Loreto is a town in upper-mideast Italy which has the Holy House where the Angel Gabriel visited Mary on the Annunciation. Obviously, the house was originally in Nazareth. Legend says that the House was carried by Angels one night, and brought to Loreto. Although embellished, it is based on historical fact. Back during the Crusades, many Western Christians were bringing back relics from the Holy Land to rescue them from the Muslims. Sometimes for pious reasons and sometimes for more worldly reasons.
Anyway, the Angeli family (brought by "Angels") helped to bring the Holy House to Italy in Loreto and a basilica was built around it.
I was very blessed to be able to go there on my last trip to Italy back this October.
If you go there today, you have to go up on top of the large hill where the city is. At the top you'll come to a large fortress structure.
Then going through the gate, you'll see the basilica.
Then in the middle of the basilica is the Holy House. You can't see the outside of the house because it is covered in marble with reliefs.
I wasn't able to get a picture of the inside since they were strict about pictures and there were A LOT of people praying in there, so I didn't want to disturb them. So here's a picture I pulled off the web.
Fr. Benedict was able to say his 2nd Mass here in Latin, which I was blessed to serve. It really struck me when we processed in, as right behind the altar in gold letters you see:
("HERE THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH")
And to think that Father Benedict was about to bring that about again at the Consecration as he said the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It was a very profound experience.
There's also a custom in the mountain towns which I find rather humorous. In Norcia, and I believe other mountain towns in Italy, on the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, they build these huge bonfires in the piazzas of the town.
This commemorates the legend of when the Angels carried the Holy House through the night to Loreto, and the Italians will light bonfires in the mountian towns to "guide" the Angels to Loreto so they don't bump into the mountains. I don't know why, but I find it humorous.
Anyway, today is a great opportunity to meditate upon the Annunciation and the fact that God became man. For a good meditation, here's an excellent homily by Fr. Angelo Geiger, FFI:
Homily on the Immaculate Conception