Day 1 (Sun. May 5) – DEPARTURE
Afternoon departure from Ottawa via Toronto on a direct late afternoon flight to Rome with Air Canada. In-flight meals provided.
Day 2 (Mon. May 6) – ROME
Welcome to Italy! After our morning arrival into Rome, we will be met by our Tour Guide. After boarding our deluxe coach, we will enjoy a tasty welcome lunch and then start our pilgrimage with a visit to the first of the seven official Pilgrim Churches of Rome – the Basilica of St. John Lateran, (UNESCO) known as “Mother and head of all Churches on Earth” and its beautiful Baptistry. This was Rome’s first church, given to the Pope by Constantine as a permanent place of worship. It is seat of the bishop of Rome, who is always the Pope. The adjoining Lateran palace was the residence of the popes for 11 centuries, and the site of five ecumenical councils between the 12th and the 16th centuries. We will see among many things the tomb of Pope Leo XIII, who had the vision of Lucifer challenging Our Lord, and who composed the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel as a result. Here we will also visit the Basilica’s Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs (Scala Santa). St. Helena, the Emperor Constantine’s mother, made it her personal quest to retrieve from Judea as many articles as possible that were touched by Jesus. Among the items she had shipped back to Rome were the steps that were in front of the Governor’s Palace in Jerusalem, which she assumed were the very steps that Christ climbed when he appeared before Pontius Pilate. We will climb to the top of these stairs to reach the Church of San Lorenzo and see the Sancta Sanctorum, the personal chapel of the early Popes. Following our time at the Basilica, we drive to Piazza Farnese to visit the church and convent of St Bridget of Sweden. The church is part of the convent of the Bridgettine Sisters, where we will hold our Mass and have time for prayer. The convent building was owned by a close friend of St Bridget and known at the time as the Grand Palace. St. Bridget lived there for 19 years, and her rooms have been preserved. We will visit the beautiful chapel and the rooms of St Bridget and her daughter St Catherine, first abbess of the Bridgettine Sisters. The rooms contain relics of the two saints and are decorated with paintings and items from their lives. Then, we transfer to our hotel, where you will have time to relax, rest and freshen up before dinner. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Rome. (4 nights)
Day 3 (Tues. May 7) – ANCIENT ROME
Today our day will include the historic centre of Rome (UNESCO) and a number of churches that are not often seen but highly relevant and of great spiritual importance. We begin with a visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of the oldest and most important shrines in the world dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the second of the seven Pilgrim churches. St. Mary Major contains some the finest artwork and architectural wonders in the world, as well as important relics. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, celebrated his first Mass here in a side chapel on Christmas Eve, 1538. Pope Francis, the day after his election as Pope, came to pray at the same altar. After our time here, we take a short walk to Santa Prassede, an ancient titular church and minor basilica, located near the papal basilica of Saint Mary Major. The church in its current form was commissioned by Pope Hadrian I around the year 780 to house the bones of martyrs and Saints Praxedes and Pudentiana, the daughters of Saint Pudens, traditionally St. Peter’s first Christian convert in Rome. It is renowned for its Byzantine mosaics as well as an important relic retrieved by Saint Helena – a segment of the pillar upon which Jesus was flogged before his crucifixion. Then we take a 2-minute walk to the Church of St. Alphonsus, the world-wide mother church of the Redemptorists, to pray together before the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which was entrusted to them and placed here by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1866. Nearby, we will visit Church of St. Peter in Chains, to see Michelangelo’s celebrated sculpture, “Moses” and the chains that held St. Peter captive in the Mamertine Prison. Then, we will visit the remarkable Pantheon, a former Roman temple, now a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs and one of the best-preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. The present building was completed and dedicated by the emperor Hadrian around 126 AD. