Easter Week in Rome, Italy

March 11, 2016 by

Europe, Festivals & Events

St. Peter's Square, with seats set up for Easter Mass.

St. Peter’s Square, with seats set up for Easter Mass.

There is nothing like attending Mass in St. Peter’s Square. It’s the stuff bucket lists are made of. Packed inside the little area are thousands of people from all over the world. And when it’s Easter week in Rome, it will be especially busy at the Vatican.

Pope Francis is certainly now a fixture in Rome and in the Catholic Church, but the newness of a pope isn’t what draws thousands to Vatican City for Easter. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside, Easter in Rome constitutes one of the city’s peak tourist seasons.

Learn how to book a Vatican tour or download our Insider’s Guide to Rome.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

It’s important to note that some of these events, especially those with seating, require tickets in advance. While these are not easy to come by, your best bet is to check with the Prefecture of the Papal HouseholdHere are the Easter Week dates for 2016.

March 20: Palm Sunday

Start the week of services with this special event to kick off Holy Week in Rome. This papal Mass takes place at St. Peter’s Square at 9:30 a.m. The service includes the Blessing of the Palms, Procession and Holy Mass. Oftentimes the pope will dedicate a portion of time to send a special message to the world’s youth.

March 24: Holy Thursday

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. at St. Peter’s Basilica, this Chrism Mass is a special event since morning Mass is not the norm. Hours later, at 5:30 p.m., at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, there is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and beginning of the Paschal Triduum. This mass commemorates Christ bathing the feet of the apostles.

March 25: Good Friday

Expect the crowds to really take shape today and continue to pick up steam the entire weekend. At 5 p.m. at St. Peter’s Basilica, the papal Mass takes place, celebrating the passion of the lord. Then, at 9:15 p.m. at the Colosseum, there is the Way of the Cross, during which the pope leads a torch-lit procession of the faithful through the Stations of the Cross from the Colosseum to Palatine Hill. At each station of the cross, there are prayers. Other than Easter Sunday’s Mass, this event is one of the most spectacular to attend.



March 26: Holy Saturday

Get a spot early for this event, the papal Mass and Easter Vigil, which begins at 8:30 p.m at St. Peter’s Basilica. During this Mass, those who have converted are accepted into the church.

March 27: Easter Sunday

There are two morning services today. The first, the Easter Sunday Mass, is at Saint Peter’s Square at 10:15 a.m. Then, at noon, is the “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) message and blessing. By far, this is the crowning glory of all of the services. The pope takes center stage and addresses the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. Amongst the historic structures, he stands from his balcony overlooking the Vatican and speaks to visitors (of all all faiths) in attendance (and those watching along on television).

Read more about Easter at the Vatican and how to celebrate Easter with the pope.

Sticking around after Easter? Note that the Monday after Easter — known as Pasquetta, or Little Easter, in Italy — is also a national holiday, and a popular day for young people to take picnics into the countryside with friends (having spent the weekend holidays with family).

— Jessica Spiegel

, , ,

30 Responses to “Easter Week in Rome, Italy”

  1. Steve Morris Says:

    I’m having a lot of trouble finding out if you need tickets to attend the Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Square. I’ve seen info saying you need tickets to get seats but do you need tickets for standing room? Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank You

  2. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Steve.

    We’ve done a little digging and it seems (though like you, we’re not 100% certain) you need tickets to access the main square on Sunday. It also seems that there is an area that is reserved for general admission, no doubt with less-than-stellar views of the Mass. Sorry we can’t be any more definitive that that. Good luck, and let us know how things turn out.

  3. Caroline C. Ossorio Says:

    I am coming for Easter week, 2009, where/how do I get tickets to attend the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday masses @ St. Pietro and the Colloseum? Is there one web site to acquires these tickets? Thank you for your help. Caroline

  4. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Caroline.

    You can try this website for booking tickets to attend the masses. http://www.pnac.org/general/visiting_vatican.htm

  5. Enduring Wanderlust Says:

    It’s a beautiful time of year to be in Rome. It’s definately not easy to get close to the festivities or tickets to the events, but the atmosphere itself is worth the trip. Book accommodations early and make sure to reserve good restaurants for larger groups

  6. flyerfansince79 Says:

    Yes you do need tickets. There is airport security to enter the square. My wife and I attended Easter 2008. You need to contact the Vatican directly through this fax number…

    Prefettura Della Casa Pontificia
    011 39 06 6988 5863

    This will get you in touch with James M. Harvey, Prefect

    I hope this is helpful.

