Advice, resources, & tours for pilgrims, Christians, and spiritual travelers in Italy— and how to attend mass in an Italian church
Pope Francis I's Twitter handle is @Pontifex.
(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 resources, tours, 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.
(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.