Papal Audiences take place 10:00 hrs, every Wednesday morning in St. Peter's Square. In Winter - or during extreme bad weather - the Audience is usually moved inside the Aula Nervi. The Audience lasts approx. 2 hours.
Official Vatican site
For more information contact Prefecture of the Papal Household:
Prefecture of the Papal Household
00120 Vatican City State
Fax: +39 06 6988 5863
At one time paper tickets were posted to overseas and out-of-Rome addresses, but this service seems to no longer be provided.
If you didn't reserve tickets in advance and your group is less than 10, you can try anyway on the morning (8am-10am), or the previous afternoon (3pm-7pm / until 6pm in winter).
Tickets are issued 'free of charge' by the Vatican State and the procedure is as follows: download + fax the request form on the Official Vatican site, for those requesting tickets from out-of-Rome or overseas. You will be informed - by letter - whether or not tickets have been reserved for you, but they are only issued one day prior to each Audience, so you still need to be in Rome the day before (or prepare yourself for a very early start on the morning of the Audience) to collect your tickets.
Tickets are held under the name of the person who reserved them so that person will need to collect the tickets and provide the letter that was sent and possibly proof of identity. Plan of the Vatican buildings - on the purple & white map, see No.1 (where the huge Bronze doors are) and No.61 (Aula Nervi, also known as Aula Paolo VI, where indoor Audiences are held).
If you are in Rome for Easter or Christmas you might wish to attend Easter Eve Mass or Christmas Eve Mass, both held in St. Peter's Square. Tickets are free-of-charge but availability is limited and, therefore, best to book these 2-6 months in advance. If your request is successful your tickets will be ready for collection from the Vatican 4-5 days before the event.
It's difficult to judge exactly how busy any Audience or Mass will be. We have known people queue for 2 hours before getting inside and others who have strolled in with hardly any queues at all, but we would always urge visitors to leave themselves ample time just to avoid disappointment.
It's not too late for last minute extra Christmas gifts....so just in case Santa Claus couldn't find what he was looking for, perhaps the Befana will bring it with her in time for January 6th!
Befana falls on 6th January and is what we call Epiphany but ours is not associated with giving or receiving gifts - however, here in Italy, it is a long-standing tradition. Befana is represented as an old crone, usually with a shawl and broomstick. If you have been good, the night of 5th January, she fills your stocking with nice things....if you have been bad she gives you coal (or as that would be too mean...you get candy which is made of sugar that looks like coal).
The child in me loves to check out what's cute...what's fun...and where I might shop if I had a mini-me. I'd absolutely go to Piazza Navona to two of the oldest toys shops in Rome: Bertè and Al Sogno (pictured above and below). They have a mix of old-fashioned toys and modern, as well as some items for us grown-ups who are interested in collectables or souvenirs.
Cute looking clothes shops for toddlers up to early teens check out KidSpace and Monnalisa on via Borgognona, Rome (close to the Spanish Steps), and Nanan on via Tomacelli (between Fendi and the Tiber river).
Other shops I like are the Pesciolino Rosso (the Little Red Fish) in via Bocca di Leone 49 (not far from the Spanish Steps) who stock handmade, non-toxic toys. Tina in via Bocca di Leone 9 - is actually more of a lingerie boutique but also sells the most exquisite baby and toddler pyjamas. Bartolucci, on via dei Pastini 96-99, is all about Pinocchio! Enter into a magical word of wood. For clothes there's Neck & Neck - a good quality Spanish brand of children's wear on via Vittoria 56, La Cicogna on via Frattina for baby clothes.
Last year's 2014 Christmas market in Greccio was very pretty, with new wooden cabins, Christmas lights, fake snow and a delightful atmosphere. There are two ways up to the village by car. A short walk outside the village is a free exhibition of Nativity scenes (Presepe) and with a short drive (or a long walk) you can reach the Sanctuary of Greccio, which is well worth visiting. Many people attend mass at the church located next to the sanctuary. There is also a bar next to the car park, which serves drinks and light snacks. In Greccio itself there are a couple of restaurants and a hotel on the main square.
The Christmas market & Living Nativity from 5 December 2015 until 6 January 2016.
Dates below, with precise opening hours to be added as soon as they are published.
Greccio has been twinned with the town of Bethlehem since 1992 and was the location of the first ever living Nativity.
St. Francis of Assisi had a profound love of the Reatine valley (having personally visited this area several times we can fully understand why), and he found refuge here from the vanities and greed of the life he left behind in Assisi. He also appreciated the simplicity of the people in these parts.
The first time St. Francis was in Greccio was around 1209. At that time the population of Greccio was concerned by the presence of wolves and the hostile climate that annually destroyed fields of crops and vineyards with hail and snow storms. It is told that St. Francis - who was living in a hut on Mount Lacerone (1204mt 5.7 km from Greccio) - would pray for the townsfolk, and that his intercession ceased all calamities. St. Francis had also spent time living as a hermit near Fonte Colombo - a short distance from Greccio - but had developed a special fondness for Greccio and its townsfolk.
