Although Peter Cottontail may be the most recognizable animal image during the Easter holidays in the US, a golden horse is more likely to be a part of Easter celebrations in Merano (Meran), a picturesque village in Northern Italy’s Alto-Adige. A 2 -3 hour drive from Milan by way of Bolzano it is the perfect spot to spend a long weekend that ends with Pasquetta or “Little Easter”. Celebrated on Easter Monday Italians take off for a trip to “la campagna“, the country side, for picnics with family and friends and to enjoy an extra day off work or school. Often called the Italian Shangri-La, Merano is located in the lush meadows of Alpine wildflowers of Italy’s Sudtirol, an evocative setting for a Easter Monday procession of blonde-maned Haflinger horses ridden by local towns people dressed in traditional Tyrol costume.
In the afternoon the horses take part in the Corse Rusticane at the Maia Racetrack, a historic race connected to the Haflinger (Cavallo Avelignese), a mountain horse breed which originated in the Alto Adige. The breed took its name from the town named Hafling, (Avelengo in Italian) near Merano.