Southern Italian Easter Processions You Don’t Want to Miss

Easter is a very important religious holiday in Italy. This year, Easter falls on April 16 th, and the Holy Week leading up to this day is always quite busy as many are preparing for or taking part in a traditional procession that goes back generations – the Passion Play. Throughout Italy, towns, cities and villages organize this procession which re-enacts the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Here are a few of the most popular ones you’ll find in southern Italy.

Barile (Basilicata)

The small town of Barile with Greek-Albanian origins is located in the province of Potenza. The townspeople who participate in this procession, dating back to the mid-1600s, dress up in intricate costumes.

What is unique about this particular procession is the fact that along with the traditional Biblical characters, there are also two fictional characters: the Moro (Moor), representing evil and the Zingara (Gypsy) who according to Lucana tradition was the person who bought the nails used for the cross. The Gypsy wears a colourful dress, which reflects the Albania community, and is adorned with an extraordinary amount of gold jewellery. The procession takes place on Good Friday and makes its way through the streets of this town located at the foot of Mount Vulture.

Procida (Campania)

The Good Friday procession in Procida is one of the most popular in the Gulf of Naples. It’s so well-known that it was featured in a Dolce & Gabbana spot last year.

The tradition of this procession goes back to 1629 and draws many visitors to this small island off the coast of Naples. The procession begins with the sound of trumpets and is then followed by floats made of plaster and papier mâché depicting the various scenes of Christ’s crucifixion. The floats, along with wooden statues of Jesus and the mourning Madonna Addolorata (Our Lady of Sorrows), are taken through the streets of the island, making their way to Marina Grande – the port of Procida.

Vibo Valentia (Calabria)

In Vibo Valentia, as well as some areas specifically in the provinces of Reggio Calabria and Vibo Valentia, the Easter procession is called the “Affruntata” which is Calabrian for the “meeting”

Every Easter Sunday at noon, statues of Jesus, Mary, and Saint John are carried throughout the streets and squares of the town in a carefully choreographed representation and joined together in the square to symbolize the “meeting” after Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It is quite emotional to see the statue of Madonna race towards her resurrected son. As she makes her way to the resurrected Jesus, her black veil is removed to reveal a festive golden gown and blue cloak. Check out this video showing the Affruntata of Vibo Valentia!

Trapani (Sicily)

The Processione dei Misteri di Trapani is quite possibly one of the most beautiful and emotional processions in southern Italy. The procession, which takes place in this seaside port city on the Western coast of Sicily, is among one of the oldest, going back over 400 years.

It’s also one of the longest processions in Italy beginning on Good Friday (April 14) at 2:00 pm and ending the following day at 2:00 pm. That’s right, it lasts 24 hours! The procession is made up of twenty large, life-like, and intricately designed floats depicting the various scenes of the Passion that captivate you and make this procession so incredibly powerful. As the sun goes down, the facial expressions of the statues are illuminated in a way to accentuate the pain, suffering and sorrow of each scene. The heavy statues are carried by a group of people known as the Massari who move and sway the statutes in a choreographed dance known as the “annacata”. Here is a video which captures the emotion of this event beautifully.

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Image Credits: Rocco Lucia, Rosino, Salvo