In August 1219, St. Francis set out, for the third time, on a journey to the Holy Land - a place he had been longing to visit. There had already been two prior failed attempts. The first time he embarked in Ancona for Palestine but a storm forced the ship to turn back. The following year (1214-1215) had tried to get to Morocco but a serious illness forced him to abandon his desired mission to the Holy Land once again. After his successful trip to Palestine 4 years later, St. Francis returned with a special fondness for Christmas and for Bethlehem, which left its emotional mark upon him.
In November of the year 1223, St. Francis - now back in Fonte Colombo - obtained approval of the Rules* by Pope Honorius III, and was also granted permission to represent the first nativity. Together with his friend Giovanni Velita, Lord of Greccio, that is exactly what they did. St. Francis found a cave as similar as possible to the one in Bethlehem and went about gathering a donkey, an ox, some of the townsfolk dressed in traditional garments to act the various parts, and made the scene as though it were indeed Bethlehem.
So, Greccio became a new Bethlehem! And the tradition of the Nativity would spread through homes and churches throughout the Christian world.
*the Rules were given to St. Francis, by God, at Fonte Colombo. God appeared to St. Francis - if you visit Fonte Colombo you can see the exact spot - and gave him these rules, which would become the foundations of the Franciscan Order.
Okay, you and your partner have decided to holiday in Rome for a romantic Christmas this year and you want to surprise your gal with a sexy or romantic gift. As it's hard to miss with lingerie - the more expensive the better - I have rounded up some great places! And apart from stocking beautiful lingerie, some of the boutiques also carry beachwear, sleepwear and hosiery ranging from demure to exotic!
This first group of lingerie shops don't have websites but are located on or near Via del Corso in the centre of Rome - just to make it a little easier on your feet.
'SIMONA' and 'et moi', (pictured) are both on via del Corso (no.83 & no.96). 'Intimo' is just down the road from La.Vi (picture top with scooter) on via Tomacelli. Another favourite - La Coquetterie has its main shop near Ponte Milvio and has recently opened a second on Via della Croce.
The following shops are between Piazza Spagna and Piazza San Silvestro: 'BRIGHENTI' at No.7 Via Frattina; and on Via del Gambero No.13 there is 'Il Fiocco Must' for sexy lingerie & swimwear (also mens).
In the area around Largo Argentina and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II there are the following excellent choices: Sciunnaache at Via di Torre Argentina, 18; and Pati Jò - a personal favourite - located at Via Paganica 9b, who offer an exclusive and discreet bra-fitting service (appointments preferred - in order to devote to you their time and expertise). They also stock other lovely items which can be purchased "off the peg" which don't require fitting. Ladies can either book an appointment for themselves alone or can be accompanied by their partner who will be able to admire the selections in complete privacy.
'Zou Zou' is very glamorous and describes itself as an 'erotic boutique' tucked away on Vicolo della Cancelleria, 9 just off Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and 'Alcova' - a wee bit hardcore to link from here - stock some sexy pieces for the less experimental. Easy enough to find them - also just off Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, on Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 27.
Department stores in Rome with good lingerie selections:
If it's bespoke you're after, book an appointment with Lingerie d'Elia at Via Sistina 119, where it is also possible to view some of the garments.
Here are the most special and unique places to celebrate Christmas Mass over the festive period.
Pantheon (Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyrs)
24th Dec - Christmas Eve Mass starts at 23.55.
Actually Christmas Eve holds greater importance than Christmas Day for Catholic families and was once characterised by fasting: a centuries old tradition symbolising waiting for the birth of Christ. Gifts are often exchanged at midnight - although many wait until the Befana on Jan 6th to do this - and often there is a toast with spumante or prosecco! The word for Christmas Eve in Italian is 'vigilia' meaning vigil (or staying awake), but it is also a term used for religious observance, such as fasting.
Fasting was eventually replaced by the eating of fish and the reason fish was chosen is simple: meat was something only the wealthy could afford and was perhaps viewed as a sign of indulgence, whereas fish was accessible to everyone - typically eaten by the poor and, in particular, fishermen. Therefore the gesture of giving up something ‘prized’ such as meat and replacing it with the humble fish became a symbolic substitute for fasting.
This tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve has continued to present day in Italy, with possible minor recipe variations from region to region, and dishes usually include: mixed fried vegetables such as broccoli or artichoke, fried salted cod fish 'baccalà fritto', roast eel 'capitone arrostito', smoked salmon and scampi cocktails, artichoke 'alla romana' (baked artichoke hearts with mint and flat-leaf parsley), or 'alla Giudia' (sliced and fried in a frying pan); soups made with chickpeas as the main ingredient flavoured with garlic and rosemary, Pecorino Romano cheese and little anchovies.
