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Five suggestions for places to visit over the Easter weekend in Italy

With the Easter break just around the corner, you might be planning a weekend getaway. Here are our suggestions for places to visit over the holidays.

Traditional 'cart explosion' in Florence
Every year on Easter Sunday, a cart packed full of fireworks is blown up in Florence's Piazza del Duomo. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Watch a firework-packed cart explode in Florence

Tuscany’s capital is home to one of Italy’s oldest and most iconic Easter traditions. 

Every year on Easter Sunday, a two-story cart packed full of fireworks is pulled from the Church of Santi Apostoli to the central Piazza del Duomo by four white oxen. 

There, a dove-shaped rocket (the so-called colombina) flies into the cart via a cable, setting off a spectacular firework display overhead.

The scoppio del carro (literally, ‘cart explosion’) dates as far back as the early 12th century and is to this very day a beloved local tradition, with thousands of Florentines and lucky visitors attending the event every year. 

READ ALSO: SEVEN famous events in Italy you don’t want to miss this spring

This year’s scoppio will take place at 11pm. No booking is required. 

Follow the dancing devils in Prizzi, Sicily

One of, if not the quirkiest Easter tradition in Italy takes place in the small town of Prizzi, in the Sicilian hinterland. 

Dance of the Devils in Sicily

Masked devils fully dressed in red populate the streets of Prizzi, Sicily on Easter Sunday. Photo by Marcello PATERNOSTRO / AFP

Every year, in the morning of Easter Sunday, a group of masked devils fully dressed in red follows ‘Death’, who is clad in yellow and armed with a crossbow, down the city’s alleys, badgering the unfortunate passers-by to give them money or something to eat.

In the afternoon, the devils do their utmost to prevent the statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary from ‘meeting’, but a group of angels ultimately defeats them in an epic dance contest known as ballo dei diavoli (‘dance of the devils’).

The event, which blends old pagan rituals with typical Easter-time Catholic traditions, attracts hundreds of visitors every year. 

Watch a ‘racing’ Madonna in Sulmona

Countless religious processions take place all around Italy over Easter and, truth be told, these events are hardly ever a barrel of laughs.

The procession held annually in Sulmona, however, is quite different from those happening elsewhere in the country. 

READ ALSO: Five tips for enjoying Italy as a solo traveller

In fact, as the local Easter Sunday procession reaches the town’s main square, those bearing the statue of Mary on their shoulders start sprinting towards the other side of the piazza, where a statue of Jesus stands under a red canopy.

As the statue bearers begin their sprint, which symbolises Mary’s excitement in realising that her son is alive, twelve white doves are released and firecrackers are set off, adding a touch of cinematic drama to the whole scene.

Walk to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca near Bologna

People in Italy love to spend Easter Monday outdoors and one of the most popular Pasquetta destinations for bolognesi is the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, just south west of the Emilian city. 

The Sanctuary sits atop the Colle della Guardia, a forested hill some 300 metres above the city plain, and can be reached directly from the city centre through the Portico di San Luca, the longest arcade in the world. 

San Luca arcade in Bologna

The San Luca Arcade connects central Bologna to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, just south-west of the city. Photo by Grigorii Shcheglov on Unsplash

It’s a 3.5-kilometre walk from the start of the portico to the sanctuary, but the beauty of the sanctuary itself and the views available at the top of the hill will largely reward your physical effort. 

Access to the sanctuary is free of charge. Opening times are available here

Relax on the shores of Lake Como

Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy but has arguably no equal when it comes to the sheer beauty of its landscapes, which is why it is such a popular Pasquetta destination for people in Lombardy. 

The lake, which can be reached in just over one hour and a half by car from Milan, is the perfect location to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy some time away from the stress of the city.  

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Nine overlooked Italian towns you should visit

But, if you’re seeking a more active Easter Monday, you won’t be wanting for things to do.

From Cernobbio to Bellagio to Tremezzo, there is no shortage of small lakeside villages (and shores) that are just waiting to be explored and even those with an inkling for art won’t be disappointed as many historic villas and places dot the area.

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For members


Five essential tips to escape the tourist crowds in Venice

Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, meaning that getting away from the crowds can be tricky. The Local’s reporter and Venice native Giampietro Vianello gives his tips on how to escape other tourists.

