See the new pope this Easter in Rome
This year's papal mass at St Peter's Basilica will be held on Good Friday at 5pm. (Godong/Getty)
Easter in Rome always entails festivals, fun and food. But in the wake of the recent papal conclave, this year’s holiday promises not only the usual event-filled line-up, but also the chance to get a glimpse of the new pope.
Pope Francis I will lead several ceremonies during Easter week, including the papal masses at St Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday (5pm on 29 March) and Holy Saturday (8:30 pm on 30 March). Because these masses are held indoors, you’ll need tickets – obtain them by faxing the Prefecture of the Papal Household (06-69-885-893), but be aware that, while free, they may be difficult to get at this late date.
Otherwise, see the pope at the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) on Good Friday. Like his predecessors, Pope Francis will oversee the annual procession that commemorates Christ’s Passion and he will address the crowds at the Colosseum at 9:15 pm. The pope will stand on an specially built platform, so while it’s always advisable to arrive early, latecomers should be able to get a glimpse of him too.
On Easter Sunday (31 March), he’ll hold a 10:15 am mass from St Peter’s Square – a good option for those who didn’t get tickets to enter the basilica – and give the Urbi et Orbi, a papal blessing given at Christmas and Easter, from the central loggia of St Peter’s Basilica at noon. If you want to get relatively close to the Holy Father, arrive as early as possible, at least by 8:30 or 9 am.
Of course, not every Easter event in Rome is Vatican-centric. The Easter in 3D festival runs at Piazza del Popolo until 1 April. Highlights include master chocolatiers demonstrating the chocolate making process, chocolate sculpting and an exhibit of presepi di Pasqua, or Easter cribs, a little-known Italian tradition of crèches that show scenes from the Passion and Resurrection. Admission to Easter in 3D, open daily from 9:30 am to 8 pm, is 7.50 euros.
Music-lovers, meanwhile, can get their fill of classical concerts during Easter week – —for free. World-renowned soprano Lucia Aliberti will perform arias by Vivaldi, Mozart, Puccini and more at the Basilica of the Holy Apostles on Easter Sunday at 8:30 pm. On Pasquetta, the day after Easter, there’s an outdoor classical music concert at Rome’s largest public park, the Villa Borghese. From 3:30 pm to 6 pm, the Prenestina Philharmonic orchestra will play some of the most famous pieces by Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Gounod to accompany a variety of performances, including by world-champion ice skaters Alessandro Spigai and Anna Remondini (on roller-skates), stilt-walkers and traditional dancers.
Despite the full array of events, and although thousands of pilgrims and visitors head to Rome for Easter, it’s important to remember that Romans themselves traditionally leave town. (You often hear the phrase “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi,” which means “you spend Christmas at home with your family, but Easter with whoever you want!”). So while the Vatican will be crowded, be aware that many smaller restaurants and shops around the city will be closed.
Most sights and museums will remain open throughout Easter weekend, however, including the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine (although the archaeological area will close on Good Friday at 2 pm to prepare for the Via Crucis). The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel will be closed on both Easter Sunday and Monday.
Amanda Ruggeri is the Rome Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes revealedrome.com.