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Our morning ends at the famous nearby Piazza Navona, the most beautiful in Rome, where we will celebrate Mass at the Church of St. Agnes in Agony, then have free time to enjoy the Piazza and have lunch. Roman life revolves around the piazzas, where people shop, have a coffee, catch up with friends, drink from the fountain or simply sit on a bench and watch the world go by. After we regroup, we enjoy a panoramic tour of Ancient Rome, starting with a visit to the fascinating minor Basilica of San Clemente. A three-tiered structure, its top level is the present basilica built just before the year 1100 during the height of the Middle Ages. The second level is a 4th-century basilica converted out of the home of a Roman nobleman, and the lowest level is the original 1st century private home that was the site of clandestine Christian worship and at one time served as a bath-house. From here it is a short walk to the Colosseum, home of the famous Roman athletic games and entertainment, and the martyrdom of early Christians. From there we continue by walking through the Palantine Hill area, by the Arch of Constantine, and the incredible Roman Forum, the central area of the city around which ancient Rome developed. Most of the ruins you see here are pagan monuments or temples that date from around 27 B.C. to 476 A.D. It is also, home to five churches dating back to the 6th Century. Of these we will see Old Saint Mary’s, the oldest church in the Forum with its unique collection of 6th century wall paintings that is un-equalled in Rome, the Basilica of Saints Cosmos and Damian with its beautiful frescoes, the Church of Saint Joseph of the Carpenters and the Mamertine Prison beneath it where Saints Peter and Paul were held before their executions. We also see the Arch of Titus, Circus Maximus and the Roman Aqueducts.
Our final stop of the day is Il Gesu – the Mother Church of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola & co-founded by St. Francis Xavier & St. Peter Faber, a hidden gem in this city of over 800 Churches. As we enter the Church, we will see a reliquary containing the right arm of St. Francis Xavier. He came here on foot after his missionary journeys to France and Spain and ended up dying in the arms of Saint Ignatius. We will visit the small house next door, where Saint Ignatius lived for 17 years and where he wrote the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. (The original copy is on display here). We will view the four rooms that remain of the original building, built in 1543, and see some of his original furniture and personal affects. We end our day with a short drive to visit St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, our third of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome, built on the site where Saint Lawrence was martyred. One of Rome’s oldest churches. it houses the relics of Saint Lawrence, Saint Justin and Saint Stephen,
and the tomb of Pope Pius IX, the longest-reigning Pope in history (32 years), beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. Dinner tonight is in a lovely Roman restaurant, with a three-course meal, including wine. Overnight in our Rome hotel.
Day 4 (Wed. May 8) – ROME & PAPAL AUDIENCE
This morning we begin by going to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square for the customary Wednesday Papal audience at 10 am, if Pope Francis is in residence. We will arrive early to get good seats. The audience runs from 10:30 to about noon. After lunch, we take a prayerful visit to the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, our fourth of the seven Pilgrimage Churches in Rome. This is an important church as it contains several significant artifacts – relics from the crucifixion of Jesus, brought from the Holy Land by Saint Helena. Originally built around 320 A.D. it was a small chapel attached to Saint Helena’s home here and the floor contained some soil brought back from the holy land. After time for Mass and reflection, we move on to our fifth Pilgrim Church – St. Paul Outside the Walls.(UNESCO) This huge, imposing Basilica, second only to St. Peter’s and one of the largest churches in the Christian world, contains an unusual gallery of papal portraits: 265 tablets portraying the popes of the past. From here, we walk to nearby Tre Fontane, to the Church of St. Paul at the Three Fountains, site of the martyrdom of St. Paul and also one of the 20th Century’s more interesting apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a Communist man named Bruno Cornacchiola, who planned to change history by killing the Pope, Pius XII. It was Bruno to whom she revealed that she had been assumed body and soul into heaven. Dinner and overnight in our Rome hotel.
