Il Gusto del Paese April/Pasqua Newsletter

April 2015


This year Spring arrived with a “big bang” in Umbria! The vernal equinox (equinozio di primavera) coincided with a rare Total Solar Eclipse (eclissi solare) in Northern Europe, so everyone was out in full-force to see this rare event up close and personal. Thousands gathered in piazzas all over the region to captured the moment on their smart phones or by gazing through old x-ray films. Fortunately, no retinas were burned and a good time was had by all! If you missed the eclipse, don’t worry – you can catch the next partial solar eclipse in Umbria in 2022.

Solar Eclipse

Spring also means Eastertime (Pasqua) in Italy.  Italians considered Easter the most important holiday next to Christmas. Many cities and towns feature parades, celebrations and festivals showcasing local rituals and traditions. This month’s newsletter focuses on some interesting facts about Pasqua along with a calendar of events to enjoy in and around Umbria.

A famous Italian Proverb says,

“Chi vuol quaresima corta faccia debiti da pagare a Pasqua."
“He who wants Lent to seem short should contract a debt to be repaid at Easter.”


Happy Easter everyone!




Pasqua in Italy

Pasqua is a Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It begins with a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and penance (Lent) and officially ends on Easter Sunday.  


The 7-day period before Easter is called Settimana Santa (Holy Week), which includes Holy Thursday (commemorating the Last Supper) and Good Friday (observing the crucifixion and death of Jesus). Pasqua is a national holiday in Italy, along with Pasquetta (Easter Monday), one of my personal favorite holidays to make the Easter weekend just that much better.

Many communities throughout the country celebrate with religious processions and often decorate churches and public squares with olive branches and palm fronds. The largest and most popular Easter celebrations take place in Rome. On Good Friday (Venerdi Santo), millions of Pilgrims flock to the Eternal City to witness the Pope’s commemoration of the Stations of the Cross (Via Crucis) beginning at Palatine Hill and ending near the Coliseum. After the solemn procession, Pope Francis will offer a special Easter blessing.

Traditional Foods of Pasqua

Good Thursday is the official end of the deprivation of Lent so it stands to reason that food would play an important role in Pasqua activities. On Easter Sunday, Umbrian families gather around the table to enjoy regional specialties starting with a breakfast of Pizza di Pasqua (a savory or sweet bread) or La Colomba (a dove-shaped cake made with almonds, sugar and egg whites). Lunch commonly starts with fresh fava beans and pecorino cheese and then followed by roasted lamb and other meats, fresh seasonal spring vegetables and lots and lots of chocolate! 

And Speaking of Chocolate....

In Italy, children don’t wait for the Easter Bunny, but instead delight in receiving over-sized, hollow chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in foil or colored paper? Broken open on Easter morning, a surprise is found inside - a stuffed animal, a game or a toy!

Recently, Jennifer McIlvaine of Life...Italian Style took a group of guests on a private tour of an artigianal confectionary factory not far from our Villa in Sismano. Beginning 6 weeks before Easter, the company painstakingly handcrafts 2,500-3,000 chocolate Easter eggs.  The process starts by filling the egg molds with liquid chocolate then rolling them by hand to coat the inside of the mold.  They’re refrigerated for a few minutes to solidify and dry the chocolate and then a “prize” (little toy, necklace or even small appliances like a hairdryer or travel iron) is placed inside. Note: Customers can customize the egg with their own prize. The Easter eggs are finally closed and sealed, decorated and then wrapped by hand with bright, colorful paper!  Yummy and beautiful too!


A Chocolate Fun Fact...

What came first, the Perugina Bacio or the Hershey Kiss?  Facts are fuzzy, but we know that world-famous Perugina Bacio (a confectionary company based in Perugia, Umbria) was established in 1907 and started producing the Bacio (kiss) in 1922.  Hershey, on the other hand, started making the kiss in 1907 but only trademarked the name “Hershey’s Kisses” in 1924.  Hmmm...Inconclusive? 


The Eating Never Seems to End

After eating course-after-course-after course of Easter lunch, it’s not over yet - festivities continue with Pasquetta (Easter Monday).  The day after Easter, everyone packs up a picnic lunch and heads for the countryside. This year, Pasqua and Pasquetta fall on Sunday, April 5th  & Monday, April 6th, so if you are traveling in Italy during this time, know that many business and government offices may be closed on these days. 

Buona Primavera tutti!


Upcoming Events in April 2015


  • 3 Apr - Good Friday Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope’s Mass 5 pm.  Rome.
  • 3 Apr – Good Friday Via Crucis. Candlelit procession with the Holy Pontif from Palatine Hill ending at the Coliseum.  Rome.
  • 21 Apr – Rome’s Birthday (753BC). Festivals, concerts, and special events celebrating the founding of the Eternal City.  Rome.


  • 1st or 2nd Sunday in Apr - Tulip Festival.  Castiglione del Lago.
  • 3 Apr – Good Friday Via Crucis. Solemn religious procession from the Church of San Giovenale to the Church of Sant'Andrea along the historic center to commemorate the Lord's Passion.  Orvieto.
  • 3 Apr – Good Friday Via Crucis. The Church of St. Bartholomew presents a dramatization of scenes from the Passion of Christ. At the end, there’s a recitation of Lauda Jacopone’s "Tears of the Virgin."  Montefalco.
  • 4 Apr – Glory of the Risen Christ. Reenactment of the Risen Christ between bursts of firecrackers and the sound of trumpets in the Church of St. Bartholomew.  Montefalco.
  • 5 Apr - Easter Sunday. The most colorful, yet solemn Easter celebration is held in St. Francis's Umbrian hometown.  Assisi.
  • 5 Apr – The Scoppio del Carro ("Explosion of the Cart").  A folk tradition on Easter Sunday; A cart is packed full of fireworks and other pyrotechnics and lit for a rousing spectacle.  Florence.
  • Easter Season - Ovo Pinto. An exhibit of exquisitely painted Easter eggs, near Lake Corbara.  Civitella del Lago.
  • 15 Apr – 20 May - Cantamaggio. Festival celebrating the return of spring and the reawakening of nature from its winter sleep. Terni.
  • 20 Apr – 24 Apr - Umbria Jazz Gospel & Soul Easter Festival 4. Terni.
  • 25 Apr – Liberation Day.  National holiday commemorating the end of World War II in Italy. All over Italy.
  • Last week of Apr - Corsa all'anello in Narni (The Race of the Ring). Celebrations include medieval jousting competition where 3 horsemen try to snare rings. There’s a historical procession and other events.  Narni.

Links That We Like
Great website for gathering information about what is going on in Umbria.  A favorite of Il Gusto for old and new events, restaurants and just places to go and see.
Local Orvieto winery, known for the Orvieto Classico, but loved the Sparkling wine on a recent visit.  Anna Rita, was an extremely knowledgeable hostess, about the history of the area and of the wine.  Amazing setting, tasting with local cheeses and salami were fantastic.  She also offers cooking classes along with the cantina tour that I must recommend to the guests and return soon.
Carsulae is an archaeological site in Umbria very close to some of Il Gusto Villas, now one of the most impressive archaeological ruins in Italy.  Most historians fix the town's official founding to about 300 BC. Carsulae's growth into a major town only took place, however, with the building of the ancient Roman road, the via Flaminia, in 220-219 BC.  Great for a down day of touring, close, easy to get to and not crowded.  Great for a picnic.