Thursday, April 21

Easter in Italy: Festivals, Feasts & Slow Food

In Central Italy's region of Le Marche we are all abuzz for Easter! The butchers began taking orders for lamb days ago,  our neighbor Pia has made dozens of the traditional Easter bread slowly cooked in a wood burning oven and the villagers are ready for the festivals of Holy Week.

Slow Food

Le nonne (the grandma’s) are busy baking crescia di pasqua, a local Marche Easter bread in two types: sweet or dolce and the more common savory, brusca. What is becoming an annual tradition of mine, I stopped off early Wednesday morning at our neighbor Pia’s house to visit with her & marvel at the 50 + loaves she had rising about the house (using over 200 eggs & about 6lbs of cheese). The most incredible (& hysterical) scene was in the bedroom: the special dolce (sweet) bread was snuggled up, wrapped tightly under layers of blankets (including an electric blanket) in their bed! Kept warm, safe & sound to rise slowly. Before electric blankets they used coals from the fire!

The Festivals
Then comes Good Friday (with a proper fish dinner of course)- where almost every village celebrates with living scenes of the stations of the cross & a candle-lite procession through town. Religious or not it is always a sight to see. Visit Cantiano for its absolutely amazing play of the Passion. Talk about a production - gorgeous Romans arriving on horseback to an incredibly huge stage in the center Piazza of town, flowing costumes, huge cast, complete with lights, music & some serious over acting! In nearby Cagli,  the scene was a bit more intense with over 350 barefooted, cloaked & hooded men make their way through town with torches - oh! did I mention the hoods are white! It was a bit too KKK & gave me the chills! Nevertheless, this ritual has remained unchanged since the 16th century.

The Feasts
Saturday we eat lightly because Easter Sunday lunch at the good Doctor Gaggi’s house we will be fed a feast among family & friends. Traditionally we eat a big breakfast with salami, blessed boiled eggs with salsa verde, crescia di pasqua. Then for lunch cappelletti in brodo and lamb of course must be on the menu. I would be remiss not to mention that the boiled eggs are actually brought to our local priest to be blessed!

But in Italy we're not done celebrating on Sunday...The most popular feast day is actually Lunedi di Pasqua, Easter Monday where friends gather (most in the countryside) for a long leisurely lunch & for an Italian that means heading home around 7:30/8pm. They say Easter is for your family, Easter Monday for your friends (or who you choose). This year we are choosing to spend the day with our friends for lunch atop Mt. Nerone. For the first time on Lunedi di Pasqua we are the guests, normally we are serving lunch for 20+ hungry Italians, it will be nice to do nothing but eat - the proper way to celebrate the day!

Buona Pasqua!
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