Underground Adventure in Italy

Explore the Catacombs in Rome, Italy


Did you know that class and wealth were not given any consideration for those buried in catacombs? The Christians of ancient Rome took the practice seriously and didn’t look at rich and poor people any differently when it came to giving someone the proper burial. That is why catacombs were a mix of both rich and poor citizens next to each other.

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Naturally, your catacomb journey begins in Rome. After arriving in Rome, greet your guide for the trip and get settled into your hotel. If you can fight off the jet lag, feel free to walk around and get yourself some pizza and gelato so you can put those Italian phrases you practiced on the plane to good use.

We ease into our catacomb adventure by visiting the Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception in the middle of Rome. While the church is nice, the real fun is in the crypt underneath, which is home to the remains of over 4,000 monks and dates back to 1645. Some of the bones are actually arranged into rather odd designs, which is why the crypt has the reputation as being one of the scariest places in Rome. In the afternoon, we head a few miles north to the catacombs of Saint Priscilla. There are roughly eight miles of tunnels at Saint Priscilla, which is home to some of the oldest catacombs that date back to the end of the 2nd century.

Get ready to see three of Rome’s most significant catacombs in one day. First up is the catacombs of Saint Sebastian, whose tour is a little limited. However, there are both Christian and pagan tombs, as well as some interesting graffiti. Next is the catacombs of St. Callixtus, which is the largest of Rome’s catacombs. There are over 10 miles of tunnels, with the biggest highlight being the Crypt of Nine Popes. Finally, there are the catacombs of Saint Domitilla. This is home to Rome’s oldest catacombs, as well as a mural of the Last Supper, making it a can’t-miss stop on our tour of catacombs.

After spending all yesterday underground, we take a day trip a little north of Rome to Santa Maria Impensole in the town of Narni. Santa Maria is a 14th-century Dominican church, but underneath there are rooms that were used for imprisoning and torturing people during the Inquisition. The rooms weren’t even discovered until 1979, but now visitors can check out actual torture chambers. A short drive from Narni is the Museum of the Mummies that sits beneath the Church of Santo Stefano in the town of Ferentillo. The mummies there are incredibly well-preserved thanks to a special type of micro-fungus, making it worth the trip.

Say hello to Naples! Upon our arrival, our first stop is the Fontanelle Cemetery, which is one of the most unique and perhaps creepiest cemeteries in the world. It’s more of a cave that became overloaded with corpses during the plague in the 1600s and then again during a cholera epidemic in the 1830s. There are an estimated 40,000 corpses in the cave, which only reopened to the public in 2010 after it closed for a few decades. Don’t worry, we won’t spend all day in the cemetery, giving you a chance to compare the food in Naples to the food in Rome.

Naples has two major catacombs that are worth seeing. First is the catacombs of San Gennaro, which is the largest in southern Italy. Oddly enough, these catacombs sit underneath one of the most populated areas of Naples. Our other stop in Naples is the catacombs of San Gaudioso, which date back to the 3rd century and include a number of fascinating mosaics and wall paintings that depict Christianity during that time.

There’s one more travel day, although it’s a relatively short flight from Naples to the province of Palermo, which is situated on the western part of Italy’s famous boot. The short trip means there should be plenty of time to explore on your own and check out some of the ocean views offered by this part of Italy.

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Our last official stop on our tour of Italy’s catacombs are the catacombs of Cappuchin. These catacombs have a unique preservative that helps to mummify the dead, making the mummies down here incredibly lifelike. Some of the mummies even have clothing and hair. In fact, there was a burial as recently as 1920, so this is not a place for the faint of heart.

Italy’s boot is the end of the line as far as the country’s catacombs are concerned. After more than a week in Italy, it’s time to leave; hopefully, after some memorable experiences exploring historic tunnels and caves that house the remains of generations past.

An Eerie & Exciting trip to Italy

One of Italy’s many claims to fame is that it’s the unofficial catacomb capital of the world. Perhaps more than any other country in the world, Italy is associated with underground tunnels where those who passed away were laid to rest many centuries ago. Since it was forbidden in ancient Rome to bury the dead, Italy is home to some of the earliest catacombs, as well as the highest volume of catacombs. While some may find them a little spooky, they can also be eerily beautiful in addition to opening a window to history.

Come along on a tour of Italy to visit many of the country’s interesting catacombs. Find out where important historical figures may have been laid to rest and what secrets the catacombs of Italy may hold.


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