Ashley and John Noronha, a married couple living in Rome, have two favorite churches to visit on Holy Thursday. One is the Church of Santissima Trinità, where they said a "delicate fragrance of lilies" fills the space.
The white flowers point "to an experience of mystical beauty," they said. "Candles burn on wall sconces and on the altar, as the sounds of the live angelic-like choir fill the darkness. It's as though the darkness, which represents the great act of injustice that we remember that night, is overcome by light and sound, which penetrate the soul and take you right to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Upper Room."
The Noronhas' second favorite church is Santa Maria dell'Orto in Trastevere, which they said "gives the concept of catching 'a glimpse of heaven on earth' a whole new meaning."
For the occasion, the church places on the altar a centuries-old structure called the "macchina delle quarant'ore," which is made of carved and giltwood and on which are placed 144 candles.
Alexy said: "the tremendous beauty, the remarkable drama of the whole event of the 'macchina delle quarant'ore', the experience it provides on Holy Thursday is utterly transcendent."
"It feels like you've just been whisked into the spirit of Good Friday and the fasting that is to come until the Easter Vigil."
One beloved Good Friday tradition in Rome is to visit the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, where people may venerate relics of the true cross. In another Roman church, the Basilica of Santa Prassede, there is the pillar on which Jesus was scourged.
Another relic of Christ's passion is the holy stairs. The holy stairs were brought to Rome by St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, and are believed to be the stairs Jesus ascended on his way to stand trial before Pontius Pilate.
Alexy explained that, though the staircase and the chapel which encases it are not widely known today, "in the past, the holy stairs were the focal point of people coming to Rome."
"Pilgrims would walk all across Europe to come to Rome to see the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, to visit with the martyrs at the 40 Station Churches of Rome, but then especially to offer their filial devotion to Christ on the cross and to go up these steps on their knees," she said.
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The holy stairs can be visited year-round, but Alexy said she always tries to go around 3pm, the hour of Jesus' death, on Good Friday, often bringing along her students.
And though the wait is hours-long, Alexy said that "getting to go up the holy stairs on my knees every year is getting to have such a close connection with the historical reality of Christ, which becomes the actual reality of the passion we live in these three days."
Another much-anticipated Holy Week tradition is the Good Friday Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum, led by the pope.
"I can remember the first time I went as a journalist, inside the Colosseum with the media. Being able to look out on each group of people as they carried the cross from station to station," Joan Lewis, 79, recalled. "What an awesome, awesome experience."
Lewis, who works for EWTN and has previously been employed at the Vatican, has lived in Rome for more than 40 years. She estimates she has attended hundreds of papal liturgies and Masses.
Something she recalls from Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum is seeing "the faithful so recollected."