Day 5 (Thurs. May 9) – ROME – THE VATICAN IN DEPTH
We start our day by going to St. Peter’s Basilica (UNESCO) for an 8 am private Mass in a side chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica, the heart of the Catholic Church for the whole world, and of course one of the seven major Pilgrim Churches of Rome – the sixth that we are seeing. We will then tour the grottoes to see tombs of Many Popes, then go below the grottoes take the “Scavi Tour” of a special part of the Vatican seen by few pilgrims. This is the ancient Necropolis, the Roman “city of the dead” which holds excavations of St. Peter’s tomb. The tomb of St. John Paul II was originally in the grottoes below the floor of the Basilica, in a spot previously occupied by the tomb of St. Pope John XXIII, whose body was moved up into the basilica. In 2011 John Paul II was declared Blessed, and his body was also moved up into the basilica, where it was placed under the altar of St. Sebastian. Following our Scavi tour, we will experience the marvels within the awe-inspiring Basilica of St Peters itself, including Michelangelo’s Pieta, the chapel of San Sebastian, the chair of St. Peter, the Apse, dome, the beautiful central baldacchino (canopy) by Bernini, a 13’th century statue of St. Peter, with its foot worn away by centuries of pilgrim kisses, and other impressive works of art. Then have some free time to pray, take the elevator up to the dome again to enjoy the extensive views of the city from the top and/or shop at the gift shop run by the nuns there, before going for lunch nearby. After lunch, we will be treated to an open bus tour of the beautiful Vatican Gardens, another part of this special place that many people miss. Our Vatican adventure ends with special entrance into the Vatican Museum and its breathtaking collection of art, rooms, galleries, the Borgia apartments, and of course its highlight – the Sistine Chapel. After our time here, we board our bus for a brief stop near the Castel Sant D’Angelo, which has been a fortress, prison and a Pope’s hiding place and the beautiful Pont D’Angelo bridge. Our last stop is the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Prati to see the tiny Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory – one of those little-known places that few pilgrims see! Among the items on display is the nightcap of a man who discovered his deceased wife’s hand prints on it asking him to pray for her, and a book belonging to a woman whose mother-in-law appeared to her, asking for two masses in her honor. After the Masses were celebrated, the woman found the hand print of her mother-in-law on the
book as a message of thanks. We end our day with a short drive along the Tiber River, before returning to our hotel. Dinner and overnight in our Rome hotel
(Please note – The Dress Code is strictly enforced at St. Peter’s Basilica. No shorts, bare shoulders, etc.)
Day 6 (Fri. May 10) – CASTEL GONDOLFO, GENAZZANO, NETTUNO
After breakfast, we begin our exploration of central Italy by driving southeast of the city to stop and see the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love, the seventh and last of the pilgrimage churches of Rome, completing our plenary indulgence. Then we take in a spectacular and special place – the nearby town of Castel Gandolfo, where the Popes have traditionally come in the hot summer months to escape the heat of the city. We will visit the grounds and see the beautiful three-tiered Barberini Gardens and the new papal portrait gallery in the Apostolic Palace. The first Pope to stay here was Pope Urban VI, in 1628. Then we move on to the small town of Genazzano, home to the original miraculous fresco of Our Lady of Good Counsel. In earlier pagan times, it was a celebrated shrine for the worship of Venus until, in the fourth century, a church was built there in honor of Our Lady. While the church was being built, in the midst of the festivities for the Feast of Saint Mark, the residents of the town suddenly heard beautiful music. A mysterious cloud descended and obscured an unfinished wall of the parish church, and then, as everyone watched, the cloud dissipated and the beautiful fresco appeared. Our journey continues southwest to the picturesque sea-side town of Nettuno, where we will visit the home and then Shrine of St. Maria Goretti, Patron Saint of Chastity, teenage girls, youth, victims of rape and perhaps most importantly, forgiveness. Her house, located in a small villa called Le Ferriere, is about 10 km from the sanctuary. The kitchen, where she was murdered, is now a small chapel. At the shrine, we will see her reliquary. St. Maria Goretti’s body is not incorrupt. A glass casket contains a wax statue, within which repose her skeletal remains. After visiting the shrine, we will celebrate Mass here, then have some time for reflection and then enjoy the beach which is just right side of the shrine. Dinner and overnight in our highly rated sea-view hotel, situated across the road from the beach and marina in Nettuno.
