Thousands of pilgrims will head to Rome to celebrate Easter
For many tourists considering taking a city break in Rome the Easter period is a time they will want to avoid at all costs. It is a certain fact that the city will be heaving with people for the whole of the Easter weekend. However, for many Catholics this is a price worth paying. Many will make a pilgrimage to Rome to hear the Pope give Mass on Easter Sunday and hear the Papal Blessing, which is broadcast to the world.
“All roads led to Rome” goes the saying, and during the 18th century many young English gentlemen would round off their education with a Grand Tour ending up in Rome at Easter. Even today the Easter period tends to herald the start of the main sightseeing season in the city.
On Good Friday at 9.15pm Pope Francis will lead the ritual of the Stations of the Cross (Via Crucis) at the Colosseum. This candlelit procession commemorates the fourteen stages of Christ’s Passion. The Stations of the Via Crucis were placed at the Colosseum in 1744 by Pope Benedict XIV, in honour of the martyrs who were killed there in ancient times. Thousands of pilgrims gather with torches to follow this solemn procession, which coincides with classical music concerts in many churches. A huge cross with burning torches will light the sky as the Stations of the Cross are described in several languages.
On Easter Sunday the Pope will lead a huge open-air Mass in St Peter’s Square at 1015am, followed at noon by the Pope’s Easter Blessing known as the Urbi et Orbi (to the City and to the World) in the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica.
Many of Rome’s classic sights will be shut on Good Friday and Easter Sunday including the Vatican Museums, and on the other days all the sights such as the Colosseum and Forum will be extremely busy. It will certainly be essential to pre-book tickets for the Colosseum. A large number of restaurants are likely to be closed on Easter Sunday and Monday. It is tradition in Italy to eat lamb at Easter. A typical dessert is the ‘Pastiera di Grana’ a special Easter wheat and ricotta tart, and the Colomba di Pasqua, a dove shaped bread made with almonds, sugar and egg whites.
Easter Monday is known as Pasquetta in Italy – literally “Little Easter”. The usual custom on Pasquetta is to go out – usually for a picnic, or perhaps to a restaurant. Weather permitting many people will make their way to one of Rome’s parks such as the Villa Borghese, Villa Ada or Villa Pamphili to enjoy a picnic. There’s usually a wonderful atmosphere, particularly if the weather is warm and the sun comes out!