Buona Domenica is the greeting that everyone says to each other after church on Sunday.
One of our favorite things to do while in Italy has been to attend mass. You get to sit in a beautiful church, listen to music, and have a very local authentic experience. I always find it so moving.
Last week, we went to mass at St. Mark’s Basilica. During the day, people line up in the hot sun to get in – the line is probably at least an hour long. Then they quickly stride through, bumping into each other trying to see the art and read their guidebooks. Or they have a guide and skip the line but have to practically run through to get to the next stop on the tour. We know – we have done both of these.
So this time, what a wonderful experience. We walked through the side door, where we told the guard we were attending Mass. We were early so got a good seat near the front and could sit down (a good thing itself) and really take time to soak up the brilliant mosaics and architecture. Soon the choir started – from up above us – and the priests walked down the aisle.
The service was in Italian and Latin, but we could generally follow along. And everyone filed to the front for communion at the end – seeing all the faces from all over the world as they walked back to their seats brought tears to my eyes and gave me hope that so many people would take the time while on a trip to stop and pray – in so many different languages.
Here are some tips if you are interested in attending Mass:
- Time – Most of the larger churches have a website, although you may have to translate the days of the week. Most have mass every day, with more pageantry on Sunday (Domenica). You can also go to the church itself and look for a sign or ask.
- Dress – We are always amazed (horrified) that so many tourists show up in flip flips, shorts, and sleeveless clothes. It is disrespectful. Women should cover their knees and shoulders (and in more rural areas, their heads). I usually dress more conservatively when I know I am going to church, but I always carry a couple of extra scarves in my bag just in case.
- No Pictures – We also are surprised that people take pictures or even video throughout the service. One man took a picture of me as I took communion – the priest and I were both stunned. This is just rude. If you want a picture and the church allows, wait until mass is over.
- Program – Most services have a written program in Italian that is like a script. Even if you don’t read Italian, you may be able to pick out some words and follow along. If completely lost, I watch to see when the person next to me turns the page and then start over. I also figure out who is Italian and watch when I need to stand up.
- Peace – In Italian, “peace” is “pace” (pah-chay). When you hear this word, get ready to stand up and greet the people around you. You shake hands and both say “Pace.”
- Communion – In the Catholic church, they have communion at every service. Everyone files to the front to be given the bread by the priest (sometimes they only do bread and no wine). They invite everyone who wants to partake. So it’s ok to get in line and make your way forward. I get in the back of the line and watch the people in front of me to see what they do since every place is a little different. To me, this is the most special part of the service. After you receive your communion, go back to your seat and sit quietly or pray.
So – Buona Domenica! Peace be with you, and have a blessed week!