Day 7 (Sat. May 11) – MONTECASSINO, MUGNANO, AMALFI COAST
This morning we leave Nettuno to drive to the beautiful and important Abby of Montecassino, founded by St. Benedict in 529 A.D. over the ruins of a pagan temple. Set high on a mountain top, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, most recently in the fierce aerial bombardment by Allied forces during February 1944 as they attempted to liberate Italy. The earthly remains of St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica, who both died in the mid 6’th century, are found here. After celebrating Mass and having time for prayer here, we drive further south to the town of Mugnano del Cardinale, to visit the Shrine of Saint Philomena. When her remains, discovered in the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome, were brought to the village church at Mugnano in 1805, graces, favors and miracles began to occur among the village people. Over the years, these miracles have continued. Following time for prayer, we continue south to the beautiful Sorrento coast and our beautiful seaside resort here. Dinner and overnight at our beach hotel in Castellammare di Sabia.
Day 8 (Sun. May 12) – SALERNO, PIETRELCINA, MORCONE, SAN GIOVANNI ROTUNDO
This morning, get your cameras ready for our breath-taking drive along the incredible Amalfi Coast, from Sorrento to Salerno – a 50 Km stretch of coastline dotted by sheer cliffs, small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages, which is a UNESCO Heritage site. Once there, we explore a highlight of this coastal city – its Cathedral. Reached through an Atrium supporting 28 Roman columns and dominated by its beautiful 12’th century bell tower, the Duomo presents the visitor with a breathtaking interior filled with exquisite medieval frescoes and several tombs of great significance. Here lie the relics of St. Matthew the Apostle, and the tomb of Pope Gregory VII. After prayer in front of St. Matthew’s tomb, we will depart for Pietrelcina, the small town where St. Padre Pio was born and raised. Still a typical small Italian town, it provides a sense of peace and tranquility. Here, we will see the house where this wonderful saint of the 20’th century saint grew up. Long after he left the town, St. Padre Pio was reported to say, “Pietrelcina will be preserved like the apple of my eyes.” Before dying, he declared, “During my life I have favoured San Giovanni Rotondo. After my death, I will favour Pietrelcina.” We will celebrate our Mass in the Santa Ana Chapel where Padre Pio was baptised and served as an altar boy. Then, we drive a short distance north to the mountain town of Morcone, to visit the Capuchin Monastery there where, on January 6, 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars. We will see the library and Padre Pio’s cell there. Following our time here, and a relaxing lunch, we drive east to one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Italy, San Giovanni Rotundo, in the Gargano Mountains, where Padre Pio moved in 1916 and where he spent the rest of his life. After checking into our hotel and enjoying our dinner, we will be able to participate in a candlelight Rosary procession. Dinner and overnight in San Giovanni Rotundo.
Day 9 (Mon. May 13) – SAN GIOVANNI ROTUNDO, MONTE SANT ’ANGELO, LANCIANO
This morning, we will visit a number of significant places in San Giovanni Rotundo, including Padre Pio’s cell, his tomb inside Our Lady of Grace church where we will see his body, the sanctuary, the crucifix from which he received the stigmata in 1918, the confessional where he spent innumerable hours with a multitude of pilgrims, and the new pilgrim church built to hold 6,500 pilgrims at a time. Then, we will drive to one of the holiest places in Italy located on the eastern coast – the cave of Monte Sant ’Angelo, where St. Michael the Archangel appeared to a Bishop a number of times in the late 5’th century. He told the Bishop that there was no need to consecrate the cave as he had already personally done this. In a latter appearance to the Bishop, Saint Michael said, “I am Michael the Archangel and am always in the presence of God. I chose the cave as sacred to me. … There the rocks open widely, the sins of men may be pardoned. What is asked here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go up to the mountain cave and dedicate it to the Christian God.” This cave has been visited by countless popes and saints, including St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bridget of Sweden, at least 7 popes including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Saint Francis of Assisi considered it to be so holy that he would not even enter it. We will celebrate our Mass here in the cave. After time for prayer & reflection, our drive continues north along the coast to Lanciano. Dinner and overnight in our hotel near Lanciano. (1 night)
Day 10 (Tues. May 14) – LANCIANO, MANOPPELLO, L’AQUILA, CASCIA, ASSISI
