Easter and Rome are formidable combination, akin to peanut and jelly, or as the locals say it: “burro e alici” (butter and anchovies) – they go well together. Starting Palm Sunday of Holy Week, the seven days preceding Easter Sunday, tourism in Rome is at its highest with Spring Breakers, Pilgrims and tourists all wanting to take in a little bit of Easter week’s events and enjoy the Roman spring. A little bit of structure can help you navigate the crowds and events.
Papal Masses are held throughout the week, which means you don’t have to be a part of the masses to be part of history. Following with the general audience mass on Wednesday, papal masses are on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday Vigil, along with Easter Sunday in St. Peter’s Square. Masses are free but require a ticket for entry. Though most reserve well in advance, it can’t hurt to ask.
Tip: Wake up early on Good Friday. The Colosseum ushers out its visitors at 2 pm in preparation for the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross). A uniquely Roman event, the Via Crucis is the Stations of the Cross evening procession. The Pope leads the torchlit 9:15 pm service at the Colosseum, whose surrounding area is engorged with spectators.
And if you are thinking of sneaking around the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums while everyone is crowding St. Peter’s square on Easter Sunday, think again. The Vatican Museums are closed on Easter Sunday and Monday.
Do as the Romans do and celebrate Pasqua with a feast of l’abbacchio (suckling baby lamb) on Easter Sunday. It’s a delicious Roman tradition and delicacy, but not for the vegetarian at heart.
Don’t forget Pasquetta, Little Easter Monday is a holiday as well. Everything is closed so that families and friends can relax together for a picnic. So put together a picnic basket with treats from your favorite local market or alimentary on Saturday and head to a park. Villa Borghese, the favorite park of Roman high society, has bike and skate rentals, merry-go-rounds, boat rides, puppets and more for children and child-like adults. If you don’t have time or patience to prepare a picnic, brunch at Vivi Bistrot, all organic and local food, in Villa Pamphili, Rome’s largest park.