With only two hundred and fifty guests allowed each day, a visit to this ancient cemetery is a privilege and naturally the Scavi Tour is one of Rome’s hottest tickets. The tour, lasting about an hour and a half must be booked months in advance.
The entrance is reached on foot through the Arco delle Campane (“Arch of the Bells”), to the left of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica. The guide met us right there, outside of the excavation office. We joined a small group of visitors and were led down to the Necropolis.
Our guide, a humourless, stern Polish lady (“ABSOLUTELY no photography”, we were told off for the few sneaky shots) walked us through the Necropolis, explaining along the way why we can be sure the Necropolis holds the real St Peter tomb and not anybody else’s.
It was interesting; the simple fact that the emperor Constantin went to great lengths to build the church right in this spot is enough to make you think: he spent a fortune compensating rich Romans for leveling the cementery.
Nevermind though—the tour was one of the highlight of Rome for us, thanks to the unique atmosphere underground and the sheer weight of centuries upon centuries of history and myth.
The weight is literal too: although the cemetery was actually build on top of the Vatican Hill, its narrow pathways running on the original ground level, today the necropolis is buried deep beneath the floor of the basilica.
The Vatican is very serious about its Necropolis treasure. Fair enough—just follow the simple rules.
More detailed information on the vatican.va Visits to the Tomb of Saint Peter and the Necropolis under the Vatican Basilica page.
Author: Travel+Style. Last updated: 26/03/2015
Italy • Rome
Italy • Rome
The era of “La dolce vita”
The ultimate list of the top luxury and boutique stays