He travels to the Adriatic city of Bari with Italian Prime Minister Romani Prodi for talks expected to focus on improving already good business ties.
Later, Putin travels to Athens for a Greece-Russia-Bulgaria summit, the highlight of which will be the signing of an agreement to build an oil pipeline between the Black Sea and the Aegean.
Putin and Pope Benedict XVI discussed ways of improving relations between the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox churches during talks at the Vatican on March 13.
The Russian Orthodox Church accuses Roman Catholics of improperly seeking converts in areas that traditionally are Russian Orthodox. The Vatican has rejected the proselytizing accusations.
In a statement, the Vatican said Benedict's first official meeting with Putin had also enabled the two leaders to exchange their views on a variety of issues, The issues included latest developments on the international front, the situation in the Middle East, and the problems posed by extremism and intolerance.
Putin also met Italian President Giorgio Napolitano shortly after his arrival in Rome and then had dinner with Prodi.
(compiled from agency reports)
The Russian Orthodox Church
An Orthodox church in the Russian city of Yaroslavl (TASS file photo)
CHURCH AND STATE: The Russian Orthodox Church is not only Russia's major religious confession, but also a powerful force in the political and social life of the country. President Vladimir Putin and other leading figures are conspicuous adherents and frequently meet with senior members of the Church hierarchy. Increasingly in recent years the Church has sought to play a larger role in determining Russia's domestic and foreign policies. In April, the Church hosted a major conference devoted to the theme of Russia's role in the 21st-century world....(more)