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Palm Sunday and Easter Week at the Vatican
Rome is the top Italian destination for Easter week, or Settimana Santa, primarily because of the events led by the Pope in Vatican City and Rome.
Easter Week starts on Palm Sunday with a special mass said by the Pope in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City. Although this event is free, the square is usually very crowded and it is hard to get admission. If you want to attend the Vatican Palm Sunday mass, get there early and be prepared to stand for a long period of time. The Blessing of the Palms, Procession, and Holy Mass for Palm Sunday take place in the morning, usually starting at 9:30, in Saint Peter's Square.
Holy Thursday Mass is held in the Saint Peter's Basilica, usually at 9:30AM. A Papal Mass is also said in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome's cathedral, usually at 5:30PM.
Continue: Good Friday in Saint Peter's Basilica and Rome
Continue to 2 of 3 below.
- Page 2: Bronze Cross at the Colosseum
- Page 3: The Pope Arrives to Say Mass on Palm Sunday
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Good Friday Procession in Rome
On Good Friday there is a Papal Mass at the Vatican in Saint Peter's Basilica at 5PM. In the evening the ritual of the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, is enacted near Rome's Colosseum, usually starting at 9:15PM. The stations of the Via Crucis were placed at the Colosseum in 1744 by Pope Benedict XIV and the bronze cross in the Colosseum was erected in 2000, the Jubilee year.
On Good Friday, a huge cross with burning torches lights the sky as the stations of the cross are described in several languages. At the end, the Pope gives a blessing. This is a very moving and popular procession. If you go, expect big crowds and be aware of the possibility of pick-pockets as you would in any very crowded tourist place.
Papal Mass and Easter Vigil are held on Holy Saturday at 9PM in Saint Peter's Basilica.
To check for updated times and information go to the Calendar of Vatican Liturgical Celebrations
Continue: Easter, Pasquetta, and photo of the Pope arriving in Saint Peter's SquareContinue to 3 of 3 below.
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Easter in Saint Peter's Square and Rome
Easter, or Pasqua, is a very important holiday at the Vatican and in Italy. Easter Sunday Holy Mass is held in Saint Peter's Square, usually starting at 10:15AM. This is another popular and very crowded event. Admission is free but it is difficult to get entrance. If you go, get there early and expect to stand for a long time.
At noon the Pope gives the Easter message and blessing in the central loggia of Saint Peter's Basilica.
Easter marks the end of Lent so food plays a big part in the celebrations. Traditional Easter foods include lamb, artichokes, and special Easter breads, Pannetone and Colomba (dove shaped). Large hollow chocolate eggs that usually come with a surprise inside are popular Easter treats and you'll see them, along with Colomba, in many shop windows. If you want to try the Easter breads, buy one from a bakery. Although it will probably cost more, they are usually much better than the pre-packaged version.
Pasquetta, the Monday following Easter Sunday, is... also a holiday in Italy but much more jovial than the solemn Easter week events. It's common to have a picnic or barbeque and many Romans head out of town into the countryside or to the seaside. At Castel Sant'Angelo in Vatican City, a huge fireworks display over the Tiber River ends the Easter week celebrations.