After breakfast, we will go to the church of St. Francis, to view the famous Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano. Here, in the 8th century, a Basilian monk, who had doubted the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, was celebrating Mass, and at the consecration, saw that the Host had changed into flesh. The wine had changed into blood; clotted and separated into 5 different sized clots. The news spread quickly, and the faithful came from all over to view the miracle, which to this day has retained the same dimensions. Contained in a silver and glass reliquary, it is clearly visible in the church. Scientific testing in the 1970’s confirmed that the flesh is a slice of heart muscle and the blood is real blood – type AB, the same as found on the Shroud of Turin. Viewing this miracle of Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament is a moving experience. We will have our Mass here, followed by a short walk through part of the lovely old town. Then, we move on to the small town of Manoppello, specifically to go to the Church of the Holy Face, in the Capuchin monastery, to see Veronica’s Veil, which is on display here. The image, similar to the more famous Shroud of Turin, is not painted on, but is part of the cloth itself. Unlike the Shroud, it is a positive image rather than a negative one. When the image on the Veil of Manoppello is laid over that of the Shroud of Turin, the two images match perfectly. We will be able to view it up close and spend time in prayer. Our drive northwest towards Assisi takes us through magnificent mountainous country, and we will make a short stop at the small city of L’Aquila, which was severely damaged by an earthquake in 2009. Here, we will visit the Basilica of Santa Maria de Collemaggio, which holds the tomb of Pope Celestine V, a hermit who did not want to become Pope. He was crowned here in 1294 (the only Pope to be crowned outside of Rome), but later relinquished his title. We will see his body inside his glass tomb, the site of an important event in April 2009. When Pope Benedict VI visited the town and shrine after the earthquake, he did something unusual: he placed his Pallium (the symbol of his office) on the tomb and left it there – a symbolic gesture and precursor to his doing what Celestine did over 500 years earlier. After lunch, our journey continues south from Assisi to the small town of Cascia, home of Saint Rita of Cascia, who is often called “the saint of the impossible”. We will visit the Basilica of St. Rita, which houses her incorrupt body, and see the Crucifix from which she received the Stigmata. We will also go to the Lower Basilica to the Chapel to see the Eucharistic Miracle of Cascia found here in a unique stone and crystal tabernacle; the tomb of Blessed Simon of Cascia, a famous preacher and the priest who brought the miraculous host to Cascia; and the tomb of the Servant of God, Blessed Mother Teresa Fasce, who dedicated her life to raising awareness of Saint Rita. Time permitting, we will also visit the monastery where St. Rita lived and view her holy cell. Then we will press on to reach Assisi, in order to be able to stay 2 nights in this peaceful and very holy medieval walled town. Tonight, we will have a late dinner (as is common in Europe) and overnight in our Assisi hotel. (2 nights)
Day 11 (Wed. May 15) – ASSISI
Today we will spend our time touring the picturesque & peaceful home of two beloved saints – St. Francis and St. Clare. This special UNESCO Heritage Site and place of pilgrimage still retains the true feeling of a medieval town. First, we will visit the 13th-century Basilica of St. Francis, where we will pray at the tomb of St Francis and celebrate our Mass. We will contemplate St. Francis’ life, as shown in a series of frescoes here, before moving on to the nearby Basilica of St. Clare (Santa Chiara church), where we will see St. Clare’s incorrupt body in the crypt, which is now covered in wax. This Basilica also contains the original crucifix from the dilapidated country chapel in San Damiano, where Francis had a vision of Christ and heard Him say, “Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” Our day will also include a walking tour of the 12’th century town, including a visit to the town’s church Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, built in 1539 on the site of a 1’st century Roman Temple of Minerva. The temple’s original façade, with its pillars, steps and porticos, still stands as the entrance to the church, facing out onto the town’s main square. You will have some free time to shop, take in the atmosphere of this special place and eat lunch at an outdoor café. After lunch, our tour takes us outside the walls of Assisi, to visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, built on the site where St. Francis spent most of his life. This Basilica houses two important structures – the 9’th century tiny church called the “Porziuncola”, the most sacred place for the Franciscans, as this is where St. Francis founded his order, and the “Chapel of Transito”, the small room where St. Francis’ died on Oct. 3, 1226. At the time it was a little hut which served as an infirmary for the sick. We will also visit the beautiful Rose Garden – the remains of the original woodland area where St. Francis and other friars lived, and where he preached to the birds and animals. Once, when St. Francis was tempted relentlessly by the Devil, he reportedly rolled in a briar bush and it turned into a thornless rose bush. We will see this very bush, which, to this day, bears no thorns on its branches. Here, also, is a statue of Saint Francis to mark the spot where he talked to the doves. To this day, white turtle doves continue to nest in this statue. In the garden we will also find the Rose Chapel, built over the cell where St. Francis prayed often at night and met St. Anthony of Padua when he visited here, and the cave where the Saint retired to pray. We will have time for prayer and reflection before returning to the town. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Assisi.
