Forget chocolate eggs – Europe is a step ahead of the Easter bunny with its spectacular celebrations of the springtime festival. Make this year’s one to remember, with fireworks, food and unforgettable experience in some of the continent’s most beautiful locations. Whether you’d like to stay in Hungarian castle, a former trade centre in Mani, or something else entirely, we’ll guide you through the most stylish places to stay during your unique escape.
Fireworks in Florence
Head to the front of the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo at 11am on Easter Sunday for an unforgettable celebration of the holy day. Dating back over 350 years, the annual Scoppio del Carro or ‘Explosion of the Cart’ is celebrated the same way today as it has been for centuries. Firstly, a carro (cart) loaded with fireworks is drawn through the street to the Archbishop of Florence, who sparks some flints which travel along a wire, eventually hit the cart and igniting a spectacular firework display.
If this event goes smoothly, it’s believed that good luck and good harvest will come to the city and its citizens. One place that is evidently reaping the rewards of this blessing is Villa Campestri – the first olive oil resort in the heart of the Mugello Valley near Florence. This luxurious hotel offers exquisite gastronomy and stunning guestrooms – you can even go and hunt for eggs at the ‘zen hen’ coop for a special Easter experience.
Splashing about in Hungary
In the old town of Mezőkövesd, some 130km east of Budapest, you’ll find an extraordinarily unusual Easter tradition. Named ‘The Watering of the Girls’, the ancient celebration involves local boys throwing water over young women – a fertility ritual with deep roots in Hungary’s tribal pre-Christian past. Expect elaborate costumes with a medley of vivid colours and floral motifs worn in the region, as well as folk dancing and singing from the locals.
Spend your Hungarian Easter break on the sunny slopes of the Cserehát Hills in Hernádvécse by booking up at the charming Hotel Vécsecity. The hotel complex, complete with former castle, is as opulent as they come. With old-world home-cooked meals and the scent of clear country air through the old swaying trees, it makes for a truly heartwarming escape.
Lighting up Greece
Traditionally celebrated a week or two later than the West, Greek Easters are an idyllic affair. For an authentic experience, make the seaside village of Kardamyli your next springtime retreat. On Good Friday, you’ll be able to watch a procession walk through the streets, as a priest blesses each house. As the clock strikes midnight on Holy Saturday, locals switch off their lights and gather in the main square with unlit candles. The priest comes out from the church with a lit candle and spreads the flame throughout the crowd, who then take the light home with them. Before long, the whole town is gently lit, leading to a wondrous display of fireworks.
Don’t miss the award-winning Kyrimai Hotel during your stay in Greece. Originally a trade centre built in 1870, the exquisitely renovated hotel showcases a fascinating period of Mani’s history. From two-storey rooms to intriguing attics, the hotel’s period features are an architecture-lover’s paradise.
Foodie’s dream in France
You can always rely on France to create a spectacle with food – and Easter is a time the country’s culinary finesse truly shines. The special day is celebrated with several courses, including a rack of lamb braised with a herb rub accompanied by wine. This is finished off with a sumptuous chocolate dessert and cheese board with baguette. Be sure to wish your company a ‘Joyeuses Pâques’, which is French for happy Easter.
If traditional French cuisine is big on your agenda, sample the mouthwatering dishes at the Hostellerie Provençale in Uzes. The charming chateau hotel is housed in a building more than 300-years-old. With nine beautiful rooms and fresh seasonal flavours enjoyed on the sunny terrace, the historic bolthole makes for a truly peaceful Easter getaway.