Pasqua (Easter) is a big festival in Italy and while each region marks the occasion a little differently, it is a happy, family-focused time. We had the pleasure of Jo’s parents spending the week with us. It made our family just a little bigger and gave us the fantastic feeling of connection with home.
In the Langhe it seems that nature throws its weight behind the celebration and in the week leading up to Easter, we had beautiful, warm days and the hills suddenly bloomed with spectacular wildflowers.
We hadn’t thought about the seasonal importance of Easter. But as it is celebrated on the first full moon after the spring equinox rather than on a fixed date – the celebration of arrival of spring is a big part of festivities here. This is very different to our experience at home, where usually we walk that fine line between wanting good BBQ weather for the beach, while waiting for the season-opening rains!
The difference in the celebrations between Italy and Australia were interesting to observe. Easter bunny doesn’t have a big role but they do give eggs to the Children, with the big thing being the surprise hidden inside the egg. As you would expect from the home of Ferrero, the chocolate eggs are enormous (I saw a lady carrying one that was twice the size of an AFL football) and the surprises inside are brilliant.
As is the way of Grandparents, the boys were spoilt rotten and have enough chocolate to see us though to next year! We were also spoilt by some of our Italian friends who bought eggs for the boys, chocolate and other gifts.
Typically, Easter Sunday is the day that all of the family gets together for the enormous Pasqua Lunch – think fresh spring vegetables, artichokes and asparagus, specially reared roast lamb, quiche-like Torte Pasqualine and the Colomba Pasquale (a dove-shaped yeasted bread with candied orange peel, topped with coarse sugar and almonds).
Good Friday doesn’t seem to be as widely recognised as it is at home and in Monforte it didn’t seem to be a public holiday, although there were services in the evening. Then on Pasquetta (literally ‘little Easter’ or Easter Monday) the Italians go ‘extra muros’ by driving somewhere, usually for a picnic.
The “boys’ adventure” as christened by Master T was principally focused on the Mueseo dell’Automobile and tour of central Torino with Grandpa.
The Museum was established in 1932 and has almost 200 original cars in a really well laid-out, modern building. The cars come from more than 80 manufacturers and provide an effective timeline of the development of the car.
The highlights included a copy of the Carro di Cugnot (built in 1769 with a top speed of 4kph); the Italia that won the 1907 Peking-to-Paris race; the first Italian cars (a 1896 Bernardi and a 1899 Fiat); a 1916 Model T Ford; the 1954 Fiat Turbina (top speed 250kph) and a whole series of Ferrari F1 cars. Even for someone who is not big on cars it was an amazing museum and Master T had a ball with the interactive sections.
Then, in the afternoon (for a complete change of pace) we joined Grandma, Jo and Master S in the little village of Pralormo for a tulip festival – this is the joy of Piemonte!
The gardens of Pralormo’s medieval castle are planted with more than 75,000 tulips and every April, when the flowers are in full bloom, the castle is opened to the public. It was a beautiful sunny day and the garden was simply spectacular.
In addition, there was a farmer’s market in the barn where we found some delicious homemade biscuits and cakes, and happily there was also artiginale gelato being sold in the courtyard – all of which we felt compelled to sample…
In all a perfect way to spend a spring afternoon in country Piemonte!