Queen Elizabeth II to visit Rome

President Napolitano and Pope Francis to receive Queen

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will travel to Rome on an official visit on Thursday 3 April.

The Queen had been due to visit Italy last March but the trip was called off at the last minute after she fell ill.

The visit is at the invitation of the president of Italy Giorgio Napolitano with whom the royal couple will have a private lunch at the Quirinale palace.

Following the lunch the Queen, who is also the head of the Church of England, will have an audience with Pope Francis at his residence at Casa S. Marta, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The last time the Queen visited Italy was in 2000, when she toured Rome and Milan, while the Duke of Edinburgh attended Pope Benedict XVI's inaugural mass in the Vatican in 2005.

The last time the Queen meet with a pontiff was in 2010 during the UK visit of Benedict XVI who she welcomed at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the Queen's official residence in Scotland.

Queen Elizabeth has also met three other popes in addition to Benedict XVI. Three months before her coronation in June 1953 she met Pius XII in the Vatican, followed by a meeting with John XXIII in 1961.

The Queen met John Paul II three times: twice in the Vatican, in 1980 and 2000, as well as during the 1982 papal visit to London where she welcomed the Polish pontiff at Buckingham Palace.