Passion on the streets
At Easter all over Italy people take to the streets for a series of evocative re-enactments of Christ's passion. Let's take the via crucis . . .
A staggering 400 people take part in Romagnano Sesia's passion play in the province of Novara. Feel like something different? Go to Borghetto d'Arroscia in the province of Imperia (in Liguria) where the actors are magnificent wooden sculptures, donated to the village in the 1700s by the Dutch nobleman Francesco Vannenes.
Life-sized statues are carried with great solemnity through the streets of Assisi and Gubbio (both in Umbria) and Porto Recanati (in the Marches). While those of you who venture to Frassinoro (in the Apennines south of Modena) will be emerged in the mystical atmosphere of the Mediaeval abbey. If you like old music go to Procida, the smallest island in the Bay of Naples, where you'll be regaled by wooden trumpets, drums and other unusual local instruments.
Some of the most poignant and vivid ceremonies take place in Sardinia and Sicily and owe much to both islands' one-time Spanish rulers. Many of the traditional parades in Alghero are in Catalan. One of the most moving moments of Alghero's celebrations is the Deposition of Christ in a "bressol" - a baroque coffin gaudily decorated in gold plate. Sicily too has an abundance of Easter festivities, each one well-worth a visit.
If you're in Rome for Easter you won't want to miss the famous procession of the cross which starts off from the Coliseum and is led by the pope. If you prefer something on a smaller scale then head out of the city to Sezze or to Grottaferrata for Holy Friday's Greek Orthodox service in Saint Nilus' Abbey.
And finally, if you'd like to take part in one of the processions yourself then Barile, near Bari, is the place for you. Each year the participants are chosen by public auction!