YOU would expect to encounter a priest or two in Vatican City. But to find 12 gorgeous ones - each so perfectly chiselled they wouldn’t look out of place on a Milan catwalk - was something else.

Forget ripped firemen or pouting boybands - this was an entire calendar dedicated to hot priests. My jaw actually dropped when I found it, a couple of years ago, during a trip to Italy. A friend and I were wandering through the souvenir shops in Vatican City and there it was, nestled among the Our Lady tea towels, Pope key rings and Baby Jesus cigarette lighters - the Calendario Romano. It featured a priest for each month, smouldering in black and white photographs. Not male models dressed as priests - actual priests.

We took a picture of it and posted it on social meda, and to say it caused quite a stir would be an understatement. The comments came thick and fast: “Father November is FIT!” “Father June for me.” “Father September soooo cute.” “Father May. Just wow.” People I hadn’t heard from for ages, even those who hardly ever comment on social media, appeared to be captivated by the dreamboat men of cloth.

We came across the same calendar in another shop. A group of women were leafing through it, giggling like schoolgirls. I later kicked myself that I hadn’t thought to buy several copies of Calendario Romano; they’d have gone down a storm as Christmas presents.

There’s nothing quite like a sexy priest to bring a hot flush on. Just ask the fans of Fleabag. It was a wise move by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of the BBC cult comedy, to end it on a high after just two series. It left fans wanting more...and not just of the show.

A central theme of the second series has been Fleabag’s rather heartbreaking obsession with a troubled priest. He’s known simply as The Priest - or ‘Hot Priest’ to the legions of swooning fans who have set up WhatsApp groups in his honour.

Played by cute Irish actor Andrew Scott, Fleabag’s Priest has set pulses racing just as Richard Chamberlain did in The Thorn Birds over 30 years ago. I remember Colleen McCullough’s chunky best-seller about a passionate love affair between a young woman and a Catholic priest being passed around at school - giggling at the rude bits felt particularly forbidden in a convent school.

I have a friend now in her forties, a happily married wife and mother, who fell in love with Richard Chamberlain as a girl, watching him in The Thorn Birds, and still has a thing for him, decades later. She admits to still having the occasional Thorn Birds fantasy. “I sometimes think of his robes while I’m putting the tea on,” she sighed.

What is it with dreamy priests? After we’d discovered the aforementioned Calendario Romano, my friend and I spent much of our Italian holiday seeking out real-life hot priests. We saw one leaning nonchalantly against a cathedral wall in Siena, wearing expensive-looking sunglasses, running his hand through his thick black hair. My friend pretended to take a photo of the cathedral, snapping Father Gorgeous instead. The priest-lovers went wild.

We kept our eyes peeled for hot priests, we didn't see very many, to be honest, but we were beside ourselves when we spotted a beautiful young monk, with a stubbled jawline, sitting in the sun, his robes slightly raised, revealing a tanned knee. We thought of a new calendar: Monks in Trunks.

Yes, it was all very wrong. I’m pretty sure the Pope wouldn’t approve. Nor would the nuns at our school. Although I do recall that Sister seemed very keen to confiscate our dog-eared copy of The Thorn Birds...

* MY heart broke as I watched the shocking footage of Notre Dame on fire.

I visited the Parisian landmark once, and it moved me to tears. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and scale of the place, and the precision of its design. It seemed almost otherworldly.

Climbing up the now fallen spire on a winding stone staircase to the bell tower, I looked out to stunning Paris and felt I would remember it forever.

Notre Dame will never be the same again. But, like the spirit of liberty that built Paris, it will rise again.

* ARE we nearly there yet? Five words you might be hearing if you're off on a family trip this Easter break.

My sister once set off on holiday with her brood, and got as far as Guiseley when her youngest piped up: "Are we in France yet?"

Family holidays become cherished memories - but the reality of travelling with children isn't so rosy. In a survey, 44per cent of parents say it's so stressful it's put them off booking a holiday. The biggest stresses, say ferry operator DFDS, are keeping children entertained, trying not to lose them, and worrying they'll disturb other travellers.

I feel for hollow-eyed parents struggling with toddlers on holiday. Only another 18 years until they get to lie on a sun-bed for longer than 30 seconds...