Beneath the streets, monuments and churches of Rome lies an underground city whose galleries contain the Eternal City's darkest history. We are talking, of course, about the Catacombs of Rome, and here is a guide to visit them and not miss the essential of this experience.
Be impressed by a fascinating plan in the Roman subsoil
With this guided tour, which lasts approximately 40 minutes, you will enter the Catacombs of San Callisto and learn all about the history of these tunnels.
With this complete visit to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, which has a very affordable price, you can see various treasures of history such as the Crypt of the Popes, the Area of Pope Miltiades, the Crypt of St. Cecilia, the Region of St. Gaius and Eusebius and the Cubicles of the Sacraments.
In addition, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus are the most popular and oldest in the Italian capital and consist of a network of tunnels almost 20 kilometres long. A must-see and original plan!
Recommended if... you like history or are looking for an original plan.
Options for visiting the Catacombs of Rome
A guided tour of the Catacombs of Rome is the best way to understand what lies beneath the city of Rome. Touring them on your own is fine, but the explanations of an expert guide in your own language can make the visit much more productive. Here are the best options for visiting this historical gem:
- Guided tour of the Catacombs of Rome - From £13.
- Guided tour of the Crypt of the Capuchins and the Catacombs in Rome - From £47.
- Guided tour of the Christian Basilicas and the Catacombs of Rome - From £71
- Private guided tour of the Catacombs and the Appian Way in Rome - From £233.
Guided tour of the Catacombs of Rome
Of the entire underground network that runs through the city of Rome, only a few catacombs are open to the public. Today, those of greatest historical interest to visitors are preserved, with burial niches, Catholic works of art and places of worship.
The Catacombs of Rome were the meeting place where the first Catholic worship took place during the first three centuries of history. On this guided tour of the Catacombs of Rome, you will mainly visit the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, the largest of all these galleries under the city.
Stretching over four floors, more than 19 kilometres long, the Catacombs are the burial place of the first sixteen popes and numerous martyrs of Catholic history. The visit to the catacombs on this experience is about 45 minutes and the full tour duration is about 1 hour.
These catacombs can only be visited with a guide on an organised tour, hence my recommendation of this experience so you don't miss out on something that, in my opinion, is 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 was given to the martyrs on their tombs.
- 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 there are funerary remains dating back to the year 4 AD. It's not the most exciting thing you'll see, but I was impressed to learn that ancient elements are preserved beneath the streets of Rome.
I recommend it if
If you want to visit the most accessible catacombs in Rome and one of the most interesting.
Guided tour of the Catacombs and Basilicas of Rome
This guided tour of the 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 beaten tourist track in 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 guided tour would definitely be my favourite option: for a very similar price you'll get much more out of your guide's narration. If you have the time, go for the adventure and you will discover some corners of Rom 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 open to the public.
- Circus Maximus: what was once the largest circus in Rome, dedicated to chariot racing, is now a park that maintains the ancient layout of the building 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 takes you directly to the times of the Roman Empire.
- Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano: both the interior and the cloister are impressive towards the end of the day, when they are slightly illuminated and you feel the magic of this baroque church.
- Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: this basilica is the only one in Rome that preserves intact its paleochristian floor plan, as it was built in the 5th century, and its various chapels and its well-preserved artistic images make this temple a jewel to visit.
I recommend it if
If you have a little extra time and want to take a complete tour of the Ancient History of Rome.
Guided tour of the Crypt of the Capuchins and the Catacombs in Rome
In the visit to the Crypt of the Capuchins and the Catacombs you will learn all the curiosities and secrets of this place that, located under the Church of Santa Maria di Concezione, hides the bones of more than 4.000 Capuchin monks decorating its walls.
You will visit the crypt tunnels that were used by Christians when religion was forbidden. You will also visit the Crypt Museum, where you can learn all the details about the beginnings of the Capuchin order.
It is also a very convenient guided tour because you won't have to wait in line and it is designed for small groups, so the guide's attention will be very personalised.
What you will see on this visit
- The Crypt of the Capuchins: which hides the bones of more than 4,000 Capuchin monks decorating its walls.
- The Capuchin Crypt Museum: where you will learn all about the history of the Capuchin Order.
I recommend it if
You want to take a general tour of the history of Rome.
Private guided tour of the Catacombs and the Appian Way in Rome
The Appian Way is located on the southern outskirts of the city. But don't worry because this private guided tour of Rome's catacombs and the Appian Way includes the transfer to and from the hotel.
On this tour, which lasts approximately 3 hours, you will visit the Appian Way, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metell and the underground Christian catacombs. It is also a very interesting option because you can choose to visit St. Callixtus, St. Sebastian or St. Domitilla.
And as a souvenir you can take home a blessing from the Pope on a parchment.
What you will see on this visit
- Visit the Appian Way: considered the first motorway in Europe.
- Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella: one of the most popular and best preserved monuments on the Appian Way.
- Christian Catacombs: you can choose one of theCatacombs of St. Callixtus, St. Sebastian or St. Domitilla.
I recommend it if
You want a general tour of Rome's history.
What you should know before taking a tour of Rome's Catacombs
- It is forbidden to take pictures inside the catacombs, so I recommend you not to bring your camera with you in order to avoid any problems. Even if you promise not to use it, you may be refused access.
- The tunnels of the catacombs, as you can imagine, are dark, very narrow and can be a bit overwhelming 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 Rome's Catacombs are the perfect experience if you can't stand huge groups of tourists sweeping through the city. On these experiences, groups are small and have a maximum of 16 people.
- In the Catacombs of St. Callixtus you won't find any ossuaries or human remains. To see this, I recommend a visit to the Crypt of the Capuchins under the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (on Via Veneto).
Alex's Traveller Tip
You should 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 trousers and something light to cover up.
Information about the booking process
- When you book your tour, you will be asked to provide your email address. This is where you will receive a confirmation email, which you will need to show to your guide once you meet him or her at the meeting point and time indicated in the experience information.
- Both of the tours I recommend in this article are conducted in English. You may be asked at the time of booking in which language you would 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.
Places of interest near the Catacombs of San Callisto
- If you have been left wanting to further explore the secrets of the underground world beneath Rome, you can go to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, whose entrance is not far from the Catacombs of San Callisto. But my recommendation is to visit the Catacombs of Domitilla, which has an impressive underground 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 where you can find what, according to legend, could be the footprints of the feet of Jesus Christ.
- And, for me, the best option after the catacombs tour is to take a walk along the Appian Way and get some fresh air. You will literally be walking on history, as you will be on the first road of the Roman Empire.
Other tours that may interest you
Before taking a specific tour of Rome, I recommend you to get to know the main sights of the city with a specialised guide. You can find the best tours of Rome in this article, where you can also read tips on how to visit the city like a local: Top 11 tours of Rome.
And to get into another part of the city, with a very rich and interesting history, I recommend taking a tour of Rome's Jewish Quarter. Before deciding on one of these tours, I recommend you read this complete article: 10 things to do at the Jewish Ghetto of Rome.
Frequently asked questions
How long does a visit to the Catacombs of Rome last?
From 1 to 3 hours, depending on whether the tickets also include visits to other landmarks such as Rome's basilicas.
From what price can I visit the Catacombs of Rome?
The guided tour of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome is the cheapest and costs from 15 euros.