Italy for religious pilgrims

A frescoed room at Venice's Foresteria Valdese, a religious hospice, For pilgrims, Italy, Italy (Photo courtesy of the property)
A frescoed room at Venice's Foresteria Valdese, a religious hospice, Convents, General

Advice, resources, & tours for pilgrims, Christians, and spiritual travelers in Italy— and how to attend mass in an Italian church

Follow the Pope

Pope Francis I's Twitter handle is @Pontifex.
I don't think I am going to shock anybody if I state that Italy is a Catholic country. Has something to do with having the Vicar of Christ himself as the parish priest of a little church in Rome they call St. Peter's.

(Well, OK, so technically the Pope is the Bishop of Rome, not a parish priest, and technically his cathedral is San Giovanni in Laterano, not St. Peter's. OK, hands up—and be honest—if you knew that.)

Religious convictions and an interest in the roots of one's faith are an important part of many people's trips to Italy, whether it's a full-blown pilgrimage or merely lighting a candle and offering a prayer in each church you visit.

Whether it's paying respects to St. Francis at his basilica in Assisi, hearing the Pope give mass at St. Peter's in Rome, or visiting a pilgrimage site, thousands of visitors to Italy are there, at least in part, to honor their God and make worship a part of their travel experience.

The resourcestours, and books listed below can help point you in the right directions to find the best tools to make your pilgrimage (or just the religious aspects of your trip) as memorable as possible.

For lodgings in convents and monasteries, see those separate sections.

(Note that, though currently this section is devoted to Christian travelers. There is also a page with information on Jewish Italy.)

Attending mass in an Italian church

To the best of my ability, I will endeavor to list the times you can attend mass, Vespers, Gregorian chant, and other scheduled services for every church in every town described on this site, from St. Peter's on down. This is not only for the benefit of religiously-minded visitors, but for everybody—Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and non-believer alike.

You travel to experience the local culture, no? Well, Italy is a deeply Catholic country (heck, it's the Catholic country), and while most modern Italians are fairly non-observant in their daily lives and may only attend church on major holidays, religion and the church still exert a huge influence on Italy's culture and, obviously, its history.

Attending mass at least once on your visit is as much a cultural experience as attending a soccer match, taking a cooking class, participating in a festival, or watching an Italian variety show on TV (four other activities I highly recommend).

So take at least one Sunday morning of your trip and take in a service. My recommendations:

  • Mass at St. Peter's in Rome - for obvious reasons; and, since it does mass nearly constantly—around the clock every day of the week—you don't even have to wait until Sunday
  • The 6:45pm Sunday mass at St. Marks Cathedral in Venice - It's a nice service and all, but the real reason is because this is the only time they throw the Big Switch and illuminate every last inch of the 40,000 square feet of glittering gold Byzantine mosaics that carpet the domes, arches, ceiling, and walls inside. Wow.

Whether or not you choose to take confession, I'll leave up to you.

Monasteries & convents links

More on Religious

The massive basilica (Photo by Roberto Ferrari)
Basilica di San Francesco
Assisi centro storico

The basilica of St. Francis is covered in the greatest Gothic frescoes in the world

The lower register of Michelangelo's Monument to Julius II (1505–45)

The top cathedrals, churches, and duomos in Italy

A menorah in the window of a venue catering to Jewish tourists in the former Ghetto in Venice (Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto)
The Jewish Ghetto
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The world's first ghetto was the walled quarter Venice created for its Jews in the 16th century

 (Photo by Dennis Jarvis)
Catacombe di San Domitilla
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The Catacombs of San Domitilla offer the best, and spookiest, catacomb tour on Rome's Appian Way

The cloisters (Photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST)
Santa Chiara
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A tunnel in the Catacomb of San Callisto (Photo by Jim Forest)
Catacombe di San Callisto
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The Catacombs of St. Callixtus have the most popular (and crowded) tours, but also some of the most amazing sights of any catacombs on Rome's Appian Way

 (Photo by Voxel-Ux)
Catacombe di San Sebastiano
Rome: Outside the walls

The Catacombs of St. Sebastian are the largest, but least rewarding, of the catacombs—but are where Saints Peter and Paul were buried

Presepio figurines in a shop on Via San Gregorio Armeno (Photo by John Myers)
I Presepi di Napoli
Naples: Centro Storico

A Neapolitan Bethlehem—The Presepio Christmas Crèche shops of Naples's Via San Gregorio Armeno

Via del Portico d'Ottavia, the "main street" of Rome's medieval Jewish neighborhood (Photo by Palickap)
Jewish ghetto
Rome: Tiber Bend

The medieval Jewish neighborhood of Rome

Pope Francis I greeting the flocks at a papal audience in Rome's St. Peter's Square (Photo courtesy of SMCS Music Office)
Papal Audience
Rome: Vatican

How to get tickets to hang with his Holiness on St. Peter's Square in Rome

The nave

Attending mass in one of Rome's 900+ churches

You can stay at the medieval Tuscan Santuario della Verna, where St. Francis received the stigmata (Photo courtesy of La Verna)

Sleep in a religious guesthouse or retreat at monasteries abbeys across Italy from just €17

A frescoed room at Venice's Foresteria Valdese, a religious hospice (Photo courtesy of the property)

You don't have to take vows of chastity and poverty or wear those itchy woolen robes to shack up in an Italian convent for as little as $30. You don't even have to be particularly religious.

The ceiling in the piano nobile dining room (Photo by Maggi R.)
L'Eau Vive
Rome: Tiber Bend

Fine French cuisine and a hymnal singalong provided by a lay sisterhood in a frescoed palazzo

Religious and spiritual tours (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Spiritual journeys to Italy

Jewish delicacies (and kosher ones) at a bakery in Venice (Photo by SpirosK photography)

A travel guide to Jewish Italy, from kosher restaurants and hotels in Rome, Florence, and Venice to historic synagogues and other jewish sights in Italy, as well as Jewish tours, schuls, mikvahs, and more


Festivals, holidays, traditions, and other events in [[[lace]]


The art of early Christians was Roman in style, but its themes were starting to explore the figures and motifs that would soon become familiar