St Patrick's Day in Rome

Wanted in Rome's guide to St Patrick's Day in the capital

This year in Rome there are plenty of Irish-themed events in the weeks either side of St Patrick's Day, the annual celebration of Ireland's patron saint on 17 March.

This is the first St Patrick's Day in Rome for Ireland's ambassador to Italy Bobby McDonagh who arrived in the Italian capital last September. Each St Patrick's Day Irish government ministers travel to key destinations around the world, including Rome, and this year the Irish government is being represented in Italy by its minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, Richard Bruton.

One of the first Irish events takes place on Sunday 9 March at 10.30 when the Rome Gaelic Football Club meet Roma Football Club in an international rules friendly match. The game will be held at the Rome Gaelic Football Club's usual training pitch at RomaRugby on Via delle tre Fontane 5. Full details on the club’s Facebook page.

Later that day at 17.00, Rome-based Irish dance academy Gens D'Ys, accompanied by Irish folk music band TheShire, will take you through the paces of traditional Irish and Scottish dancing at a special St Patrick's Day event at Eschilo 2 on Via del Fosso di Dragoncello 201. For more information tel. 388/1177084 or 334/7208865, or see the event's Facebook page.

On Tuesday 11 March the Waterford Male Voice Choir, comprising 50 singers and musicians, will give a concert at the church of S. Lucia del Gonfalone, Via dei Banchi Vecchi 12. The choir from the south-east of Ireland will perform sacred music, arias from operas, Irish and Welsh traditional songs, as well as some popular music. There is no admission charge and refreshments will be served afterwards.

On Saturday 15 March the Libri Come festival at the Auditorium Parco della Musica welomes the award-winning Irish novelist John Banville, who also writes as Benjamin Black, and who last participated in the festival two years ago.

The biggest social event in Irish circles is undoubtedly the Celtic Ball which this year takes place on 15 March at the slightly earlier hour of 18.00 to allow rugby fans to see the final game of the Six Nations tournament when France faces Ireland in Paris. The 23rd edition of the annual black-tie event is being held at the five-star Grand Hotel Parco dei Principi near Villa Borghese. The event always sells out so don't leave it to the last minute to get your tickets.

On Sunday 16 March at 18.00 the Catholic Church of St Francis Xavier dei Caravita, Via della Caravita 7, is hosting a St Patrick's Eve concert with a performance by the renowned Cór na nÓg Caisleán Ruairí from Rostrevor in Co. Down. For more than 20 years the choir has performed in palaces, theatres, embassies, castles and cathedrals around Europe. The concert will include traditional Irish music played on a variety of instruments as well as several pieces in both Italian and Latin.

On Monday 17 March St Patrick's Day begins officially at 10.30, with the annual Mass for Lá Fhéile Pádraig being celebrated "as gaeilge", or in the Irish language, at St Isidore’s College. According to tradition, the venue for the Mass alternates each year but the principal celebrant is always the rector of the Pontifical Irish College, in this case Msgr Ciarán O’Carroll. The Mass is always extremely well-attended by the city's Irish community and friends of Ireland, so arrive early to get a seat. The service, which includes a rousing chorus of "Hail Glorious, St Patrick", is followed by a reception in the cloister of the church which is located on Via degli Artisti 41, just up the hill from Barberini metro station.

Later that evening the Irish College on Via dei SS. Quattro 1 will celebrate Vespers at 19.30, followed by refreshments and a performance by the Cór na nÓg Caisleán Ruairí choir. Those attending will be able to contribute to the Irish College's Lenten Appeal, with funds this year going to the papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Kajewski. The Irish College says that this will be a chance to contribute in a direct manner to Pope Francis's outreach to the poor.

For those who wish to celebrate the occasion with a pint or two of Guinness, some of the Irish pubs most favoured by the capital’s Irish expats include the Druid’s Den, the Fiddler’s ElbowFinnegan's, the Old Marconi and Scholars Lounge, all of which attract large crowds on St Patrick’s Day each year. The Irish festive season also sees the return of Clann Ri Liamo, a Dublin performer already well-known on the Irish pub scene in Rome. Other Irish singers to watch out for at Scholars Lounge include Kildare's Ricky Nolan Duggan, and the lively Wexford performer Darren Byrne. On 17 March the Rome-based traditional Irish band The Shire plays at the Shamrock at 18.00 and at the Nag's Head at 22.00.

Wrapping up the St Patrick's Day season in style is the capital's IrishFilmFesta which has moved from its previous November schedule and now takes place from 27-30 March. The seventh edition of the increasingly popular festival is held at the Casa del Cinema in Villa Borghese, and showcases feature films, documentaries and short films, providing acting masterclasses and public interviews with special guests.

This year the festival will dedicate a tribute to Peter O'Toole, the much-loved Irish actor who died last December aged 81. The festival's guest speaker for this special occasion will be Peter's daughter, the actress Kate O'Toole, who will take part in a public interview, her first since her father passed away. 

The festival's competition section will include 15 short films, not the usual ten, and there is a special day dedicated to Belfast. Entry is free and all the films are screened in their original language with Italian subtitles.