Italy is famous for its carnivals, festivals and pageants – no more so than when celebrating or commemorating religious themes such as Easter . Here are some of them :
Scoppio del Carro, Florence: A huge explosion is detonated Easter Sunday in front of the magnificent green– and white–marbled neogothic church in Florence’s centro storico. Instead of running in fear from a terrorist’s bomb, though, thousands of spectators will cheer the noise and smoke, for they will be witnesses to the annual Scoppio del Carro—explosion of the cart.
For over 300 years the Easter celebration in Florence has included this ritual, during which an elaborate wagon, a structure built in 1679 and standing two to three stories high, is dragged through Florence behind a fleet of white oxen decorated in garlands. The pageantry ends in front of the Basilica where Mass is held. The locals practice the art of palm weaving, in which decorative crosses and other designs are created from the palms received on Palm Sunday.
At Vatican City there are a series of solemn events that culminate in Easter Sunday Mass. During the spring holy days that center around the vernal equinox there are also many other rites practiced throughout the country that have their roots in historic pagan rituals.
Elsewhere in Italy there are other Easter celebrations:
Tredozio: on Easter Monday the Palio dell’Uovo is a competition where eggs are the stars of the games.
Merano: the Corse Rusticane are conducted, fascinating races with a special breed of horses famous for their blonde manes ridden by youths wearing the local costumes of their towns. Before the race, the participants parade through the streets of the town followed by a band and folk dance groups.
Barano d’Ischia: on Easter Monday the ‘Ndrezzata takes place—a dance which revives the fights against the Saracens.
Carovigno: on the Saturday before Easter is a procession dedicated to the Madonna del Belvedere during which the ‘Nzeghe contest takes place: banners must be hurled as far as possible.
Enna: religious rites dating back to the Spanish domination (fifteenth through seventeenth century) take place in this Sicilian town. On Good Friday, the different religious confraternities gather around the main church and over 2,000 friars wearing ancient costumes silently parade through the streets of the city. On Easter Sunday, the Paci ceremony takes place: the statue of the Virgin and that of Jesus Christ are first taken to the main square and then into the church where they stay for a week.