In honor of Settimana Santa, or Holy Week, it’s time to learn about the Easter traditions shared by our friends and neighbors here on Lake Como. Sacred traditions are as religiously followed as those more profane this time of year, whether it is a passion play or a giant chocolate egg, a solemn procession or street markets with artisanal works of art. Italians often say “Natale con i tuoi, a Pasqua con chi vuoi,” implying that families have a duty to celebrate Christmas together, but are free to socialize with whomever they like at Easter. So, Palazzo guests and all visitors to Lake Como’s shores are very welcome to join the locals in celebrating Settimana Santa as we have for generations. Here are just a few traditions and activities you can expect this time of year:

Kissing the Cross in Como

From Monday through Maundy Thursday during Holy Week, an ancient crucifix, which is said to have performed many miracles, is displayed at the Chiesa del Crocifisso. Locals and visitors alike line up to “kiss the crucifix” in the annual Bacio al Crocifisso ritual, available from 6:30 in the morning until late in the evening. On Good Friday from about 3 p.m., the same cross is carried through the city in a poignant procession led by the Bishop of Como, who stops in front of the Church of San Bartolomeo to bless the city before returning to the Basilica for a homily and benediction.

Easter treats

One of the perks of being in Italy at Easter is the staggering display of sweet treats and elaborate chocolate eggs in the windows of the pastry shops and cafés. Of course, after 40 days of abstinence during lent, adults and children alike can’t wait to sin again – and the master chocolatiers and pastry chefs have their best temptations at the ready. Every child receives at least one chocolate egg from their ‘nonni’, and these treats seem to get bigger and bigger every year! So big, in fact, that not only are they decorated with ornate swirls and swags made of sugar paste, but many also have a toy hiding inside!

One special treat that only appears in the shops at Easter is the traditional Colomba. No one can quite agree on the exact origins of this dove-shaped cake – our favorite legend tells of two white doves that appeared miraculously and stayed perched on the standard of the brave Lombard soldiers until they vanquished the German aggressors from the north back in 1197. Whatever the real story, Colomba is a unique culinary treat in that most Italians prefer to buy this cake than bake it themselves. It makes sense when you contemplate the complex steps of the recipe that involve several days of making a yeast starter, waiting for the dough to rise and glazing the top at just the right moment. Your best bet is to find a good pastry shop and enjoy the cake, as the locals do, with a glass of Spumante after your Easter Sunday feast. We love Pasticceria Sancassini in Bellagio for our Easter treats!

English-language Easter Service

The Anglican Church in Griante near Tremezzo offers an Easter Service in English at 10:30 Easter Sunday. Constructed in 1891, the church was originally founded to serve aristocrats and intellectuals from the protestant north who came to Lake Como’s shores on the Grand Tour. It was the first protestant church to ever be built on Italian soil and still performs services and weddings in English during the summer. Even if you don’t attend services at the church, its striking striped façade, belle époque gold mosaics and ornate coffered ceilings are worth the visit!

Easter Markets

Easter usually coincides with the official opening of the tourist season here on Lake Como and the local villages roll out the red carpet for the first guests of the year. The public spaces are landscaped with spring blooms, restaurants that had been closed for the winter offer elaborate Easter menus and communities organize events to welcome everyone back. The Easter Markets are just one example, with many of the small lakeside towns setting up stands selling artisanal wares, works of art, craft foods and wines around the Easter holidays.

In Como, colorful stalls with unique crafts line Viale Varese from April 18-21. Everything from sweets and sandwiches to clothes and books as well as cycling gear and kitchen tools are offered in this popular fair. On April 20th, crafts and artisanal products are sold at stands on Piazza San Fedele.

In Lenno, a street market featuring art, jewelry and creative crafts made by artisans from the town and the region takes place Monday 22 April from 7:30am – 8pm in the main square and along Lenno’s lakefront promenade.

The town of Varenna is hosting a Festival of Chocolate in Piazza S. Giorgio from April 21-23, with a special concert on Saturday afternoon at 5 pm.

Across the Swiss border in Lugano, the Easter Market runs from Good Friday to Easter Monday from 11am to 6pm on the city’s pedestrian area, with over 100 stalls selling artisanal wares, gifts and local delicacies as well as performances by street musicians and entertainers.


Known in Italy as “little Easter”, the Monday following Easter Sunday is a national holiday and a collective day of rest and relaxation after almost a week of Easter festivities. Families welcome back the warmer days of spring, pack a picnic and enjoy an al fresco feast with family and friends. If you aren’t keen to DIY your pasquetta, many of the local agriturismi, or farmhouse restaurants, usually offer great menus featuring local delicacies and seasonal produce in a mountain or rural setting. One of our favorites is Baita La Morena, only about two miles from the Palazzo. This ancient stone farmhouse feels like it’s a thousand miles from civilization, but the hospitality is fit for a king!

Botanical Treasure Hunt

The Grandi Giardini Italiani is a non-profit organization set up over 20 years ago to help Italy’s most beautiful gardens receive the public attention they deserve in Italy and abroad. One of the most popular events they organize is a Botanical Treasure Hunt on Easter Monday and we are fortunate enough to have this family-friendly event at not one, but three of the gardens on Lake Como’s shores. This is not only a great way to introduce children (and their moms and dads!) to native and exotic plants, but also a day filled with surprises and sweet treats for the little ones.

Villa Melzi (Bellagio)

Along with free guided tours of the gardens for adults, Villa Melzi is offering an Easter Botanical Treasure Hunt on the grounds of this 19thcentury palace.

  • Villa Melzi d’Eril, Via Lungolario Manzoni, 22021 Bellagio
  • Open Monday, April 22nd, from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Visitors can do the treasure hunt on their own at any time, information is available at the ticket office near the Bellagio promenade
  • Entrance: adults €6.50, children go free
  • Information:

Villa Carlotta (Tremezzo)

This imposing, late 17th-century palace near Tremezzo is surrounded by 17 acres of lovingly landscaped gardens. On Pasquetta, children are invited to take part in a Botanical Treasure Hunt to help them discover, in a playful way, the flora and fauna found in the park.

  • Villa Carlotta, Via Regina, 2, 22016 Tremezzina (CO)
  • Open Monday, April 22nd, from 9 am to 7:30 pm
  • Treasure Hunts at 11:00 am (age 3-5), 2:30 pm (age 6-12) and 4:30 pm (age 6-12), places are limited, so reserve in advance here.
  • Entrance: children €10.00, accompanying adults (max. 2 per child) € 5.00
  • Information:

Villa Monastero (Varenna)

Get ready to pique your curiosity and discover the natural world at the annual Botanical Treasure Hunt for children of all ages at this 16th century convent turned palace, most recently owned by the famous patron of the sciences, Dr. Marco di Marchi.

  • Gardens of Villa Monastero, Via Polvani, 4, 23829 Varenna
  • Open April 22 from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm
  • Entrance: € 5.00 for the gardens, € 8.00 for the house, children 0-11 go free

Villa Erba (Cernobbio)

There is no treasure hunt, but Villa Erba is opening their botanical gardens to the public from 22-28 April, with guided tours available.

  • Gardens of Villa Erba, Largo Luchino Visconti, 4, 22012 Cernobbio
  • Open April 22-28 from 10 am to 6 pm
  • Entrance: € 6.50 or € 12.50 with guided tour