Celebrating the Catholic belief that the birth of Virgin Mary had been blessed by God, Rome provides another occasion for a religious ceremony and an audience with the Pope. There is a strong Catholic presence across Italy, however the Festival of the Immaculate Conception gives locals and tourists an opportunity to see the Pope outside of Vatican City. There is a nineteenth-century monument standing in Piazza Mignanelli, depicting the Virgin Mary produced by Giuseppe Obici. Since 1953 the Pope has visited once a year to hold prayer services, which is often followed by a procession and a less traditional firework display.
Ciampino and Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci International Airport) are the nearest airports to Rome, both of which are less than 45 minutes away. Take the Leonardo da Vinci Express from Termini Station and arrive at Piazza Mignanelli within 10 minutes. The Pope then addresses the crowd from around 4pm, whilst it is a free event unlike those held at the Vatican there are no tickets required. Once the parade has been completed and night has fallen, the day will close with a free firework display.
Although not as popular as mass held within St Peters Square at Vatican City, the piazza will definitely be busy so arrive early to get a good spot. The Spanish Steps will provide a good viewing point, or the Pope will also be likely to pass through the adjacent Piazza di Spagna. You could be in for a long day and the square is out in the open, so dress up warm for the winter month. If you are attending from a religious perspective, visitors often take a copy of the bible or crosses which may be lucky enough to be blessed by the Pope himself.
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With plenty within walking distance visit the ruins of the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and the famous Colosseum. You will also be close to Vatican City, which includes the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. Make sure you also see the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon temple.
Find out more on the Immaculate Conception, including: the history and its cultural impact, the sacred congregation of rights, Church of England and Eastern Orthodox celebrations, as well as the background of the Virgin Mary, all of which is available to read here.
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