Day 12 (Thurs. May 16) – ASSISI, LA VERNA, TUSCANY, AREZZO, ROME
This morning, we will drive through the beautiful Umbrian mountains to another important place in the life of St. Francis, La Verna, a mountain retreat given to the saint as a gift in 1213, and the site where he received the Stigmata while keeping a 40-day fast. Here in the Chapel of the Wounds we will see the rock upon which Saint Francis was sitting when he received the Stigmata (under glass in front of the altar). We will celebrate our Mass here in this Chapel. After an extended time for prayer and reflection, we drive south into Tuscany to Arezzo, to enjoy a relaxing home-made country lunch at a lovely Organic Vineyard, Podere di Pomaio. Here we will be given a short tour of its vineyard & cellars, then be able to taste and/or buy their delicious wines & olive oils while enjoying the pastoral beauty. After our culinary experience, we will stop briefly in Arezzo to visit the old town centre, then say goodbye to Tuscany as we head back to Rome, to enjoy our final meal at our hotel and get ready to return home tomorrow.
Day 13 (Fri. May 17) – DEPART FOR HOME OR OPTIONAL EXTENSION
We will say farewell to Italy and embark from Rome on our afternoon Air Canada flight direct to Toronto and then to Ottawa or our home cities.
Day 13 (Fri. May 17- Sun. May 19) – OPTIONAL 2-DAY EXTENSION – ANZIO
This morning, you will travel by mini-bus 1 hour south to the historic beach town and port of Anzio (which borders Nettuno) where, after checking into your 4-star sea-side resort with ocean view rooms, you will spend the 2 days enjoying the beach, hotel amenities and enjoying the many activities and places to explore found in this lovely area. Well known for its seaside harbour setting, Anzio is a fishing port and a departure point for ferries and hydroplanes to the Pontine Islands of Ponza, Palmarola and Ventotene. The coast is lined with beautiful beaches, historic ruins and hotels, while the port is famous for its fish restaurants, boardwalks and interesting mix of vessels that use its harbour. Along with neighbouring Nettuno, Anzio is notable as the site of an Allied forces landing and ensuing during World War II. The Commonwealth War Cemetery, and Beach Head War Cemetery and Museum are located here. The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial is in nearby Nettuno. Along the coast are numerous remains of Roman villas, including the Domus Neroniana, has been identified as a residence of Nero. About 8 kilometres (5 miles) north of the town there is a WWF park with sulphur springs and a medieval tower, Tor Caldara. Near the ruins of the Villa of Nero, in scenic position near the beach, lies the military sanatorium of the Italian army, one of the most important works of Florestano Di Fausto, built in 1930-33. Take time to relax, explore, shop, dine and enjoy the beautiful views of this delightful area. Those choosing to add on the extension here will stay 2 nights and return to Rome to fly back home Sunday, May 19 in the afternoon. Your breakfasts at the hotel and transfers between Rome & Anzio are included in the price of the extension.