Sightseeing Tours of the Underground Rome

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Case Romane del Celio – Rome

Rome - Case Celio - confessionale
Rome- Ss Giovanni e Paolo - FacadeRome - Case Celio - interiorRome - Case Celio - fresco

Hidden under the beautiful Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo lays a major archaeological site: the stunning buildings famous as Case Romane del Celio. The complex is considered one of the best examples of Roman residential buildings.

In 1887 the Rector of the Basilica, Father Germano da San Stanislao, while looking for the tombs of the martyrs John and Paul discovered this amazing site. Twenty well conserved and decorated rooms were found. At least five different buildings are part of this complex, all dated between the 1st and 4th century AD.

Only in 1951 the architect Prandi brought to the light the entire complex.

In 2002 the site was completely open to the public.

Today is possible to enter the site through Via Clivio di Scauro one of Rome’s oldest street.

Things to see

Visitors can admire original frescoes, partly representing pagan themes, like the Proserpine myth; while the “newer” ones are dedicated to the Christian cult.  In one room are also present traces of mosaics dated 3rd century AD.

Some of the rooms were transformed by Christians into an oratory and a beautifully decorated confessional was built during the 4th century.

A visit to this amazingly well conserved site will deepen your understanding of how Ancient Rome was built.


Basilica of San Clement – Rome

Rome - St Clement - mosaic
Rome - St Clement - mithreumRome - St Clement - frescoRome - St Clement - facade

Close to the Colosseum in Via Labicana the 12th century Basilica of San Clemente dedicated to Pope Clement I demonstrates how the Eternal City was built, layer after layer.

The history of this church is very fascinating. The actual Basilica was built during the Middle Ages (1100) on top of a 4th-century church that was constructed out of a Roman nobleman’s home, which, previously, was developed on top of first-century Roman buildings destroyed in the Great Fire of 64 AD.

The ancient church was used since the 1st century as a clandestine Christian place of worship. After the Catholic Church grew in power and popularity it was transformed in a Basilica.

At the end of the 17th century when England outlawed the Irish Catholic Church Pope Urban VII granted refuge here to the Irish Dominicans.

Things to see

The Basilica of San Clement is amongst the most opulently decorated churches in Rome.

The main entrance is across a beautiful atrium today used as a cloister.

The Façade designed by Fontana in 1719 is supported by antique columns. Many marble pieces of the antique basilica were used during the restoration of the church.

The richly decorated ceiling, stucco décor, Ionic capitals and frescoes that are possible to admire today were also added by Fontana. The amazing mosaics of the apse are otherwise an example of Roman 12th century mosaics.

In the lower levels some of the most impressive fragments of ancient Roman houses can be clearly seen.

Capuchin Crypt – Rome

Rome - Cripta Cappuccini - interior
Rome - Cripta Cappuccini - particularRome - Cripta Cappuccini - ossuaryRome - Cripta Cappuccini - chapel

Concealed under the 17th century church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappucini there is the unique Capuchin Crypt. Located in the elegant Via Veneto, near the beautiful Piazza Barberini, the Crypt is decorated with bones of almost 4000 Capuchin friars.

In 1631 the monks left their old monastery and moved here.

Pope Urban VII requested that the soil of the crypt should be brought from Jerusalem.

The Capuchins transported with them the remains of 300 friars; it was Fr. Michael of Bergamo that took care of the arrangement of the deceased monks’ bones.

Since the beginnings the Order stressed out that the bones are shown in order to make the people reflect on subjects of life and death and not to frighten.

Things to see

The Capuchin Crypt is a small site composed by six little chapels.

Many of the bones are nailed to the walls forming elaborate decors or are hanging out of the ceiling being used as light fixtures.

Only the Mass Chapel does not contain bones; the chapel was in fact used to celebrate Mass and after the battle of Porta Pia it was also utilized to bury the Papal infantry that died defending the Papal States.

The other five chapels contain the bones of the friars died between 1528 and 1870.