The Roman catacombs are underground galleries that were used as a burial place from the beginning of Christianity until the 5th century, which although found in other cities of the world such as Paris, are the oldest and most extensive catacombs in Rome.
Its origin dates back to the beginning of the second century, when Roman law prohibited the burial of the dead within the city for sanitary reasons and Christians, unable to incinerate the bodies and the high price of the land, chose to bury their dead outside the city creating these underground cities.
There are more than 60 different catacombs in Rome with around 750,000 tombs, although the best known and open to the public are located near the Via Appia.
We have made this list of the 5 best Roman catacombs according to the experience of our three trips to Rome, of which we wrote this travel guide to Rome.
1. Catacombs of San Calixto
Going down to the catacombs of San Calixto is one of the essential things to do in Rome, being the most famous and for us the best Roman catacombs you can visit.
Located on Via Appia, just over 5 kilometers from the center of Rome, they have more than 20 kilometers of tunnels and rooms located on different floors. In this large area thousands of Christians and 16 popes were buried in its more than 20 meters deep.
The visit to the interior is made only by a small part of the catacombs with the company of an expert guide in different languages, including Spanish.
During the tour you will go down to the second level of tombs, about 12 meters deep, where the corridors are wide and well lit, so if you have an acute claustrophobia, it is totally advisable to make the visit, although of course you have to take into account It is not necessary to separate from the guide, since it is a great maze difficult to find the way out.
It is also important to know that photos and videos are not allowed in any of the catacombs of Rome.
To arrive by public transport to the Catacombs of San Calixto you have to take buses 118 and 228, both with a stop in front of the access door. The bus ticket has a price of 1.5 euros and can be purchased at any kiosk, and must be validated when entering the bus.
Remember that as much as you read that in Rome nobody pays the bus, we must be responsible tourists and pay for the service, in addition to taking into account that it is not uncommon to see street-dressed reviewers, checking that the tickets are validated.
A good way to visit these Catacombs of Rome and the Via Appia Antica, one of the oldest and most important streets in Rome, is to book this guided tour in Spanish in advance.
Visiting hours: Thursday to Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
2. Vatican Catacombs
The Vatican Necropolis, located under St. Peter's Basilica, is one of the essential places to visit in the Vatican and one of the best Roman catacombs.
According to tradition, St. Peter, one of Jesus' twelve apostles was martyred and buried under the main altar of the basilica where the first temple was built, always leaving intact the space of the tomb of St. Peter, which is next to a inscription of the year 160 that says «Petro Eni», in Greek: «Pedro is here», although it was not until 1940 that this area was excavated, at the request of Pope Pius XI who wanted to be buried as close to San Pedro.
During the tour of the catacombs of the Vatican, in addition to reaching the tomb of St. Peter, the first pope of Rome, you will see several mausoleums of rich commoners and various frescoes in addition to knowing everything that happened in one of the most sacred places in the world , thanks to the explanations that the guide will offer you throughout the entire visit.
We have made this visit twice and consider it as one of the best excursions in Rome, besides being an incredible experience, whether you are a believer or not.
To get there you have several buses such as 64, 62 and 40 that stop near the Vatican and the metro line A that stops at Cipro-Musei Vaticani.
Once there, you must go to the south entrance, on the left side of the Basilica of St. Peter, outside the area of the columns.
Keep in mind that the visit to the Vatican Catacombs is limited to 250 people daily and is always done in groups of 10 people, with guidance in the language you choose.
The visit request must be made by email to [email protected] indicating the name of the visitors, the number of people, the preferred language for the visit, the range of possible dates to make the visit and the email.
Once the request is sent, you will receive an email indicating the day and time proposed for the visit.
The price is 13 euros per person, which you must pay according to the payment method indicated in the email.
Catacombs of Rome of San Sebastian
5. Catacombs of Domitila
The Roman catacombs of Domitilia owe their name to the granddaughter of Emperor Vespasian and reach 15 kilometers. To dig all these tunnels, halls and tombs, the Christians took advantage of the soft rock of volcanic origin of the subsoil of Rome called tufo, which from the fifth century, the Christians reused, burying their dead on the surface.
When catacombs have fallen like those of Domitilia in oblivion for many centuries, they have been magnificently preserved and offered great information on the principles of Christianity, including incredible well-preserved frescoes of the early Christians in addition to the only semi-underground basilica that It exists in Rome.
You can reach these catacombs of Rome by taking bus 30 in the center and getting off at the Navigatori stop.
Visiting hours: Wednesday to Monday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.