Our tour starts at one of the Roman Catacombs, the Eternal City’s underground burial chambers where long winding passages unfold millennia of history among tombs and inventive handmade memorials, taking you to a time when Christianity was considered a simple cult whose members were executed as pagans and buried as martyrs.
Then it’s on to Basilica San Clemente where the sound of running water drove one clergyman to dig his way through the floor tiles. What he discovered was the “wedding cake” – layers of history piled on top of each other so that visitors today climb down to a 4th century church, the 2nd century remains of a Mithraic temple and finally, an incredibly preserved 1st century Roman street. With ruins reaching 57ft deep, it makes you wonder what lies beneath the rest of Rome.
Your journey through the centuries ends with a bang at perhaps the most memorable (and certainly the most original!) site we visit on any of our tours in any city – the Capuchin Crypt and Museum. Here the remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks literally rest in pieces. Their remains have been used to decorate the underground crypt with vertebrae chandeliers, real-life skulls and cross-bones and robe-clad skeletons leering from the walls. Morbid fascination or respectful art? You’ll be the judge of that.
Recent changes in the Capuchin Crypt mean that our visits here just got better. With the establishment of a Capuchin Museum we now have access to Caravaggio’s beautiful ‘St Francis in Meditation’, as well as a whole host of artefacts that offer an insight into the life of a Capuchin monk.
Much of what Rome has to offer is buried underground and through this tour – the only tour that takes you to crypts and catacombs from different historical eras in locations across the city – you can discover the underside of Rome.
* Please note that none of the venues visited on this tour permit photography.