For Christmas Day (meat is allowed): oven baked lamb and roast potatoes 'abbacchio al forno con patate' and pasta (similar to tortellini) in broth 'cappelletti in brodo', boiled vegetables and stuffed turkey. For dessert the following are traditional: pampepato and pangiallo (dried fruit, candied peel, with flour, honey and chocolate). Nociata, which is a type of home-made nougat 'torrone' prepared with hazelnuts; and of course Panettone and Pandoro, which didn't originate in or near Rome but are widely available throughout the whole of Italy and have become known as typical Italian Christmas desserts. Nuts, dates, dried figs and clementines are also popular.
New Year's Eve manages to surprise most - lentils (with spiced sausage or stuffed pigs trotter) and spumante or prosecco at the stroke of midnight! The lentils represent coins, which signifies hope of a prosperous new year and the pig signifies richness of life - or something like that; the sparkling wine is just for fun - all celebrations need to go off with a bang!
So now you know what awaits if you are invited into an Italian home over Christmas....and if you're not, there are plenty of excellent delicatessen (look/ask for 'fornaio', 'salumeria' or 'alimentari') around Rome where you can buy cured hams and other cold cuts, cheeses, roast vegetables and pandoro or panettone, if you wish to create your own Italian Christmas picnic! Good spumantes can be found in most supermarkets priced at around €5 - €8. Look for traditional desserts in old family run bakeries such as Valzani in Trastevere on via del Moro - try their Mostaccioli! If you've decided to splash-out choose one of the 5-star hotel restaurants in the centre of Rome and enjoy lunch or dinner with amazing atmosphere and views of the city.
Where I shopped for my lovely place settings...
Well, my aim was to do this on a budget, so the tablecloth is just a few metres of hessian threaded with gold sparkle and cost about €6, the place mats were from Upim (a good value store), the water glasses were from a shop on via del Pellegrino, which sells a whole bunch of unusual glassware (go right to the back of the shop - it's like Aladdin's Cave), the napkin tassels were from a tiny haberdashery shop run by a wonderful old lady (these tassels were handmade and were the most expensive part of the whole ensemble @€12 each), the candles and other table decorations were from Velitti in Vigna Clara, and the rest of the items I already had.
Presepe means Nativity. A 'Presepe Vivente' is a Living Nativity' whereby real people re-enact the birth of Jesus, clad in ancient clothing and recreating the envornment of Bethlehem. Each year throughout Italy there are many representations of the Nativity but some of the most beautiful are right here just outside Rome in villages around Lazio, including the site of the first ever representation of a Nativity in history: Greccio near Rieti, where St. Francis lived between 1209 and 1226.
Dec 24th, 26th, 28th and Jan 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th
Historical Reenactment of the Nativity 790th Anniversary - Greccio
790 years have passed since St Francis realised his first 'Living Nativity' here in Greccio (1223 - 2013). This is a magical event where characters from the bible are portrayed by locals from the village of Greccio and surrounding area, clad in costumes of the age.
Dec 24th - 22:30 (incl the birth of Jesus at midnight)
Dec 26, 28 - 17:45
Jan 1, 4, 5, 6 - 17:45
c 8th until Jan 9th, 2014
Nativity in St. Peter's Square - Rome
This year the Nativity in St. Peter's Square will be Napolitan in the style of the 1700's and is a gift from the Cardinal of Naples to the Pope. All of the statues are made from one of the most famous artists of Napolitan statues, from San Gregorio Armeno.
On the Nativity is written a dedication "1223 - 2013: 1223 St. Francis realised the first Nativity; 2013 Francis, is the first pope to welcome a Napolitan Nativity to Rome.
This year's Christmas tree is a 25mtr Bavarian Fir, sent from Germany and will be erected on Dec 6th whereas work has already begun on the Nativity.
Dec 22nd unti Jan 6th, 2014
"La Via dei Presepi" - Anagni
A collection of nativity scenes placed throughout the city of Anagni. You will be issued with a map in order to locate and identify each one. Some them are very beautiful and require much skill and creativity to build.
This year this nativity event is dedicated to Pinturicchio, famous Italian painter from the 16th century, this being the 500th anniversary of his death (1513 - 2013).
I have to admit that after our first visit to Rieti, we rather under-valued it. However, having been back more than a few times, we agree that it might be small but it offers quite a lot and is a pleasant place to visit at any time of year. If you're heading up to Terminillo for the snow then Rieti is a good jumping-off point and as you see from the photos Christmas here is very pretty and cosy. If, on the other hand, you prefer relaxed walks in peaceful yet stunning landscapes then come in the Summer and visit the Sacred Valley around Rieti. There are a few nice hotels and some excellent restaurants in this area to chose from.