Celebrating Easter in Bologna

“Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.”

Spend Christmas with your family and Easter with whomever you’d like.

This popular Italian expression sums up perfectly the importance of these two holidays in Italy. Christmas is a sacred time to be spent at home with your family. Easter, while also a very holy holiday, is a time for many Italians to travel with friends or spend time with their significant other’s family.

After three years of living in Italy, I seemed to have adapted to this expression quite well. I have always returned home to the U.S. to spend time with my family for the Christmas holidays and many of my non-Italian friends do the same.

Yet Easter is another story.

Uova di Pasqua

Easter is the time I spend in Bologna. For the past two years, my British roommate (who goes by “M.S.” on this blog) and I have stayed in Bologna and celebrated Easter together. In part because there usually isn’t enough time off from work to go all the way back home, but also because now, we have a little Easter tradition going.

The day before Easter, M.S. and I prepare for our Easter lunch. Every year M.S. prepares her hot cross buns, and every year she gets better and better at doing it. Last year we had a right disaster with whipped cream. Since buying ready-made whipped cream in the supermarket is nearly impossible, we tried to make our own but failed to use the right kind of sugar, leaving us with nothing but sugary liquid cream. We ended up going down to the only gelateria open on Easter to buy some panna for our trifle.

Adopting the Italian tradition, we also always buy Colomba – a cake similar to the Christmas panettone, but shaped like dove bird and covered in sugared almonds. Out of all the Italian holiday cakes, Colomba is definitely my favorite.

I mean look at how DELICIOUS it looks!—>


The day of Easter, I wake up to the wonderful aroma of hot cross buns coming fresh out of the oven (as M.S. is already up and cooking), as well as the beautiful sight of a giant Colomba cake on the kitchen table and other Easter treats our families have sent us. Soon after, we eat lunch together, until we have stuffed ourselves ‘pieno come un uovo’ – full like an egg, as they say in Italy.

Easter in Bologna

As anyone living in Italy can tell you, holiday traditions are never the same from one region to the next, particularly in terms of food. I have polled my Italian students several times about what they typically eat on Easter. One Pugliese student replied, “lamb”, while another student from Basilicata told me he normally eats horsemeat. My students from Campania cheerfully described their casatiello, a sort of savory pie stuffed with eggs, salami, and cheese, as well as a sweet ricotta pie called pastiera. Of course, all my students were well familiar with colomba (sweet, yeast based bread with sugared almonds on top) and uova di pasqua (chocolate eggs).

Italian Chocolate eggs are currently taking over the supermarket, bakery windows and pretty much torment me at every place I frequent.

Uova di Pasqua

Anyone want to guess how much this giant Uova di Pasqua costs???

Giant Uova di Pasqua

Famous for being one of the more “golosa” or gluttonous cities in Italy (in a good way), Bologna is certainly no exception when it comes to having its unique Easter dishes. Like every other holiday and special Sunday lunch, tortellini in brodo, or tortellini in broth, is a must (anyone who lives in Bologna knows very well that the word “Sunday lunch” is practically synonymous with tortellini in brodo). This is the staple dish of Bologna and the Bolognesi simply can’t live without it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a special occasion or not, tortellini in brodo are always served at the Bolognese table.

Lasagne is also a popular first course for Easter lunch, sometimes prepared with spinach or aspargus. A common accompaniment or starter might be piadina, crescentine or tigelle –types of “bread” typically found in Emilia-Romagna, served with mortadella, prosciutto and squacerone cheese. A common second course is roasted lamb or a rack of lamb.

Much like the rest of Itay, uova di Pasqua, or chocolate eggs, are also a must. While most Italians buy their chocolate eggs from the supermarket by brand names such as Kinder, Lindt or Baui, a Bolognese might make a special trip to get their eggs from a local chocolatier, such as Majani (Via Carbonesi 5)- a famous Bolognese chocolate shop, well known for its creation of the FIAT Cremino chocolate. Other specialty food stores, such as Drogheria della Pioggia (Via Galliera 27), often sell a variety of top quality chocolates and other Easter treats.

Majani Chocolate Egg

Colomba is also typically enjoyed in Bologna, and can be bought from a quality local bakery, such as Paolo Atti & Figli (Via Caprarie 7). Although this year I will be buying my Colomba from a little market called La Terra del Tempo del Bene (Via Galliera 31), as they are selling SUPREME quality Colomba cakes from a bakery in Milan.

What makes their Colomba so good? The secret lies behind a vaulted room somewhere in Milan. Since it would take me an entire post to explain, check back on Wednesday for an new post dedicated only to Colomba (I just love Colomba so much, I couldn’t resist myself!).

The day after Easter is called La Pasquetta, or “Easter Monday”. This is a free day from work for most Italians, a much needed opportunity to recover after the long and exhausting day of spending time with friends and family, and indulging in exorbitant amounts of food. The typical way to spend Pasquetta in Bologna is to go for a passeggiata, “a little walk” in the city center, or, for those looking to burn a few extra calories, a walk to San Luca.

easter_bologna2This year, several museums in Bologna will be open during Easter and Easter Monday, which could serve as another great way to take a break from eating and other Easter festivities. Click here for the complete list of museums, exhibitions and opening times.

Buona Pasqua tutti!

2 comments on “Celebrating Easter in Bologna

  1. Hello Sarah,
    we just came back from Bologna, with your ‘What to Eat’ section as a guide and that worked out pretty well! In fact, we got compliments with our (=your) choice of restaurants by a friendly Italian man, who saw us wrestling with our list of restaurants and our city maps and spontaneously gave us tips what to visit and where to eat. His suggestions included Trattoria Tony and La Traviata. When we told him we already went to both places, he seemed very surprised!
    Thanks, and keep up the good work!
    Linda & Frank, Belgium