Madonna della neve, Rome, ItalySnow is pretty rare in Rome. And even rarer in August.

But every August, since Ancient Roman times, snow falls over at least one part of the city to reenact the Madonna della neve (Madonna of the snow) tradition.

Each August – to be precise, the 5 August –  the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major) witnesses an impromptu ‘snowstorm’.

The  staging of this particular snowstorm comes from a 4th century story from Ancient Roman times.

Madonna della neve, Rome, ItalyIn 358 AD, a wealthy, patrician Roman, Giovanni, had a dream in which the Virgin Mary appears to him in a snowstorm at the spot where the basilica now stands, asking that a basilica be constructed there and dedicated to her. He speaks to Pope Liberio, who admits he had the same dream.

Pope Liberio decides to construct a basilica, financed by Giovanni, on the same spot, and thus was founded Santa Maria Maggiore – one of the four basilicas of Rome (the other three are the Vatican: Sant Pietro, San Giovanni in Laterano, and San Paolo fuori le mura).

To mark the date that celebrates the founding of the church each year, there’s a celebration on the square before the basilica, with music and a reenactment of the dream … complete with soap bubbles resembling snow.

If you’re in Rome on that day, it’s definitely worth making it to this tradition dating back to Roman times. Enjoy the Madonna della neve traditions in the Eternal City.

Madonna della neve, Rome, ItalyMadonna della neve, Rome, Italy