Rome is considered a top Italian destination during Easter week, also called Settimana Santa, mainly because of the events and activities led by the Pope in Vatican City.
|2020||12 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|13 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
|2021||4 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|5 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
Easter week begins on Palm Sunday, which is when the Pope holds a special mass in Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City. Even though this is a free event, large crowds are present, which makes it difficult to gain admission. If you have plans to attend this Vatican Palm Sunday mass, it is essential you arrive early and plan on standing for a long time.
In addition to the Holy Mass on Palm Sunday, the Blessing of the Palms and Procession typically occur in the morning, around 9:30 AM, in Saint Peter’s Square. Since Palm Sunday is also World Youth Day, which was established by Pope John Paul II, the present Pope maintains the tradition of sending a special message, or Angelus, to the world’s youth at noon.
The majority of visitors to Vatican City during the Easter celebration are likely going to want an audience with the Pope. If this is something you hope for, it is a good idea to get your name added to the list as early as you can for the general audience scheduled for the Wednesday after Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday is how Easter week begins in Vatican City. However, that is not the end of the events that occur. The following Thursday is Holy Thursday and starting around 9:30 AM the Chrism Mass happens at St. Peter’s Basilica. After 5:30 PM that day, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the beginning of the Paschal Triduum occur. This mass commemorates the bathing of the apostle’s feet by Christ.
The following day is Good Friday, which is when the crowds in Vatican City pick up significantly. At St. Peter’s Basilica at 5 PM, the papal Mass occurs, which celebrates the passion of the Lord. Then, at 9:15 PM, there is a Way of the Cross at the Colosseum. During this, a torch-lit procession of all the faithful trough the Stations of the Cross is led by the Pope. This procession runs from the Colosseum, where everyone gathers, to Palatine Hill. Prayers are led at every Station of the Cross. Besides Easter Sunday’s Mass, this is considered one of the most spectacular events to attend.
On the morning of Easter Sunday, there are two morning services. The first is the Easter Sunday Mass, which takes place in Saint Peter’s Square. At noon, the “To the City and the World” message and blessing is broadcasted. There is no question that this is the most anticipated of all the services. During this event, the Pope takes centre stage and addresses the entire crowd that has gathered. One of the most historic structures in the city is where the Pope stands on the balcony, which overlooks the Vatican and talks to all of the visitors present in person, as well as on television.