Sheltering in Place and Looking Back: Easter in Calabria

While we are sheltering in place this Easter, I have been looking back fondly on last Easter when Massimo and I were in Calabria to celebrate with his family. Massimo is from a small town in Calabria called Cinquefrondi. Every year on Easter Sunday, the main street and narrow alleys are filled with people from around the region to see a spectacular Easter procession called “l’Affruntata.” Three life-size sculptures – St. John, the Virgin Mary, and Christ Resurrected – are carried out of two historic churches in town.

The right to carry a sculpture in the procession is handed down through long lines of family generations. Some members of these families travel long distances to return to Cinquefrondi for the procession.

Of course, this year’s procession was cancelled due to the pandemic (for the first time since WWII) and I can only imagine the huge sense of disappointment these families and the entire town must be feeling.

L’Affruntata is not your typical procession! It is a reenactment of sorts. First, you see St. John being carried down the street, and then back up. Up on their shoulders, no less. At first slowly, up and down the street. Over and over! Then the excitement builds as they start running!

The Virgin Mary slowly appears on the street wearing a black mourning robe. St. John finally encounters Mary to tell her the incredible news that Jesus has risen. She doesn’t believe him, so he has to keep running up and down the street to convince her. The excitement continues to build and finally Christ Resurrected makes his way up the street with St. John and the three meet in the center of the street. Mary drops her black robe, doves are released, fireworks go off, and the town’s band erupts into a jubilant song.


Then everyone walks into the street to follow the procession up the street and the statues are returned to the churches. Massimo had the special honor of carrying the St. John statue back to the church. Isabella and I walked behind the band, arms locked. Then I realized that I wanted to get a photo of Massimo carrying the St. John statue but we were too far behind. Of course Isabella knows the back alleys, so she grabbed my hand and we ran as fast as we could over the cobblestoned alleyways and made it just in time to get the photos! What an unforgettable experience!

Our trip was also a wonderful opportunity to visit the many members of Massimo family and to see some beautiful spots in Calabria.

Gorgeous Tropea!

We visited Massimo's beloved Zio Rocco and he showed us his beautiful farm full of vegetables, olive trees, gorgeous lemon trees and adorable goats!

And of course, we sampled the specialties of Calabria. Wish I had all of that in my pantry right now.


We are so looking forward to being able to travel safely again and see friends and family in Italy soon.

Heather Dempsey
Heather Dempsey