Christians from all over the world take a Pilgrimage to Italy for its magnificent religious sites blessed by some of the greatest saints of humanity. Renowned for its spectacular architecture and glorious art, Italy is an ode to all that’s beautiful and sacred in the world.
The Italian pilgrimage tours usually include stops to Rome and Florence, two of the most fascinating destinations in the country. However, there are many other religious sites of utmost importance in Italy, such as Assisi and Padua, wonderful destinations meant to be an ode to the Christian faith and reunion sites for Catholics.
The heart of Catholicism, the Vatican is home to the fabulous St. Peter’s Basilica, an architectural masterpiece and the holiest of the Catholic churches. The basilica delights visitors with fascinating attractions, like Bernini’s bronze canopy, the Blessed Mother of Michelangelo, and the tomb of Pope John Paul II, and overwhelms Christians with its majestic and imposing architecture.
Other highlights of a tour of the Vatican include the Raphael Rooms, the Tapestry Gallery, and, of course, the Sistine Chapel, where you will have the chance to admire Michelangelo’s divine talent. The highlight of a religious tour of the Vatican is for many the Papal audience/blessing when the Holy Father is available, and a visit to the Vatican Museums, home to some of the most important art collections in the world.
Rome abounds in sacred sites, most pilgrims including in their itinerary stops at important basilicas in town for a chance to feel closer to God, but also for the extraordinary opportunity to admire superb architectural gems. The Basilica of St. Mary Major is the largest basilica in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is remarkable due to its Biblical mosaics and marble floor and it is believed to have been decorated with gold brought from the new world by Columbus.
The oldest of the most important basilicas in Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is considered to be the “parish church” of the Pope, also Bishop of Rome. The basilica houses the Scala Sancta (holy staircase), that was sanctified by the footsteps of Jesus during his Passion. Other highlights of a pilgrimage tour in Rome include the Baths of Caracalla, the ancient catacombs of Rome, and the Appian Way, the oldest Roman road in Rome. This is the perfect start to a pilgrimage to Italy.
Known as the birthplace of St. Francis, Assisi is an important pilgrimage destination for Catholics from all over the world. Situated in the beautiful Umbria region, Assisi will always be associated with its most famous resident, St. Francis, the gentle monk who founded the Franciscan order. Praised for his kindness and love of nature, St. Francis is one of the most loved Catholic saints. Visit the city’s 13th-century basilica for a chance to admire some of the St. Francis’ possessions and frescoes depicting his life, and also tour the Basilica of Santa Chiara (St. Clare), the founder of the Order of Poor Clares. A tour of Assisi will never be complete without a stop at the tombs of St. Francis and St. Clare.
The magnificent Renaissance city of Florence, loved by history aficionados and cherished by artists, is also home to splendid religious sites that capture the quintessence of Catholic beliefs. The religious tour of Florence usually includes a stop at the Convent of San Marco, home of the famous Savonarola and Fra Angelico back in the 15th century and currently a museum, as well as a stop at the Academy Gallery, for the glorious chance to admire Michelangelo’s David. No tour of Florence, religious, cultural or artistic, will ever be complete without a visit to the overwhelming Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore, remarkable due to its majestic dome, a Brunelleschi masterpiece, as well as its sublime fresco that depicts the Last Judgment scene, brought to life by Vasari and Zuccaro.
Padua is of interest for Catholics due to its Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, a holy church home to the relics of Saint Anthony. Even though Saint Anthony was born in Portugal, in 1195, he eventually arrived in Italy, following a terrible storm on his way back to Portugal from Morocco. He never returned to Portugal and he became a praised preacher in Padua, and at some point in his life, he even met Saint Francis. Saint Anthony is known for his love for Christ and the miracles he accomplished in Italy, where he died in 1231. His vocal cords and tongue, the only parts of his body that have remained intact, are currently displayed in the Basilica of Saint Anthony, one of the most beautiful holy places in Italy.