I DON’T know how to break this to you, but there is no Easter bunny in Italy.

Unlike in this country where our children will venture out with their baskets, ready to hunt for Easter eggs hidden by the elusive Easter bunny, and the chocolate rabbits that we devour – in Italy there is none of that.

Easter eggs are given though; spectacular looking chocolate eggs wrapped in elaborate foil that usually have a gift inside, it’s just that these gifts are not left by the Easter bunny, the eggs are a symbol of rebirth and renewal.

It isn’t really surprising that Italians go all-out at Easter; Italy is an almost entirely Catholic country and Easter is one of the biggest Christian holidays celebrated.

Not only do they not share all of our traditions, Italians have some pretty spectacular traditions of their own.

One of the more fascinating traditions is the annual Easter firework display in Florence.

Scoppio del Carro, which translates into English as Exploding of the Cart, sees a large, beautifully-decorated cart pulled by white oxen through Florence to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, in the city centre.

Towards the end of Easter Mass, the Archbishop sends a dove-shaped rocket into the cart to ignite the fireworks. If everything runs smoothly and the firework display goes to plan, it is seen as a good omen for the year to come.

Eggs, representing rebirth, are not the only symbolic objects at Easter time. There’s a reason the Archbishop uses a dove-shaped rocket to ignite the cart, and that is because doves represent the Holy Spirit.

Another place you can expect to see a symbolic dove at Easter time in Italy, is when you eat Colomba cake, which is usually served in the shape of a dove. Colomba cake is a traditional Italian Easter cake, filled with candied orange peel and then topped with almonds and a sprinkling of sugar.

As always there are numerous origin stories for Colomba cake. My favourite tale has to be story of Easter in Milan, 1176. The city is said to have been under attack from invaders, and seemed destined to lose the battle they were fighting. Just as they were about to give up hope, three doves flew over the city, and soon after the Milanese’s luck changed, and they won.

As the story goes, the people of Milan started celebrating this victory by eating cakes shaped like their saviours – the doves.

Colomba cake is a member of the panettone family (which is traditionally eaten at Christmas). It is soft, and intensely orangey on the inside, while the sugar on the outside provides a crisp outer layer.

With Easter only just over, I imagine you’re sick of the sight of chocolate, so this Colomba cake recipe is the perfect way to get a taste of Italian Easter, without eating yet another chocolate egg.

Although usually served in the shape of a dove, Colomba cake can also be made in a round, traditional baking tin if that is easier. Although it takes a little time, it’s an easy recipe that is more than worth it for the taste.