The Vermont senator was joined by all four of his children and four grandchildren, as well as his wife Jane. A small group of staff, Secret Service detail, and members of the press were also accompanying him for the trip on a chartered plane.
The first international trip for Sanders comes just days before the New York state primary.
Sanders’s senior strategist Tad Devine said even if the senator came up short in New York, he would not regret the senator’s decision to take the trip.
Although Sanders and Pope Francis disagree on a number of social issues, Sanders often talks about his admiration of the pontiff, especially on issues of climate change, caring for the poor, and what the two men view as a growing idolatry of money in societies around the world.
The trip was organized and paid for by Sanders’ campaign.
Sanders' communications director, Michael Briggs, joked with reporters as the plane boarded that the senator was still in the process of writing his speech on his go-to yellow legal paper, and was planning on writing during the flight.
All and all, the group will spend fewer than 22 hours on the ground in Rome, and will be departing Saturday for a weekend of campaign events back in New York City.