One of the top pilgrimage destinations in Italy, the town of San Giovanni Rotondo was home to the priest Padre Pio, canonized in 2002. Faithful from around the world flock to the town to honor its most famous resident, paying homage in the Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the saint is buried.The Basics
San Giovanni Rotondo is located on the Gargano Peninsula in northern Puglia and is a popular day trip and cruise excursion from the nearby port city of Bari. The pilgrimage sites in San Giovanni Rotondo are visited by more than seven million pilgrims every year; only Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City sees more annual visitors.
Tours include a stop at the massive Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, also known as the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church. Designed by Renzo Piano and built in 2004, it has seating for 6,500 people inside and a square outside that can fit crowds of up to 30,000. Also included on city tours is the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Padre Pio, now known as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, was interred after his death in 1968. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Modest clothing covering shoulders and knees is required to enter the two pilgrimage churches in San Giovanni Rotondo.
- The Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie are accessible to wheelchair users.
- A visit to San Giovanni Rotondo is especially significant for Roman Catholics.
San Giovanni Rotondo is on the coast of Puglia’s Gargano Peninsula, about two hours north of Bari, and is not well connected by public transportation. The best way to visit the town is by joining a tour that includes transportation. When to Get There
The feast day celebrating Padre Pio is September 23, and in the week leading up to this date a number of special religious functions and Masses are held for the pilgrims that descend on the town. The Life of Italy’s Most Beloved Modern Saint
Padre Pio, or Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, is one of Italy’s most popular and most controversial modern saints. Born Francesco Forgione in 1887, he spent his early religious life as a Capuchin friar and priest, but later became famous as a mystic who carried signs of the stigmata for most of his later life. Despite some debate about the miraculous nature of his wounds and powers of healing, he was first beatified and then canonized by Pope John Paul II and remains one of the most beloved saints in Italy.