Easter in Sorrento is known for its historic religious processions featuring solemn hooded figures who silently walk the streets on the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday in a number of towns on the Sorrentine Peninsula. This is an ancient custom dating from the 1300s, and very important to the local culture; participants generally pass the tradition of the procession from father to son.
What is a Procession
Holy Week processions on the Sorrentine peninsula are ritual marches of hooded penitents and clergy who walk slowly down the main streets of town as tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ.
Each procession is generally organized by a historic "confraternita", or Catholic religious brotherhood and fraternity based around a specific church or parish. Every town on the peninsula is home to a number of different fraternities, so there are generally a variety of processions during Holy Week.
Processions can vary as to the color of the symbolic hooded costumes, times they are held, and music or chanting that may accompany them. Processions usually carry misteri, or symbol of the crucifixion, including nails, shroud, small purse containing Judas' 30 coins, or basin symbolizing the washing of Pontius Pilate's hands. Each procession is also lit by torch or lamplights, and include statues of Christ or the Virgin Mary, incense burners, and choruses singing hymns or chanting prayers.
All processions include a Miserere chorus, with male voices singing a capella, usually a Gregorian composition, at the end of the procession; at the beginning of the procession, there is usually a children's or female chorus accompanied by instruments.
- Sorrento: Holy Thursday at 8:30pm, Good Friday at 3am and at 9pm
- Sant'Agnello: Holy Thursday at 8pm, Good Friday at 2:30am (the white procession) and 9pm
- Piano di Sorrento: Holy Thursday at 8:30pm (the white procession) and 10pm (the red procession), Good Friday at 2:30am (the white procession), 2:45am (the black procession), and 7:45 (all three colors).
Late Night Processions
The most moving processions are those that take place after midnight, with a solemn silence and few spectators. Many bars and restaurants stay open late on those evenings so you can pass the time until the procession passes, and it's easy to move around by car at that hour.
How and Where to Watch a Procession
You can check times and itineraries for processions on processioni.com as soon as they are announced. Processions are held in Sorrento, Sant'Agnello, Piano, and Meta, all of which are linked by the local Circumvesuviana train or you can walk from town to town. Once you arrive in town, go to the main street, follow the crowd, and stake out a spot along the road.
It's also very moving to watch as the procession leaves the local church; the choruses usually sing along Corso Italia (the main road that runs through every town on the peninsula) and in front of each church, so these are the best spots to watch as it passes.
On the evening of Holy Thursday, we recommend going to Piano di Sorrento (a two-minute trip on the Circumvesuviana from Sorrento) where there are two different fraternities that organize a procession. From Piano, you can easily walk to Sant’Agnello with the procession held by the Confraternita dei Giuseppini.
On Good Friday, watch the procession in Sorrento, known as the "black procession” for the color of the penitents' hoods.