Underground Rome: The Hidden City
Basilica of San Clemente; Case Romane (Roman Houses) on the Celian Hill; Roman Catacombs
Duration: 3 hours
Meeting point: Bar San Clemente, Via San Giovanni in Laterano 124. This is just across the street from the Basilica S. Clemente, at the main entrance end.
Starting times: 9am and 3pm
Time: 3 hours
Price includes all entrance fees and transport.
If you have special requirements, please contact us as early as possible to see if we can accommodate your needs. Email us or call +39 06 3972 3051
Terms & Conditions
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Time: 3 hours
A three-hour, thematic itinerary that looks at underground sites of Rome, including the excavations at the Basilica of San Clemente, the Case Romane (Roman Houses) on the Celian Hill, and the Roman catacombs of Sant’Agnese.
This tour provides a thematic exploration of the hidden, subterranean levels of Rome. Lying at times up to 12 meters (36 feet) below the modern city, much of ancient Rome is still to be excavated, however, various sites are now exposed to us and offer an extraordinary indication to the city’s multifarious layers. While exploring some of the most recent and exciting discoveries, we will piece together an enlightening narrative about the epochal stratum of the city while exploring its urban layering, and the riveting relationship between the modern city and its past, along with the cutting edge of Roman archaeology.
We begin with a visit to the subterranean levels of San Clemente Basilica, an early medieval church built on the remains of a 1st century Mithraic temple and Roman domus (perhaps a mint or cellar of a public area). After exploring the two churches that sit on top of these ruins, one of which contains the earliest example of written Italian volgare, we wind through the streets of the Celian neighborhood past the impressive basilica of Ss. Quattro Coronati, regarded by many as the most beautiful Medieval structure in Rome, making our way up the hill to the church of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo. Here we will visit a series of middle-class 3rd century urban dwellings and learning about the manner in which ordinary Romans lived and decorated their houses, and the forms and techniques of roman murals. The ancient wall coverings here are extremely well-preserved. We will also discover how these ancient sites were transformed during the Middle Ages into early Christian churches.
After our visit to these roman houses with take an excursion to the catacombs of Sant’Agnese, on the Via Nomentana, an underground Roman cemetery which offers the best glimpse of the beguiling, hidden world of the Christian graves and their artistic, cultural, and religious legacy. Discovered in 1865, these are some of the best-preserved catacombs in Rome. While there are no paintings, the numerous inscriptions and many intact loculi -- as well as the quiet atmosphere that remains unhampered by tourism -- offer a clear idea of the role of these extraordinary structures in early Christianity. Here we will also experience the numinous atmosphere of one of the earliest Christian spaces in Rome, the Basilica of Sant’Agnese itself, with its exquisite apsidal mosaic, and the 4th century cylindrical church of Santa Costanza, originally built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Constantine’s daughter. This building, once entirely covered with marble and ornamented with mosaics, is among the finest examples of the architecture of late Roman antiquity.
In addition to seeing these very unique urban spaces, this itinerary will explore a variety of themes, from urban stratification -- the ancient sites on this walk are all buried under the Medieval ones -- to the changes affecting the middle classes in the 5th-8th centuries in Rome and the development of architectural styles throughout the late Roman period into the Medieval.
Notes: We may also visit the church of Ss. Quattro Coronati depending on the interests of the clients and time availability. Appointments to the special sites on this tour are included in the price. An extended 4 hour version of this itinerary includes a visit to neighboring House Churches such as San Martino ai Monti, Santa Prassede, Santa Pudenzia and San Vitale all with nave excavations (scavi) and crypts.