Tens of thousands of gay rights activists have marched through the streets of Rome, demanding more legal recognition for same-sex couples.
The ancient Coliseum provided a backdrop to part of the march
Colourful banners at the Gay Pride parade urged Italy's government to override the Vatican's objections to granting gay couples greater rights.
The march ended at the official seat of the Pope as bishop of Rome.
The Vatican has attacked a proposed law giving more rights to unmarried couples - both heterosexual and homosexual.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government has tabled a law that will allow such couples to form civil unions and enjoy inheritance rights.
The bill stops short of legalising gay unions and has yet to be taken up by parliament.
Conservatives and Catholic legislators are likely to oppose the law and Pope Benedict XVI has warned of the "worrying disorientation" of society, with traditional institutions such as marriage and the family facing attack.
Saturday's march started at St Paul's Gate in Rome and ended at the Basilica of St John Lateran, the office of the Pope in his capacity as Bishop of Rome and the site of a large gathering called by anti-gay protesters last month.
"More Freedom, Less Vatican," read one of the flags at the march.
A drag queen interviewed by the AFP news agency urged Mr Prodi's government to push through the new legislation.
"We are heteros, gays, lesbians and bisexual and we want Romano Prodi to give the same rights to all. Where are all the promises the government made?" he said.
Sympathetic lawmakers were among those who joined the crowd of transvestites and gays.