What: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Where: Rome

When: December 8

It’s time to start planning your festive season getaways and the Italian capital’s Feast Of The Immaculate Conception is one worth checking out, particularly if you’re religiously inclined.

Forget Christmas markets packed with stockings, candy canes, snow globes and other tacky souvenirs. This one, celebrating what the church says was Mary’s immaculate conception nine months before the birth of Jesus, is about as authentic a Christmas festival as you could find. You’ll see the Vatican’s big wigs, including the Pope himself, lay down floral wreaths and decorations on and around the statue dedicated to Mary in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps).

While you’re in the capital, don’t miss a wander through the Roman forum, toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain and then tuck into a tasty slab of pizza and a few generous scoops of the city’s famous gelati ice cream.

See www.churchyear.net