Come on, you can say it. Also Venice lovers may admit that Easter is not the most spectacular feast in the city.
Apparently, it may seem so: no big parades, processions, or big ceremonies are organized.
However, with this article, we are ready to meet the challenge and make you rethink everything. So, be ready to taste the most different flavors and be enchanted by an old royal tradition.
Venice is ready to impress you.
Easter in Venice among the sweetest and tasty traditions
"It's Easter, it's Easter, I am so happy, we are eating focaccia and drinking eggs" (in Venetian, it sounds like: "Xè Pasqua, xè Pasqua che caro che gò, se magna ea fugassa, se beve i cocò").
Reading beyond the words of this proverb, it's easy to unveil what Easter means to Venetians. It's an enjoyable feast to eat simple food like focaccia, and to stay with your friends: in fact, as an Italian famous proverb says, you should spend "Christmas with your relatives, but Easter with your friends".
So what is this famous focaccia (fugassa, in Venetian)? It's a sweet flatbread, so sweet that there is no Easter without it, another common Venetian proverb says. It's round like the life-giving sun, and it's the food that everyone was waiting with anticipation during the 40 days of Lent, and that was served during wedding parties. There was also the tradition to offer it to the girlfriend's family to ask her in marriage, after having put a ring inside of it.
Easter is also a synonym to eggs, like we said. The tradition came from the East. In fact, Christianity and all its symbols arrived in Venice from Egyptian Alexandria. That's why in Venice, and then in the whole Italy, you eat eggs, sweet flatbreads (made by eggs), and tagliatelle, a delicious type of long pasta, made by eggs of course.
And that's how, in a simple bite of egg pasta, worlds and traditions, apparently far from each other, blend together in Venice.
However, Easter in Venice is also about history, so from the time of Ancient Romans and Alexandria will fly towards the golden era of the Serenissima and the Dogi.
Easter at the time of the Serenissima
Venice, a crossroads of customs and traditions which here mix and merge and then are taken into a new shape. Perhaps for that reason too, Easter seems such a peaceful feast, among so many sumptuous events.
There was a time, however, when religion was so important that the golden Saint Mark's Basilica had to be built just next to the Doge's Palace, in which celebrating Easter was very different. The pomp of the celebration was concentrated in the Basilica, with banners and decorations, but, above all, the display of the rich Treasury, and the Pala d'Oro.
But it didn't end there, and the best came soon after, when the Doge and the whole court went in procession to San Zaccaria. There, honored by the abbess and the nuns, they attended the Mass, solemnly recited by the Patriarch, and participated in the following banquet.
As early as the ninth century, the Doge was offered by the abbess the Doge's Horn, a headdress that distinguished the highest office in Venice from all existing others. Similar to the headdress worn by the Pope on extra-liturgical occasions, it was a symbol of royalty and magnificence. The first Doge to have received the honor was Pietro Tradonico (836-864), by the abbess Agostina Morosini.
And from the past, a new journey towards the present: how is Easter celebrated today in Venice?
Easter celebrated today among the golden walls of the Basilica of Saint Mark
Besides its flavors and history, Easter is also a religious feast, which preparations have their beginning during the Holy Week.
Starting from Holy Thursday, in fact, many candles are lit inside churches left open. The next day, it's time for the Via Crucis procession: many of them are organized throughout Venice but the most beautiful is the one on San Giorgio Maggiore. Could you imagine the breathtaking view of Saint Mark's Square at sunset?
Saturday is a free day that links to Sunday, when the Holy Mass takes place inside the Basilica, in the presence of the Patriarch.
About the Doge's Horn, no one has ever spoken again from the time of the Republic. However it is still present within the superior part of the city coat of arms.
So now, would you still be able to tell that Venice lacks Easter traditions?
If you are planning to spend your Easter holidays in Venice, take a look at Venice Pass. This is a tourist pass that includes transport, attractions and special discounts, perfect for a short stay in authentic Venetian style.