    God Bless

  7. DeanP Says:

    I am traveling to Rome for Easter week. The comments about tickets during Easter Sunday are very helpful. Are seats assigned or is it first come first serve with entrance tickets? Also, how early must you arrive to get in to see the Pope deliver mass?

  8. Sharon Says:

    we hope to be in Rome Easter week. Is it easy/free to see the Good Friday torch-lit procession? Also, will Vatican tours be possible that week, especially if we hire a guide?

  9. Judy Says:

    I am a non-catholic and want to visit the vatican but not on easter sunday WOuld it be ok to go on April 10 or 11th. SHould i buy tickets ahead of time. will the museums and Sistine chapel be open? WHat do you recommend I do on easter sunday. -Judy

  10. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Judy. I don’t think there’s any reason not to visit the Vatican during Easter Week — assuming it’s open. The Vatican schedule is subject to change, and some sections will be closed the entire week. And yes, given the crowds, we certainly recommend you book ahead: check out some of our Vatican tours here: http://www.viator.com/Rome/d511/vatican-tours

    On Easter Sunday, in Rome? Enjoy the atmosphere! It’s going to be a very festive day, assuming the weather cooperates.

  11. Melden Says:

    I am going to attentd a mass at Vatican City I Just Want To know the timings on the April 5 masses

  12. Charles Corden Says:

    My wife and I will be in Rome from the 8th to the 16th of April. We contacted the Chancery office of our Archdiocese to request tickets. They could not have been nicer. They called me and asked for my wife’s name and said that they would fulfill my request. A few days later, I heard from them that they faxed my request to the Visitor’s Office at the North American College and I could pick up the tix there. We will have tix for the Mass on Easter and for a Papal Audience on Wednesday. The Way of the Cross at the Coliseum does not require tix.

    I do have some questions. How early should we show up for the Mass on Easter and for the Way of the Cross? I can guess that it should be EARLY.)

    Is using the Metro practical for getting to the Vatican? I see that the Coliseum has a Metro station but I don’t believe I saw one for the Vatican.

    Is Easter Monday a big holiday in Rome so that stores are closed and basically things are shut down?

    Thanks for any assistance.

  13. Julia Says:

    I have been having trouble faxing my request to the vatican. i am in france and everytime I try the number it does not go through. We have to dial all teh numbers listed correct? 011 39 06 6988 5863. The same number is also on the vatican website. Help!

  14. samantha Says:

    I am will be living in Rome during the Easter holiday and want to know if you need tickets to the Stations of the Cross, from the Colosseum to Palatine Hill?
    ~Samantha 🙂

  15. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Samantha.

    Getting information on this is tricky, so don’t be mad if we get this wrong. We’ve checked and it looks like you do not need tickets for the Stations of the Cross. There is a private area outside the Colosseum, but this is reserved for invited guests and is not open to the public as far as we can tell.

    Hope that helps.

  16. Patty Says:

    Hello all!

    I am Patty from the Philippines. My family and I were fortunate enough to attend Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican last year. We filled out the request form found, I believe, in the Vatican’s website, then faxed it to the number given. When we got to Rome on Good Friday, we went to St. Peter’s to claim the tickets.

    I must note, though, that on the day of Easter Mass, the tickets were not actually checked. I am not sure if they were just a formality, but I do not recall anyone checking our tickets before we could enter the Square. Perhaps my memory simply fails me. Anyway, seats are on a first come, first served arrangement, so I suggest you line up quite early if you plan on sitting near the altar. My family and I were there two to three hours before the gates opened, and there were quite a lot of people waiting already. I also suggest that you line up by the gate near the entrance to the Vatican Museums, as our tour guide the day before informed us that less people use this entrance to get to the Square.

    With that said, I wish you all the best of luck in getting tickets, and may your Holy Weeks in Rome be as profound as mine.

  17. Dee Says:


    We’re looking forward to the private tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel on the evening of Holy Thursday (April 1). Reading above that the Pope will hold Mass that evening (presumably at St. Peters), should I worry that our tour would be canceled? Or that getting to the meeting point will be difficult?


