When people think of Christmas Eve in Rome, they inevitably think of Midnight Mass at the Vatican. But there are so many places to worship - the Pantheon has a service featuring Gregorian chants, some churches hold services in English and there's a not-to-be missed mass at Rome's Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
Every Christmas Eve, the 124 stone steps leading to the Altar of the Heavens, or the Ara Coeli, are illuminated by flickering candlelight atop the highest point of Capitoline Hill in Rome. Traditional Christmas songs from leather-sandaled bagpipers weave their way through the crowds who ascend the seemingly never-ending stairs on a pilgrimage to Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
Upon entering, chandeliers and tapers welcome both visitors and locals alike into the warmth of the 7th century church, transporting the faithful to an era long ago.
With candles blazing and anticipation rising, one of Rome's most venerated Christmas traditions begins.