Five essential tips to escape the tourist crowds in Venice

With its artistic cachet and spellbinding atmosphere, Venice is one of the most popular art cities in Italy.

But, with an influx of over 20 million visitors every year, the city’s beauty has long been just as well-known worldwide as its overcrowding problems as its streets, main attractions and public transport are regularly overwhelmed by tourists during high season (from early June to late September).  

Does this mean that long queues, packed tours and crammed water buses are something that you should automatically account for when planning your visit to the floating city?

Well, not really, as there are some essential steps that you can take to escape the crowds and still make the most of your trip.

Pick your accommodation carefully

Venice is divided into six different sestieri (or districts). The San Marco and San Polo areas are home to some of the city’s most famous attractions and see large numbers of visitors during the day.

On the other hand, Cannaregio, Castello and the Giudecca island (part of the Dorsoduro district) are all largely residential areas and see far fewer tourists.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

This makes them the best parts of town to stay in if you want to avoid a bagno di folla (literally, ‘crowd bath’) as soon as you step out of your hotel or B&B.

If you really value silence and tranquillity, you may also consider staying in one of the smaller islands around Venice, but remember: you’ll have to use public transport to reach the main island and your journey may not always be short. 

Ditch public transport if and when you can

Water buses, or vaporetti, on the most popular routes (to and from the Santa Lucia train station and along the Grand Canal) tend to get very crowded during the warm months, especially at peak times. 

If you balk at the prospect of standing next to dozens of fellow passengers in a tightly packed boat, then you may want to consider moving around on foot.

Venice is fairly small compared to other major cities across the country, meaning that, regardless of your destination, you’ll hardly ever have to walk for more than 30-35 minutes to reach it. 

Granted, walking may not always be an option (for instance, you may be carrying heavy luggage) and, even if it is, you may still have to weave your way through groups of tourists standing smack in the middle of a calle (street).

But slaloming around fellow pedestrians is still generally preferable to a crammed boat ride – and it’ll be free of charge naturally.

Get off the beaten track

As in the case of all other major art cities in the country, Venice’s most popular attractions, including the Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Rialto bridge, can get very crowded during peak tourist season.

Luckily though, the city has no shortage of hidden gems which generally attract smaller numbers of visitors but are just as enjoyable as some of the more popular sights.

Bridge of Sighs

Venice’s main attractions see very large numbers of tourists during the warm months, but there’s no shortage of alternative cultural sites worth visiting in town. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

From lesser-known churches (like the Chiesa di San Pantaleone and Chiesa di San Zaccaria) to the Jewish ghetto and the traditional gondola boatyards (squeri), there’s plenty that’s worth discovering.

READ ALSO: Five ‘secret’ places in Venice you need to visit

And remember: the small islands surrounding Venice – not just Murano and Burano but also Torcello, Sant’ Erasmo and San Francesco nel Deserto – all have their very own hidden treasures.

Off-peak times and after-hours tours

If you really cannot resist the allure of the more popular attractions, the best way to escape the crowds is to start your day early. 

Most museums and other cultural sites in town open at 9am and turning up around that time will likely save you a good deal of queueing. 

In some cases, you may also avoid queueing by booking your visit online and grabbing skip-the-queue tickets, though that is not possible for all attractions in town. 

It’s also worth noting that some museums hold special after-hours openings during the warm months (see these state-run museums). When visiting at these times, you’ll likely share the museum with just a handful of people.

Avoid restaurants in central areas

Restaurants in central areas (and especially the fancy canal-side venues) tend to get insanely busy during the warm months, meaning you may have to wait over an hour to get a table or may be turned away with a scusate, siamo al completo stasera (‘sorry, we’re fully booked tonight’).

Lunch in Venice

Restaurants in Venice, especially canal-side venues, tend to get extremely busy in high season. Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

There are two things you can do to avoid this: you can either try to book a table well in advance or you can move away from the more touristy areas (San Marco and San Polo districts) and look for a venue in one of the other areas, which is generally what locals do by default.

Speaking of locals, while it may not always work out, trying to extract tips on local eateries from residents is always worth a shot, especially if you’re looking for an authentic bacaro (typical Venetian tavern).