Beneath the streets, monuments, and churches of Rome lies a subway city whose galleries contain the darkest history of the Eternal City. We are talking, of course, about the Catacombs of Rome, and here is a guide to visit them and not miss anything of this experience.
1. Options to visit the Catacombs of Rome
- Tour of the Catacombs of Rome - From $ 50
2. Tour of the Catacombs of Rome
Of the entire subway network that runs through the city of Rome, only a few catacombs are open to the public. Today, you can visit the ones of greatest historical interest and find burial niches, Catholic works of art, and primitive places of worship.
In the Catacombs of Rome, the earliest Catholic gatherings took place during the first three centuries of history. In this tour of the Catacombs of Rome, you will mainly visit the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, the largest of all these galleries underneath the city.
They extend over four floors, almost 12 miles long, and whose main interest lies in being the burial place of the first sixteen popes and numerous martyrs of Catholic history. The visit of the catacombs in this experience is about 45 minutes long, and the complete duration of the tour is about 2 hours.
These catacombs can only be visited with a guide on an organized tour, hence my recommendation of this experience so as not to miss something that, in my opinion, is well worth seeing on your trip to Rome.
What you will see on this tour
- Papal crypts: Burial place of nine popes, also known as the "little Vatican". You will see the names of the popes, the inscriptions in Greek, and the symbol that marks the graves of martyrs.
- Catholic art frescoes: The walls of the Catacombs of Rome were the first canvases where Catholic art, which would dominate the History of Art until today, began to develop.
- Crypt of Saint Cecilia: Before the funeral remains of Saint Cecilia were laid to rest in the church of the same name in Trastevere, the martyr was buried in this crypt where you can see a copy of the statue representing the patron saint of music.
- Funerary remains from the year 4 AD: Not all guides know how to find them, but in the Catacombs, there are funerary remains dating back to the year 4 AD. It is not the most exciting thing you will see, but I was impressed to know that millenary vestiges are preserved under the streets of Rome.
I recommend it if...
You want to visit one of the most interesting and accessible Catacombs of Rome.
Alex's Traveller Tip
You must cover your knees and shoulders to access the Catacombs, as they are still places of Catholic importance. In winter this won't be a problem, but in summer remember to wear long pants and something light to cover up.
3. Tour of catacombs and basilicas of Rome
This tour of Catacombs and Basilicas of Rome extends the visit of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus to one hour (compared to the 45 minutes of the previous experience), and then takes you to see some places off the typical tourist circuit of Rome.
Focusing mainly on religious history and some of the city's most interesting buildings dedicated to Catholic worship, this tour will take you to see what remains of the first chariot racing circuit, the Diocese of Rome, and the most important church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
If I had to choose one of the two, this tour would be my favorite option: for a very similar price ($ 46), you will get much more out of your guide's narration. If you have 3 hours to spare, go on the adventure of discovering some of the corners of Rome that you might not otherwise see.
What you will see on this tour
- Catacombs of St. Callixtus: one of the most interesting Catacombs in Rome of those open to the public.
- Circus Maximus: what was once the largest circus in Rome, dedicated to chariot racing, is today a park that maintains the ancient layout of the building. It is also next to the ruins of the imperial palace of the Palatine.
- Baths of Caracalla: the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla still preserve some mosaics and sculptures and walking through them is an impressive experience that transports you directly to the times of the Roman Empire.
- Basilica of St. John Lateran: both its interior and its cloister are impressive towards the end of the day when they are slightly illuminated and you feel the magic of this Baroque-period church.
- Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: this basilica is the only one in Rome that preserves intact its paleochristian layout, as it was built in the fifth century, and its various chapels and well-preserved artistic images make this temple a jewel to visit.
I recommend it if...
You have a little extra time and would like to take a complete tour of the Ancient History of Rome.
4. What you should know before touring the Catacombs of Rome
- It is prohibited to take pictures inside the Catacombs, so I recommend you not to take your camera with you so that you don't get any problems. Even if you make sure not to use it, you may be denied access.
- The tunnels of the Catacombs, as you can imagine, are dark, very narrow, and can be a bit stifling when going in a group. If you suffer from claustrophobia, this may not be the best experience for you.
- On the other hand, tours of the Catacombs of Rome are the perfect experience if you can't stand the giant groups of tourists sweeping through the city. In these experiences, the groups are limited to a maximum of 16 people.
- In the Catacombs of St. Callixtus you will not find any ossuaries or human remains. To see this, I recommend you visit the Crypt of the Capuchins under the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (in Via Veneto).
5. Information about the reservation process
- When booking the tour, you will be asked to provide your email address. Here you will receive a confirmation email, which you will need to show to your guide at the meeting point and time indicated in the experience information.
- The two tours I recommend in this article are conducted in English. At the time of booking, you may be asked in which language you prefer the experience to be conducted.
- You can cancel the experience at any time, but you will only receive a refund* if you do so at least 24 hours in advance. You will have instructions on how to do this in the confirmation email.
6. Places of interest near the Catacombs of St. Callixtus
- If you have been left wanting to continue exploring the secrets of this underground world beneath Rome, you can go to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, whose entrance is not far from those of San Callisto. But my recommendation is to visit the Catacombs of Domitilla, which has an impressive subway basilica.
- The Church of Domine Quo Vadis, also called Santa Maria in Palmis, is a short distance from the catacombs, and is a small temple in which are found what, according to legend, could be the footprints of Jesus Christ.
- And, for me, the best option after a Catacombs tour is to take a walk along the Via Appia and get some fresh air. You will literally be walking on history, as you will be on the first road of the Roman Empire.
7. Other tours that may interest you
Before taking a specific tour of Rome, I recommend you get to know the main points of interest of the city with a specialized guide. You can find the best tours of Rome in this article, where you will also learn tips to discover the city like a local: Best Rome Tours.
And to get into another part of the city, with a very rich and interesting history, I recommend you to take a tour of the Jewish Quarter of Rome. Before deciding on one of these tours, make sure to read this comprehensive article: 10 things to do at the Jewish Ghetto of Rome.