The Monday after Easter is called "Monday of the Angel" in Italian, but, more commonly, "Pasquetta" —a diminutive of "Pasqua"— Easter; thus "Little Easter." It commemorates the meeting (recounted in the Bible, above) of the risen Christ with his disciples in Emmaus, a village near Jerusalem, on the Monday after the Resurrection. To recall the disciples' walk from Jerusalem out to the nearby village, it is still customary in many parts of Italy for people, especially young people, to go on an outing.And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus…and they talked together of these things which had happened…[and] Jesus himself drew near and went with them… (Luke 24:13-15)
This custom easily
makes Pasquetta the most hectic, bustling day of the
year in Naples. Last–minute Christmas shopping, Mardi
Gras celebrations, New Year's Eve, rowdy bands of
football hooligans —all of that is nothing compared to
the Monday after Easter. Every teenager who is upright
and breathing puts on a knapsack packed with food and
sets out to go somewhere —anywhere. But not alone. They
travel in packs, herds, swarms, or whatever the
collective noun is for a carefree mob out for a picnic
in celebration of an event they no longer know anything
The Biblical verses tell us that Emmaus was about "threescore furlongs" from Jerusalem. If the translators of the King James Bible and I are using the same AA-cell calculator, that rounds off to about 7½ miles. It goes without saying that Neapolitan teenagers of today are not about to walk 7½ miles for anything or anyone, much less The Risen Messiah -- but they will take the train. The local narrow-gauge iron-horse that runs from Naples to Sorrento is called the Circumvesuviana. It makes almost 30 stops on the way out; many of these stations are on the slopes of Vesuvius, the most densely populated area in Europe. All of these kids populate densely onto that train on Pasquetta and go somewhere. I've been on that train on Pasquetta and had kids come over and sit on my lap, on top of me! They will also take the boat. I've been on the ferry to Capri on Pasquetta. We were packed to the gunwales with teenagers, each of whom carried his or her own weight in obnoxious very loud portable music toys, and I say that without even knowing where the gunwales of a ship are located.
All that may be in keeping with something else: I've just read about Easter Monday that early Christians celebrated the days immediately following Easter by telling jokes and playing pranks. I had never heard that before, and I am not sure how much better off I am now that I know it. The disciples did not enjoy such modern amenities as portable CD players and cell-phones beeping in 20 different keys at the same time. One wonders how they passed the time on their walk. The best thing to do on Easter Monday in Naples is stay home.
update: April 2014:
I wrote that a few years ago, but, essentially, the scene is unchanged. It's a moveable feast with kids wandering around all day. I had herds and herds of fun. There's an interesting change from a few years back, however —it's much quieter now. For the very young, when I wrote of "obnoxious very loud portable music toys," I meant such Stone Age things as portable radios, CD players and even (gasp!) cassette tape players, all of which had one very important thing in common —a very loudspeaker, phylogenetically linking modern kids to pre-historic scenes of Pasquetta, when teenagers marched around with wind-up Edison Victrolas, those things with cranks on the side and the large megaphone speakers. It was a bonding experience; the boy would carry the thing and the girl would trot alongside, carrying the extra cylinders and cranking... and later?...well, you never know. That's what bonding was all about. Today, however, there is an eerie silence about the moveable feast. Everyone is texting or otherwise cruising the internet. On normal days you see five friends on a park bench ignoring one another while they 'speak' to their cyber-friends. Today, on Pasquetta, you will see 500 friends moving in a slowly flowing tide of zombie-like silence through streets and parks while they bond, each on his or her own inner cyber-path to Emmaus. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I miss the noise. Text not that ye be not texted.