Your hunt for the perfect Easter location should not go beyond Rome. With the Vatican City sitting slap-bang in the middle of the Eternal City, there’s no celebration like Easter in Rome. Most of the Pope-centric festivities of course take place in Vatican City, but Rome also offers so much more than that. There are picnics, concerts, processions, and one of our favorite parts of the holiday, traditional Easter food.
Easter in Rome
Contrary to popular belief, Easter weekend is not the most crowded time to visit Rome. The week before and after tends to be much more populated with Easter masses and vigils happening up to Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. The Monday after Easter, Pasquetta, is another national holiday in Italy so be careful as most shops will be closed on this day. Don’t worry though – this doesn’t mean everything is closed around Easter or that your holiday will be sight-less sightseeing. Here is everything you need to know to have the perfect Easter vacation in Rome!
Rain or Shine?!
A question I always get asked about this time of year in Rome is “rain or shine?” Easter Sunday 2018 falls on April 1st which is both a good and a bad thing when it comes to the weather. Generally, the end of March and start of April brings beautiful spring weather, but there has been a running theme of rainy Easter Sundays in the past. With Spring as a whole being a traditionally rainy period, it’s safe to say that a sturdy umbrella and light rain jacket should be on your “to pack” list. Temperatures are consistently mild, though. Expect mid-50s Fahrenheit and low to mid teens in Celsius.
The major worship days leading up to Easter Sunday are the Friday and Saturday prior. Good Friday Mass starts at 5pm at St. Peter’s Basilica. The same night is the anticipated Via Crucis, or the “Way of the Cross” at 9:15 at the Colosseum. Assuming the Pope is in good health, he carries the flaming cross to 14 stations and then proceeds reading a meditation to the patient audience. Catholics and non-Catholics alike enjoy this unique cultural and spiritual experience.
Holy Saturday is the next big Easter event. Starting at 9pm, a vigil is held at St. Peter’s Basilica and goes until the church bells ring around midnight, celebrating the beginning of Easter morning.
Easter Sunday is the most awaited day of worship. The mass begins at 10:15 and goes until noon, at which point the Pope leaves the Basicilia and delivers a blessing on the porch – Urbi et Orbi, or “To the City and to the World.” Tickets are free but an absolute must for the mass. No tickets required to enter for the blessing, however. It is important to know that while the tickets are free of charge, you must arrive several hours before the mass begins to guarantee a seat. The tickets only allow you entry to the basilica- if all the seats are already taken you will not be allowed to enter.
Here is a detailed and fully updated list of Easter events at the Vatican should you wish to make the most of the religious celebrations through worship.
Luckily, many of the main tourist attractions are open over the Easter celebrations, with the exception of early closing hours on Good Friday at the Colosseum. The Vatican Museums are also closed on Sunday and Monday but have normal operating hours the days before and after.
Most shops will be closed on Sunday and Monday, but fortunately most restaurants remain open both days. Many bakeries tend also keep their doors open Sunday morning to allow you to get your cornetti and Colomba di Pasqua (a traditional panettone like cake in the shape of an Easter dove).
There is no better holiday than Easter to eat your heart out in Rome. Lent is over and it’s time to consume all the Italian goodies on offer, from the regular chocolate eggs to Dove-shaped cakes!
Easter Sunday is the day for a long and hearty lunch at one of the classic Roman restaurants that remain open or in a family home. Be sure to feast on the seasonal treats like artichokes, spring pasta recipes, and Italian roast lamb. Yum!
Whilst in Rome, here are our recommended restaurants for your Sunday lunch:
A wine list that boast 1,200 different label, this is the place to be if you like wining and dining and are looking to really celebrate the Easter feast.
Just round the corner at the top of Gianicolo hill, you’ll find the coziest restaurant in town. A top location and gorgeous food – whoever you take here will certainly be impressed with your effort! We highly recommend the risotto.
Founded in 1518, this restaurant is known by many as the oldest still running in Rome. So much so
that visitors have included the likes of Caravaggio and Goethe! Oxtail, lamb, sweetbread, cacio e pepe pasta and artichokes. There is no shortage of options here as you indulge in the ultimate Easter feast in Rome.
Roma Sparita Pizzeria
Another restaurant serving up Roman classics such as cacio e pepe, artichokes and oxtail. If it’s not raining we suggest to sit outdoors to make the most of the ambiance, you are in the heart of Trastevere after all! Oh and see what Anthony Bourdain says about this place.
** Reservations are absolutely required – tell us which place sounds good and we’ll take care of it for you. This is a busy day for wait staff so go in expecting a bit slower than normal service. Order in phases, drink plenty of wine, and just enjoy the experience.
Celebrate like the Romans
On Easter Monday, it is customary for everyone to pack a picnic and head to a park or a nearby countryside town. My advice? Do as the Romans do and don’t spend your time at a restaurant on this day. Head to one of the beautiful parks in Rome, Villa Borghese or Villa Pamphili.
In between your meals be sure to stop in a Pasticceria, a pastry shop, and grab a seasonal tidbit. The colomba, or dove, cake is one of the hottest commodities this time of year and is supposed to resemble the shape of a dove, symbolizing peace and resurrection. Large chocolate eggs beautifully wrapped in different colors are my second favorite Easter snack….or meal 😉 The eggs are made with rich milk chocolate and hollow, surprising everyone with a different toy inside.
Easter is also a wonderful time to experience the musical varieties in Rome. Classical concerts operas take place in magical historical settings that will leave you feeling alive and captivated by this city. Truly something not to miss out on! Here is a list of all the classical music events in Rome by date around the time of Easter.
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*This post was originally written in 2016 and has been updated in 2018.