  18. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Dee. We’re double-checking for you now, stay tuned.


  19. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Dee,

    We have contacted the Vatican and there is no problem with the tour on April 1. The Pope speaks on Easter, not on the Thursday. The Vatican Museums are open as normal during the Easter period. Your visit has been confirmed.


  20. Meghan Says:

    We’re attending the Easter Vigil Mass. Do you know if they keep the metro open later that night? Thank you.

  21. Marian Says:

    Where do we get the form to fax to attend Mass Easter Sunday? What time do you suggest going, or will it be to crowded for safety.
    Thank you

  22. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Meghan.

    As far as we can tell, the metro is not open any longer on Easter, though it does appear that extra buses are running. So don’t count on the metro – at least not until you arrive and confirm in person.

    Hope this helps.

  23. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Marian.

    We’re not aware of any fax form. I think you’re responding to Patty’s comment above.

    We’ve checked the Vatican website a few times, and sent an email to the American Seminary, asking if they know anything about a form you can fax. Unfortunately they don’t, apologies.


  24. Johanne E. Says:


    I am trying to take my mom, a devout Catholic to attend Easter mass at the Vatican for this year’s April 24th Easter. What are the correct steps for me to take to increases our chances for success? Thank you!


  25. Loryanna M Says:

    Hello Johanne!

    I’ve checked into getting Easter Mass tickets with the Vatican. As it’s a really big deal, the Mass tickets can be a bit hard to arrange. The best information I found on the internet gives these options:

    1. Contact your local Catholic Bishop and ask for assistance in obtaining tickets to Easter Mass at the Vatican. Contact your local Bishop well in advance of your travel date, tickets to Easter Mass are difficult to obtain.

    2. Request tickets to Easter Mass by contacting the Bishops Office for U.S. Visitors Office to the Vatican, Via dell’ Umilta 30, 00187 Rome, Italy. Telephone the Bishops Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican at (011-3906)690011 or fax them at (011-3906)679-1448.

    3. Call your state senator or representative and ask for assistance in attending Easter Mass at the Vatican. Ask for assistance in contacting the US Embassy in Rome if your member of congress cannot provide assistance.

    4. Travel with a group sponsored by a national Catholic organization. Look for packages that promise tickets to Easter Mass as part of the travel package.

    5. Reserve rooms at the best hotel in Rome. Request assistance in obtaining tickets to Easter Mass at the Vatican from the hotel staff.

    6. Book plane tickets to Rome and take a chance you will find tickets. Celebrate Easter Sunday at another church if your gamble does not pay off.

    Taken From: How to Attend Easter Mass at the Vatican | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2079214_attend-easter-mass-vatican.html#ixzz1DPDxqCRh

    I hope this helps! Good luck getting tickets to Easter Mass!

    – Loryanna

  26. Penny Mitchell Says:

    Hello, great article, thanks –
    I am interested in your comment that city and state-run galleries are free during the week after Easter – can you say which ones this includes, please? Thank you

  27. fencing in melbourne Says:

    It’s a beautiful time of year to be in Rome. It’s definately not easy to get close to the festivities or tickets to the events, but the atmosphere itself is worth the trip.

  28. david o,brien Says:

    Just wanted to add so no one is disappointed the Church does not celebrate Holy Mass on Good Friday, traditionally we have a service of the Passion of Our Blessed Lord along with reading of the Holy Gospel account of the Crucifixion.
    There is then general intercessions, veneration of the Cross when we adore and kiss it.Finally we have Holy Communion from the reserved Blessed Sacrament, a blessing then we depart.
    It is also a day when we abstain from flesh meat and have only one meal.
    To you all Happy Easter and enjoy your time in the Eternal City.
    Peace and love.
    David O,Brien.

  29. Dave Says:

    Visiting Italy is a real challenge all round between, pick pockets, taxi drivers that don’t run the meter and virtually no police officers that speak anything but Italian (we speak three languages). Participating in Easter ceremonies at the Vatican is a nightmare, we had tickets and waited in line for four hours for the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, but still did not get in. Italians show up in huge amounts at the last minute and just skip the lines which the police are happy to permit. I hope Pope Francis relocates the Vatican!!