Today is a holiday in Rome to commemorate the city’s two patron saints, Peter and Paul. Every city and town in Italy has a patron saint. Rome is the only one with two. And every city and town has a holiday on its patron saint’s day, but Rome has only one holiday because June 29 the saint’s day for both.
All the shops and offices are closed. Municipal services like garbage collection and public transport are following a holiday schedule. When I went out for my early morning walk, I encountered not only other walkers, bicyclists and dogs on leashes, but also people packing up cars. It’s a good day to go to the beach because other towns don’t have the holiday, so the beaches aren’t crowded. Bars serving steaming cups of cappuccino opened their doors early, and tantalizing pastry shops are offering their wares until 1 p.m.
There are major religious services at St. Peter’s basilica and at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls today, but most of Rome’s other 1,000 churches will have services as well. Tradition has it that the two saints met for the last time on a spot near St. Paul’s shortly before both were killed by the ancient Romans for their Christian activities. The spot, which is actually identified by a street address, will see it’s own ceremony, as it does every year. The celebrations end with fireworks at midnight.
It’s not only cities and towns that have patron saints. Each church has a patron saint as well. And while these saints’ days do not warrant a holiday, they do have celebrations. With its 1,000 plus churches, Rome has a patron saint celebration almost daily, complete with fireworks.
On the secular side, it’s a day for sleeping late and enjoying a good meal. Because the weather is fine, Romans will be out enjoying a stroll in the afternoon, eating a gelato, seeing friends, and at the end of the evening, seeking a good place to watch those fireworks.