Easter is one of the most important holidays in Italy, and many cities and towns across the country are known for their spectacular festivities. But when it comes to food, perhaps no celebration rivals the “Arches of Bread” festival (also known as the “Easter Arches”) of San Biagio Platani, in Sicily.
Every year, in the months leading up to Easter Sunday, town residents team up to create life-size structures made of herbs, beans, and bread. This unique food-architecture tradition has its roots in feudal times, when Sicilians welcomed visiting rulers by constructing arches of triumph made of marble and other precious stones. San Biagio was a farmers’ village, so instead of marble, locals opted for arches made of bread. Even after visiting rulers stopped demanding ornate displays of welcome, the tradition survived and was adapted for a religious context. As attested by a document kept in San Biagio’s main church, the diocese declared that each year a portion of the harvest was to be used for building “arches of bread.”
Today, the tradition is alive and well, and draws thousands of people to this remote rural town every Easter. Over time, the festival evolved to become a playful competition between locals. The challenge is to recreate the interior of San Biagio’s church, complete with side altars dedicated to Jesus and Mary, using food materials. One team recreates the Jesus altar; the other tackles Mary’s section. Preparations take place in abandoned warehouses that turn into secret food-sculpting labs. On Easter Sunday, the structures, featuring pasta-and-rice mosaics, date chandeliers, and bread arches, are unveiled for everyone to see.
Know Before You Go
To visit San Biagio Platani, you can fly to Palermo and drive. Start on the SS121 and SS 189, then take the exit at Casteltermini. Proceed on the SP 20, following signs for San Biagio Platani. The festival takes place each year on Easter Sunday, and the displays look most dramatic at night. But since the town has recently struggled to raise enough money for the festivities, it's wise to check the website of La Creatività di un Popolo, an organization devoted to supporting the festival, or contact its members via the listed email address (firstname.lastname@example.org).