It’s no secret that Italy is home to many historic churches, both big and small. These works of art are some of the greatest architectural feats in the world, and were created by some of the most famous artists of all time. Italian cathedrals and basilicas have become a travel destination, and are frequented by tourists and locals alike.
While many churches in the United States abide by a “come as you are” policy, Italians are much more strict about how visitors conduct themselves in religious spaces. Below, we’ve provided you with a short list of ground rules to follow should you have the opportunity to tour an Italian church.
If you’re mindful of these few easy pointers, your exploration of Italy’s rich historic landmarks will be simply stress-free and awe-inspiring. Enjoy!
- Cover up. Italian churches emphasize modesty, and all visitors are required to have covered shoulders and knees. If it’s hot and you must wear a tank top and shorts, bring along a few scarves to wrap around your waist and shoulders when you enter the church. And don’t forget to pack a scarf while you’re still in the US – many street vendors surrounding the church will attempt to sell you one at a highly inflated price.
- Quiet down. Much like many American churches, Italian cathedrals and basilicas are a reverent place meant for contemplation, reflection, and appreciation for a sacred environment. That means you should keep your voice low, walk slowly, and turn off your cell phone.
- Save your selfies for the beach. Most churches have a no photography policy, so if you don’t want to get involved with any security guards, look for prohibitory signs as you enter the church. Often, this rule is to preserve the artwork inside. Of course, you can take photos of the building from outside!
- Eat on the street. Trust us, we know it’s not easy to put the pizza down when you’re in Italy. In respect of your surroundings, however, save the snacks for after your tour!
- Visit during Vespers. If you’re interested in seeing an Italian mass in action, Vespers is the way to go for tourists. It’s a quiet evening service made up mostly of repetitive songs, and has several benefits for tourists. You don’t have to wake up early for morning mass, it’s usually the shortest of the services, and the repetition and song is easiest to listen to for non-Italian speakers.
Have you visited an Italian church before? What’s your favorite? Have a tip we left out? Share in the comments below!