  • Pecorino: Pecorino wine originates from the central regions of Italy, particularly Abruzzo and Marche, where the grape has been cultivated for centuries. It is characterized by its intense aromas of citrus, tropical fruits, and white flowers, as well as its lively acidity and mineral notes. Pecorino wine is refreshing and versatile, perfect for enjoying on its own or paired with a variety of dishes. Like its namesake cheese, Pecorino wine holds a special place in Italian culture and tradition, symbolizing the rich viticultural heritage of central Italy – perfect for an Italian Easter! Read our full guide here!
  • Vino Cotto: To end your Easter meal on a sweet note, indulge in a glass of Vino Cotto – an Italian favorite in our home region of Le Marche! Often paired with ciambellone or other dark chocolate desserts, this luscious wine is perfectly indulgent. Vino Cotto traces its origins back to ancient Rome, where it was known as “defrutum” and prized for its sweet and syrupy taste. The wine is made by slowly simmering grape must – freshly pressed grape juice, including skins, seeds, and stems – over a low flame until it reduces to a thick, syrupy consistency. During this process, the sugars in the grape juice caramelize, imparting rich flavors of caramel, dried fruit, and spice to the finished wine.

These are just a few of the many wonderful Italian wines that can elevate your Easter celebration and enhance the flavors of your festive dishes, whether you prefer a crisp white or a deep red! 

If you are lucky enough to spend Easter in Italy, you may find that you want to go out to a restaurant with your family. Make sure to book reservations up to six weeks in advance to ensure you can get a table! Keep in mind that many restaurants and shops close for the holiday. 

Even if you can’t spend Easter in Italy, you may be thinking about planning your dream trip, whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned traveler. Italy is best explored with a backstage pass from a trusted local travel guide, and that’s exactly where we step in. 

Whether you’re a foodie, a wine aficionado, or simply searching for an experience that will allow you to live as the Italians do for a week, we’ve got you covered. Get started by grabbing your free travel guide!

 

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