By Ellen Miller – Writer

Florence is one of the most incredible places in the world to spend Easter, so if you are among the lucky who will be in Italy in April, catch a train and land in the city. Italy in general is deeply Catholic, and Florence is certainly no exception, making the major church holidays like Easter widely celebrated in the city. Keep in mind that many family businesses will close down over the weekend since Italy’s also very family-focused, but it’s still worth it to experience Easter in Florence as it has been celebrated for hundreds of years. On Holy Thursday visit the churches of Florence to take a moment of reflection in front of the altars, which will be decorated with vetch, wheat and seasonal flowers that symbolize Jesus’ transition from death to rebirth. It’s a good opportunity to view the insides of the city’s churches, of which there are many. The Duomo, Santa Maria Novella, the Basilica of Santa Croce, and San Marco are some of the more well-known churches, but take the opportunity to step into smaller, local churches as well. Each church in Florence is completely unique and beautiful, so it’s a great time to take a tour of some of them. On Good Friday, travel to Grassina, 15 minutes south of Florence where four hundred residents of the town recreate scenes from the New Testament of the Bible, including the Crucifixion. It’s a truly unique experience regardless of your religious beliefs. Easter Sunday is definitely the highlight of the weekend for Florentines and tourists alike as a traditional ceremony culminates in a massive fireworks display outside in the main piazza of the city. The tradition originates over 350 years ago and begins with a wagon pulled throughout Florence by oxen and followed by a large procession. The oxen finally arrive in front of the Duomo, also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, where during the midday service a fire is lit by ancient (and religiously significant) stones and the Archbishop uses the fire to light a dove-shaped rocket which travels to the cart outside the church and ignites the fireworks. It’s a grand display that really doesn’t have any comparison, and it alone is worth the trip to Florence. You can see Mass inside the church but the real show is in the piazza so just be sure to get there early to snag a good viewing spot! Of all the experiences you can have in Florence, this is one of the most unique, so if you are anywhere in the area, be sure to head Florence’s way come Easter weekend.