Rome to light up Christmas tree on Festa dell'Immacolata.
Italy marks the Feast of Immaculate Conception, a Catholic holy day, with a national public holiday on 8 December.
The fact that the festa falls on a Wednesday this year means that many people will turn the occasion into a "ponte" (bridge) or long weekend, despite the snow forecast in some northern regions.
This year more than 10 million people in Italy are expected to take a short break, according to projections by Italian hotel federation Federalberghi, which estimates that 93 per cent will vacation in Italy - in most cases in their home region or one nearby - with 7 per cent taking a mini holiday abroad.
One of the main events associated with the day in Italy - the pope's pilgrimage to Piazza Mignanelli in Rome - has been cancelled for the second year in a row, on covid grounds, to avoid crowds in the centre.
Last year the pontiff made a surprise dawn visit
, in the heavy rain, to pay homage to the statue of the Madonna near the Spanish Steps. This morning he made the pilgrimage, without crowds, at 06.15.
The day, known in Italy as L'Immacolata
, is also viewed as the official start of the Christmas shopping season, however police will once again be monitoring the flow of crowds in busy shopping streets
over the festive season.
Another Roman tradition on 8 December is the illumination of the capital's Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia.
Rome's new mayor Roberto Gualtieri
is expected to switch on the lights of the tree, a 25-metre high fir from Trentino, at 17.30, along with the Christmas lights over the central Via del Corso.