Holy Week began with yesterday’s Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Complicating things for visitors was the fact that daylight saving’s time began in Italy on the same day–and if they were unaware of that, they arrived an hour late!
Many people who’ve never been to Rome before have the idea that Holy Week is a great time to come. But in reality, if you’re visiting Rome for the very first time, Holy Week and Christmas-time are the absolutely WORST times of year that you could possibly choose. For starters, the crowds are usually suffocating. Prices shoot up sky-high, since it’s peak-season. The Vatican Museums will be closed, right when you were hoping to visit (Murphy’s Law applies in Italy too). The big basilicas will close at unexpected times, in order to clean and prepare for the big liturgical celebrations of the Triduum. And since the Triduum involves a veritable machine-gun volley of papal events, one after the other after the other, St. Peter’s will frequently be closed altogether, OR open to ticket-holders only, after they’ve waited in line for several hours. Streets will be closed and trust us, the security people won’t know when they’re going to reopen (no matter what they tell you in order to make you go away).
This chaos is not what your first visit to Rome should be like! So take it from us: make your first trip to Rome in off-season, when nobody’s here and prices are rock-bottom (late January, February, November and early December are great). And when you’ve been here before, you know your way around and have already seen the major sites, then come back for another visit during Holy Week… and pray.