Pilgrims did a double take as the bearded “pontiff” strode around, the 65-year-old going as far as to greet babies proffered for his “blessing”.
After the major success of Sorrentino's The Young Pope series, starring Jude Law, the Italian director has returned with a follow-up drama with American Malkovich as Pope John Paul III.
The actor rode on board a black popemobile rather than the usual white variant and bodyguards were on hand just in case the enthusiasm of yellow rose-waving bystanders ever got out of hand as he left the vehicle to acknowledge them.
As well as spying Malkovich, onlookers also got to see the escort of visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite along the famed Via della Conciliazione en route to a reception with Pope Francis.
But it appeared it was the actor who got top billing as he was put through his paces for the eight-part series — a collaboration between Sky, HBO and Canal+.
Law played an ultra-conservative and machiavellian Pope Pius XIII in The Young Pope, a well-received ten-part series.
All photos by Vincenzo Pinto for AFP.