Some say it’s morbid, but I love visiting cemeteries when I visit foreign cities. They hold so much history and, especially in Europe, so much historic art and architecture. Many cemeteries are really beautiful and interesting places to visit anytime but on All Souls’ Day, they become a festive celebration of family in Italy.
Verano Cemetery in Rome was the first municipal cemetery built in Rome and is still the city’s largest. Begun in 1811 it was situated just outside the then city walls on land that had belonged to the Verani family. Major Roman and Italian architects and sculptors were commissioned by wealthy families to built monuments and mausoleums for their loved ones and nearly all wealthy Catholic Italians were buried here between the 1830s and 1980s.
On All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, families gather en masse and head out to the cemetery to visit the family graves and place flowers in memory. November 1st is All Saints’ Day (Ognissanti) and the Pope says Mass at Verano Cemetery. November 2nd is All Souls’ Day (Giornata dei Defunti or Day of the Dead) and while it might be crowded and travelling there might be challenging transport-wise, this is a place you can see Italian ritual and family tradition in action.