When it comes to celebrating Easter in Italy, there’s no such thing as “too much.” The island of Sicily, sitting right off the tip of the boot, is no exception. Here, Settimana Santa, or Holy Week, traditions go back centuries and take months of planning, coordination, and rehearsal for the big event each year.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful and ancient festivities can be found in Enna, the so-called navel of Sicily. Cries of “Buona Pasqua" (Happy Easter) echo through the streets like rounds of song the whole week through and it feels like every one of its 27,000 residents is involved in some way. Visitors flock from around the world for this most extravagant of displays and it’s truly worth the trip.
A week of elaborate ceremonies commences on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), lasting each day from dawn to dusk. Scheduled proceedings include a live reenactment of Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem, various parades between the 16 churches in town, decorating altars, foot washing rites, and, of course, music. The jam-packed itinerary is organized and carried out by Enna’s collection of confraternities or brotherhoods. These are no small clubs either with membership reaching over 2,500.
The real apex of Holy Week hits on Good Friday and it is a sight to behold. With thousands of incappucciati, or hooded members of the confraternities, flooding the streets of Enna the day is solemn, profound, and even a little creepy!
Enna’s streets are lined with eager onlookers who arrive to claim their seats well before things get underway. If you get there early enough, you might have time to grab a hearty arancini (fried risotto ball) from one of the many hole-in-the-wall cafés.
Or toast the day with an Aperol Spritz--the rich orange-colored cocktail topped with a signature Sicilian blood orange.
While the scene is packed, the crowd remains relatively silent as the mournful melody of the band resounds and the brothers begin their miles-long procession. In pointed hoods and colorful robes representing their different affiliations, the brothers sway under the weight of the massive statues of Addolorata (Holy Mary) and the Misteri (Passion of Christ) that they carry through the historic squares. Somehow, it feels both like a party and a funeral with excitement and sorrow simultaneously filling the air.
Day fades to night and the procession continues by torchlight. Lit torches suddenly line the streets and appear clutched in the hands of the marching participants. Ghostly and enchanting, the statues seem to float above their devoted handlers, gradually making their way back to the Duomo.
As the mounted torches flicker and wane, the city empties as quickly as it filled up. But there’s no reason to clear out just yet. Not without a meal. Enna is also home to its fair share of delicious dining experiences boasting long legacies. There’s a theme here. Ristorante Centrale is located in the heart of the city and has been since the early 1900’s. This modest venue is the go-to for homemade dishes and long standing local culinary traditions. And what says “Buona Pasqua" better than a full plate of pasta?