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Ostern in Rom

Easter is one of the most important holidays of the Catholic calendar and hardly a place in the world is so well known for the Easter celebrations as Rome and the Vatican City. In the week before Easter thousands of pilgrims from all over the world flock to the city to celebrate this holy day. Do not be put off by crowds or closed shops, because Rome has a wealth of activities and festivities at Easter that are of interest to pilgrims and ordinary tourists alike. Whether you happen to be in Rome for Easter or have planned the trip specifically for the holidays due to the holidays, here’s how to best spend the holiday in the Eternal City:

The timing

Palm Sunday:

The Easter celebrations begin on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday will be the 9th of April this year. Celebrate at 9:30 with a special Mass in St. Peter’s Square. The fair is free, but you have to get a ticket first. There is only standing room and the fair is expected to attract huge crowds. Since palm fronds are not so easy to find in Italy, olive branches are blessed and distributed.

Holy Thursday:

At 9.30, the Pope holds another Easter Mass. In contrast to the Sunday mass, the masses of man hold themselves here within limits. At another Mass, most of which takes place in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope washes the feet of several priests to depict the foot washing of the apostles during the Last Supper.

Good Friday:

On Good Friday, there will be an afternoon service in St. Peter’s Basilica where you can sing, pray and kiss the cross before you receive the sacrament. There is also the Stations of the Cross, where the Pope traditionally treads the Way of the Cross on the Colosseum. Starting from the Coliseum, the Pope and dozens of bishops, priests and other servants carry the public up the Palatine by candlelight, stopping at each station to commemorate the Passion of Christ. An interesting and absolutely unique experience, even for ordinary tourists: since the 18th century, the Colosseum has been the starting point for Rome’s Stations of the Cross.

Holy Saturday:

The Saturday Mass will take place in the late evening in the whole of Rome as a kind of vigil for the resurrection of Christ on Sunday. Here adults who convert to Catholicism are baptized and received into the church.

Easter Sunday:

The big day is here and the city is full of celebrations! The morning Mass is celebrated at 10:15 am in St. Peter’s Square, but it is best to arrive earlier to secure a good seat. This year’s Easter Sunday falls on the 16th of April.

All fairs and events are freely accessible to everyone, however, except for the Stations of the Cross, tickets are required, which must be reserved well in advance. Even with a ticket, the entrance is not guaranteed – the seats are awarded on the greyhound principle. Plan your arrival at least an hour before the start of the event, if not earlier. As soon as there is no more space, you will not be let in anymore. The tickets can be found on the website of the Prefecture of the Papal House.  www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/index_ge.html

“Pasquetta” and other Easter holidays

Banks, offices and many shops and restaurants are closed for several days during Easter Week. Especially on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, almost everything in the city is closed. Pasquetta, the day after Easter, is a national holiday. Many Italians use the day off to enjoy the beautiful spring weather during a picnic or while cooking with friends. As the Italian proverb says: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”, which means “Christmas with the family, Easter with friends”.

Plan your stay in Rome well over Easter, research which restaurants are open and reserve a table especially for Easter Sunday and Easter Monday! Even though there is not much of the hustle and bustle going on over Easter and many shops are closed, there is nothing more exciting than to take part in the festive holiday mood.

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Author: Gina Musso. Gina Musso is American and lives in Monza, Italy, where she teaches in a primary school and writes about travel, culture and food in Italy. If you want to read more of her visit her website, From Italy, With Love.