Easter is one of Italy’s favourite holidays as it coincides with the first days of Spring and (hopefully) warmer weather. Many towns in Tuscany feature historical re-enactments and festivals that celebrate Tuscany’s Easter traditions.
Don’t be surprised if you see many people walking around with sprigs of Olive this Sunday. Traditionally known as ‘Palm Sunday’ this day is when the olive branches are blessed in Tuscany.
While Easter is a time for family to come together, there is also 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’. So many people go ‘fuori porta’ (literally go outside the walls, or get out of town) and head to the coast to take advantage of the long weekend. There is no Easter Bunny in Italy but still, most children enjoy receiving large chocolate eggs with a surprise (cheap toy) inside.
HOLY THURSDAY is the first day of the Easter celebrations. Most churches will welcome followers visiting their altars which are elaborately decorated with flowers meant to pay respect to Jesus during his time of death and to celebrate His rebirth. This is also the day that historically the Pan di Ramerino (Easter fruit and rosemary buns) were made and blessed by the priest.
GOOD FRIDAY is when you may catch a glimpse of one of the many religious processions that parade through the city centers of many towns in Tuscany. Usually participants are dressed up in historic costumes as they proceed through the streets with a statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus on their shoulders. In Grassina, a small town just 15 minutes from Florence there is the incredible reenactment of the Passion of Christ in which over five hundred locals come together to perform. The procession passes through the city’s center while close by the scenes of Christ are reenacted with narration and music. The show starts at 9pm and tickets cost €20. For more information you can look at their website
EASTER SUNDAY is the big day for celebration and Florence celebrates with the Scoppio del Carro – the Explosion of the Cart, which you can read more about in the latest issue of This Tuscan Life. If you wish to attend mass, you can go to any church to take part in an Italian service. Easter Sunday is also when people take their eggs to church to be blessed – raw, hard-boiled or even chocolate. The eggs are then taken home and eaten. If hard-boiled, they are usually chopped up into a broth. If you decide to cook your own Easter lunch, don’t be surprised by the high prices of lamb as it is the traditional meal of the day and so in high demand.
PASQUETTA is Easter Monday in Italy and it is a national holiday celebrating Jesus after His resurrection. This is definitely the day when everyone heads out of town, mostly to eat out at their favourite restaurants or a favourite past-time is to picnic if the weather is good. Greve in Chianti holds an Antique Market every Easter Monday.
When writing the April issue of This Tuscan Life, I was very excited that the seasonal recipes were focused on Easter as the foods are some of my favourite. Together with the help of Chef Arturo Dori and Barman Thomas Martini, we’ve put together a menu for the day, which includes a pre-lunch cocktail to ensure your Tuscan celebration is done properly!
But first, you’re going to need a traditional Tuscan Easter breakfast. An antique recipe passed down from one Tuscan generation to another, the Pan di Ramerino is a delicious fruit bun made with sultanas and the addition of fresh rosemary. Traditionally these buns were made and blessed by the local priest on Easter Thursday and only found during Easter time, but now these delicious buns can be found all year round. You might need to make these the night before as they need to rise for three hours!
The word, ‘Ramerino’ means Rosemary in Tuscan dialect and it is this herb which give these buns their unique flavour. To bring out the best when baking these, we suggest you use fresh rosemary and a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
These buns remind me of the hot-cross buns that I grew up with at Easter and so I usually like to eat them in the same manner; cut in half, toasted and then smothered with butter! The beautiful buns in the photos below are from my local Bottega di Pasticceria. This place is definitely worth the visit as their pastries and cakes are delicious and beautiful and just very hard to resist!
April’s cocktail takes it’s inspiration from the Ramos Ginn Fizz. Keeping in the Easter ‘egg’ spirit, Thomas created his version of this classic cocktail invented by Henry C.Ramos in 1888 at his bar, the Imperial Cabinet Saloon on Gravier Street, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was originally called a “New Orleans fizz”, and is one of the city’s most famous cocktails. Thomas added a drop of Cinnamon aroma and Apple Juice instead of the traditional club soda and lemon juice. The key to making this egg cocktail is dissolving the sugar before adding ice; the sugar acts as an emulsifier, and it and the alcohol “cook” the egg white. This cocktail is surprisingly refreshing and a perfect start to any Easter celebration!
Lamb is the traditional meat eaten in Tuscany for Easter and so I asked Chef Arturo Dori for his favourite Easter Lamb recipe which was, ‘Agnello al Tegame con Aglio & Rosmarino’ (Rosemary & Garlic Lamb casserole) accompanied with lemon peas. As I needed to photograph the dish, I made this recipe last weekend for our family lunch. My husband, Emiliano said it was the best lamb he had ever tasted and considering he is not usually a big fan of lamb, I took this as a huge compliment! My 2.5 year old, Thomas also reached over with his bread to mop up the sauce left in the platter so I think this meal will be a huge success for your family Easter lunch too and I will definitely be making it again!
You can find all of the above recipes in my SPRING Ebook of
This Tuscan Life