.- Rome is already bracing for the impact of the many pilgrims who will converge on St. Peter's for the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II.
Sleeping space in religious communities across the city - around 15,000 beds - was booked up within a day of the Jan. 14 announcement.
The Domus Aurelia hotel run by the Emmanuel Community has been reserved "since literally two minutes after the announcement," said Lorenzo Amico, who was working the hotel desk at the time. The hotel is located a short way from St. Peter's on foot
Two large groups made the reservations, filling the facility to capacity for an entire week.
"We've received calls continuously since then," Amico told CNA during a Jan. 31 phone conversation. "Even though the entire area is completely full, they keep on calling."
Rooms in hotels around the Vatican were snatched up quickly and those vacancies that remain are in establishments further from St. Peter's. They are priced at more than double - and even triple - normal rates, according to local media reports.
On top of the traffic the beatification will be bringing to the streets of the Eternal City, on May 1 Italy observes a national Day for Workers holiday. The annual celebration is marked by a concert in the square just outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
This year, the nationally-televised event that draws around 200,000 young people every year, just happens to fall on Divine Mercy Sunday.
The grand occasions are likely to give Rome a similar feel to the last Vatican event of this magnitude, John Paul II's funeral in 2005. According to the Italian Department of Civil Protection, more than three million people were present for that event.
The city is already organizing itself for the possibility of more than a million visitors. It has a special "operating room" in place as it prepares for an onslaught of pilgrims from all over the world - whether they have a place to stay or not.
With the preliminary decision that no tickets will be issued to pilgrims for the celebration, the weekend is sure to be a long one out in the open for some.