Three months later my arrival in Sorrento, in the Christmas holidays, I have now also been able to experience some of the many Easter traditions that are unique to Sorrento.
Throughout the Sorrento Peninsula, each of the towns have religious processions during Holy Week, the week preceding Easter.
The three processions held in Sorrento take place on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and I was fortunate enough to attend two out of the three.
The first procession was the Processione del Giovedi Santo (Holy Thursday Procession) that started at 20:30 on Holy Thursday.
My parents and sister visited from the United States for Easter and so the four of us found a spot to stand in Piazza Tasso to watch the procession from.
Before I could see the people from the procession, I could hear the slow and solemn music being played by the musicians at the front of the procession.
Though there were many people lining the square, everyone was quiet, making the music echo throughout the streets.
The people in the procession were dressed in white with black fabric draped over their shoulders and they walked together in union down the street.
Those in the procession carried along with them symbols of Jesus’ martyrdom.
Younger children carried crosses over their backs, while adults walked with processional crosses and items such as the crown of thorns, chalices, and bibles.
This procession also featured, for the first time, a large statue depicting Jesus praying in Gethsemane.
The second procession I attended was that of Our Lady of Sorrows, or as it is better known, the “White Procession”.
This took place in the very early hours of Good Friday, beginning at 3:00.
There were fewer attendees for this second procession due to the early hour, especially on Via Fuoro where I watched the procession from.
The people in the procession wore all white and symbols of Jesus were once again carried along with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Though I was unable to attend the final procession (the Black one) in Sorrento, la “Processione del Cristo Morto“, I am so grateful to have been able to experience the two I was able to see.
There is such a sense of religious community in Sorrento, as so many people participated in and went to watch the processions.
It felt very surreal for me because when I was first leaving to study in Sorrento, one of the things I was most excited about was being able to engage with my faith on an even deeper level.
Religion permeates everyday life not only in Sorrento, but across Italy, with the many churches and street shrines (“Madonnelle“) and it was a wonderful experience to have witnessed the processions.
Other Easter Traditions
In addition to viewing the processions, I also engaged in many other local traditions, particularly ones related to food!
Every year for Easter my grandmother makes a pastiera napoletana that is one of my favorite things to eat each year.
Though this year I was unable to eat hers on Easter, my family bought a pastiera napoletana from a local bakery (it was really delicious, but my grandmother’s will always be the best to me).
I also got a Colomba which very closely resembles Panettone eaten during the Christmas season.
One of the main differences between Panettone and Colomba is that the former features candied fruits, while the latter has candied orange peel and is topped with pearl sugar and almonds.
The shape of the colomba is also meant to resemble that of a dove, symbol of peace and rebirth.
Though I did not get the traditional style of colomba, my family did enjoy a version that was filled with a chocolate hazelnut cream and topped with chocolate.
The last thing we got from the bakery was a “Tortano” , also called Casatiello.
This is a savory bread that originates from Naples and features ingredients such as salami and cheese.
Eggs (sign of rebirth) are placed along the top of the circular bread that have strips of dough crossed over them to symbolize the cross on which Jesus died.
The circular shape of the bread also symbolizes Jesus’ crown of thorns and the cyclical nature of the Easter resurrection.
On Easter, my family woke up early and went to mass at the Sorrento Cathedral before sitting down for a home cooked Easter dinner by my mom.
I loved being able to see my family after being away from them for such a long time.
We had come to Sorrento together a few years ago, but this time it was amazing to be able to show them around Sorrento so they could see what it has been like to live in this amazing city.
It was even more amazing to be able to experience Easter here with them as well.
I was really sad to have to say goodbye to my family, and I think they were even sadder to have had to leave this amazing place, but it made me realize how little time I have left of my semester studying in Sorrento.
I want to soak in all of the wonders of Sorrento in these few final weeks because I know it will be so difficult to leave this place that has become my second home.
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