“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history…it means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God…” –Pope Benedict XVI
Inside the Vatican Pilgrimages are different from all other tours and pilgrimages. We craft a daily itinerary which creates a fabric woven of spiritual, historical and personal elements — the personalities of great saints, the personalities of those we encounter and the personalities of our pilgrims with everything they bring from their lives and their faith journeys. Our pilgrimages, therefore, are unique, unrepeatable experiences. Personal encounter is the key to our Signature Pilgrimages. With more than 27 years of publishing Inside the Vatican magazine, we have colleagues and friends all over the world — and many of them have become part of our Pilgrimage family.
Our Signature Pilgrimages — small, private groups averaging 15 pilgrims — are impossible to mass produce. They are like a product of an artisan, a work of art that reflects the painstaking commitment of an artist to create something of great and unique beauty.
Crafting a Signature Pilgrimage is about knowing firsthand what makes a place extraordinary, knowing personally the people involved, understanding how best to experience it and then finessing the countless details, moments and encounters both planned and spontaneous. Our thoughtful trip design, flexible pace, local connections, and intimate group sizes are just a few of the reasons why our pilgrims often return to join us again for other pilgrimages.
Designing a pilgrimage begins with a theme or a particular country; then we weave in possible encounters with real people who live and work there, as well as those with expert knowledge of the theme or place in historical perspective. These details are gradually realized as we journey to both world-renowned and little-known places. We don’t even publish our full itinerary until each detail has been intimately discussed and arranged to create a unique experience; we do not have cookie-cutter pilgrimages!
Inside the Vatican Signature Pilgrimages are our more intimate pilgrimages which allows us to visit a Vatican or government official, even in the living room of their private apartment. Some of these intimate visits have included: tea with Pope Benedict’s brother in his private home in Germany, breakfast with the Vatican’s Nuncio in the Nunciature in Moscow and a spiritual reflection on the life of St. Francis with the bishop of Assisi in his home. These intimate encounters create fascinating dinner-table discussions — something that cannot be duplicated!
Some of these personal encounters are of the unpredictable sort: the chance meeting with a kind-hearted nun who understands perfectly your family heartache, or the engaging hotel owner who shares the story of his family and the city he loves, or the porter who is also an amateur expert on an obscure, but fascinating, local saint or miracle worker. Such are the kinds of unexpected encounters we experience on every pilgrimage.
The leaders of our Signature Pilgrimages are not only scholars who have studied the history and meaning of the places we visit, but also they understand that pilgrimaging is a soul’s journey towards God and with God.
The accommodations on our Signature Pilgrimages are often ancient structures, like a Renaissance palace in Norcia, Italy, transformed into a hotel, or a Vatican-operated seminary transformed into a pilgrim guest house a few steps from the walls of Vatican City. We know the owners and operators of these places, and our pilgrims are treated like old friends. We choose our hotels carefully ensuring they are unique, well located and have all the amenities our pilgrims may need. We visit and stay in all hotels to ensure they meet our standards before we bring pilgrims to stay. Many of these properties have places where we can gather for conversation and reflection, and chapels for prayer.
The meals on our Signature Pilgrimages are simple and extraordinary and, yes, unforgettable. We choose the family restaurants where the locals eat. Whether in Italy, Germany, Russia or England, we eat fresh local food, prepared by local chefs whom we have come to know and trust. Everything is “genuine,” as the Italians say. So even though we eat simply, as befits pilgrims, some of our pilgrims say they have never tasted anything as good as the pizzas we have found, with thin, crispy crusts topped by delicious fresh herb sauces and mozzarella cheese fresh from Naples, as when on pilgrimage with us. The olive oil is extraordinary, the wine with meals is always local and good, and not to be forgotten is the gelato after dinner — the most unusual and pleasant products of the ingenuity of Italy’s makers of ice-cream… but not in excess!