As with all holidays, Italians celebrate with a lot of heart and passion including what goes on the table! Easter, called Pasqua in Italian, is the most important holiday in Italy after Christmas.
Every window in Florence is filled with the signs of Spring and Easter. Florence is one giant ”Bon Bon.”
I have been fortunate to have spent many a spring season in Florence. On Palm Sunday, a friend and I once walked in procession to the door of the 10th century Badia Fiorentina. It was a luminous morning and as we walked solemnly through the narrow streets with hundreds of others, I realized how familiar this route would have been to Dante and Beatrice, who both lived in the neighborhood and knew this church as their parish.
And for Italians, there always must be spectacle. On Easter Sunday, thousands of citizens and visitors gather in the Piazza del Duomo and we wait with anticipation as an ornately decorated wagon that is 500 years old, pulled by white oxen draped in flowers and accompanied by a procession of a couple of hundred musicians and soldiers dressed in medieval garb, finishes its journey through Florence.
Representing a returning crusading knight of the noble Pazzi family in the year 1096, the tradition recognizes his bravery and one of his rewards was pieces of flint from the Holy Sepulcher of Jesus. The stones are used to light a sacred fire for the Easter celebration.
Once it arrives in front of the church and the conclusion of Mass, the Archbishop lets loose a dove-shaped missile into the cart, which ignites fireworks that the cart is loaded with. Lasting fifteen minutes, the Italians go crazy for this pyrotechnic show, called Scoppio del Carro (Big Boom of the Cart). The “holy fire” is meant as a blessing to bring abundance, stability and profit to Florence.
It’s thrilling to witness a celebration unchanged for hundreds of years. Even in Michelangelo’s day, it was already hundreds of years old! And we are here, as he would have been and all those illustrious Florentines through history who dearly loved their city.
So, after having church and spectacle, it’s time to sit down to a long and sumptuous meal and enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon in this most beautiful of cities.
I will not be in Florence for Easter this year, but I am going to make dinner for family and friends at my home. There won’t be fireworks, but I will do my best to create a table and food that feels like a blessing of abundance during this Season of Light and Renewal.
Here’s my menu. I’m happy to share recipes. Contact me at [email protected]. Better yet, plan on coming with me next Spring, 2020. March 22-29 and April 19-26. And maybe even better than that, ask me for a special offer for the October tour for THIS year! It’s Leonardo da Vinci’s 500th anniversary. October 19-26 – as usual, everything included except air.
Easter Sunday: Carol’s Italian Table
Antipasto: A Variety of Pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese with toppings of honey, fig and peperoncino
Braised Lamb Shanks over Cauliflower Puree
Spring Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon, Basil and Pecorino
Raw Fennel Salad with Parsley, Lemon and Pine Nuts
Dolce: Easter Rice and Ricotta Torta with fresh Berries
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