Rome Underground
The best sites and how to visit them

Looking for the best Rome underground sites? Like the catacombs, the Colosseum, and the source of the Trevi Fountain?

Find out how to see a whole other Rome beneath the surface.

mithreum at caracalla bathsRome has some truly amazing things to see underground, like this mithreum underneath the Baths of Caracalla.

Rome Underground - How to See Hidden Rome

Rome has been here nearly 3000 years. Can you imagine it all just staying the same through time?

Of course it didn't.

It was like a living breathing thing that grew and shrunk, and grew again.

It also sank.

Over millennia of flooding, earthquakes, sacking by Goths and Vandals, and other calamitous events, much of ancient Rome is now underground.

And lucky for you, you can visit it!

Disclosure: If you make a purchase through a link on this page, I may receive a small commission - at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my site!

My Favorite Rome Underground Sites and How to Visit Them

You probably know you can visit the Colosseum underground.

Did you know you can also visit the Tomb of Saint Peter? See where athletes competed in games in a giant stadium? Visit an emperor's palace with a precursor to the Pantheon?

All of these sites are hidden under Rome's surface today.

First, some tips for visiting these fascinating places:

Rome Underground Sites - a few things to note

There are hundreds, if not thousands, more Rome underground sites that I don't have listed on this page.

In some cases, they are simply closed to the public. In others, they are really off the beaten track and/or difficult to visit. 

If you have a question about visiting an ancient Rome underground site that you don't find listed on this page, let me know and I'll find out if you can visit it.

And just think how many more Rome underground sites are yet to be discovered!

  • Age restrictions - Most of these sites do not have a minimum-age restriction, so assume there is none, unless otherwise noted.
  • Wheelchair accessibility - Many of these sites are not wheelchair accessible, but some have limited accessibility. I've tried to get as much detail as possible on the extent of each Rome underground site's accessibility.
  • Roma Passalmost NONE of these tours are eligible for discounts or free entry with the Roma Pass or any other City Pass. Assume the sites on this page are not included unless otherwise noted.
  • Free Sunday - Most of these sites do not participate in the "Free Sunday" or other events when there is free entry to sites and monuments in Rome.  Assume a Rome underground site listed on this page is not free even when there is a Free Sunday, unless otherwise noted.
  • How to dress (for visiting holy sites) - Some Rome underground sites are holy sites in their own right, or inside of a church or other religious site. For these sites, you may need to dress appropriately, i.e. no bare knees, shoulders, or midriffs. I'll point out these sites below.
  • How to dress (for sight-seeing comfort) - As always, you should be comfortable, and wear comfortable shoes and cotton clothing in layers. Some, but not all, of the sites are much cooler than above-ground temps, making them a great option when you are trying to keep cool in summer. Saint Peter's tomb is a notable exception. It is much warmer down there than it is above ground, making it an excellent site to visit in winter, and less comfortable in summer.
  • Claustrophobia - Some Rome underground sites are pretty large, with big spaces and good lighting. Other sites may be cramped and/or claustrophobic. If you easily suffer from claustrophobia, you may want to skip most of these sites. I am mildly claustrophobic, and I have visited nearly every site on this page. So I will give you my personal assessments about the level of claustrophobia.

Rome Underground - with or without a guide

Here are my favorite Rome underground places to visit, along with details about where they are and how you can visit them.

I've split the list into two parts:

At the bottom of this page, you will find a map of all the Rome underground sites on this page.

Want more unusual things to see in Rome?

Check out my page Cemeteries in Rome (and near Rome) that you can visit!

Rome Underground Sites You Must See With a Guide

I am often asked if you can see these amazing secret Rome underground sites without a guide.

The answer is no.

domus aureaWhen you visit the Domus Aurea, you will wear hard hats, and you will be led by one of the archeologists working on restoring this amazing Rome underground site.

One big reason is that these sites are delicate, and can only handle a few visitors a day. A guide will make sure you stay on track, and don't touch anything, or take photos when it's not allowed.

Another reason, in some cases, is that without a guide, you would not be able to make your way, or have any idea what you are looking at.

I'll tell you how to book the on-site guide when possible, and also how to book a tour with an outside tour company if that is also an option.

There are a lot more Rome Underground sites you can visit, without a guide. To read more about those, jump down here.

Colosseum Underground

How did they get lions onto the arena of the Colosseum 2000 years ago?

They did not just walk in through one of the gates, I can tell you that.

colosseum arenaWhen you visit the Colosseum in Rome underground, you will also visit the arena floor. From here you can imagine what it was like to be a gladiator, waiting underneath to come up and fight, and once on the stage, to see all the Roman spectators watching from above.

To add to the entertainment value of the events that played out daily at the Coliseum, the arena was often set up as a stage, and the participants (combatants or victims) were brought up from underneath the Colosseum floor, appearing as if out of nowhere.

(Want to know more about the history of the Colosseum? Visit my page here.)

Replica of the pulley-system elevator used to hoist animals and people up to the Colosseum arena in Ancient Rome.
On a tour of the Colosseum Underground, we got to see how these crane bases were used to manage the elevator pulley system.

So, while the spectators enjoyed the spectacle of whatever activity (hunting games, gladiator battles, executions, and other gory events) took place, the participants awaited their turn/fate in the dark, cramped, stinky, loud cells below.

colosseum trap doorThis is a reconstruction of the trap door that would have been used to bring animals and people up to the arena when they held games at the Colosseum in ancient Rome.

When it was their turn, they got onto (or, in the case of animals, were loaded onto) a pulley-system elevator, which brought them right up onto the floor through a trap door that was otherwise hidden from spectators' view.

How's that for pageantry?

On a visit to the Rome underground of the Colosseum (also called the Hypogeum), you can see the labyrinthine structures where people and animals were kept before coming out onto the Colosseum floor.

Visiting the Colosseum Hypogeum (underground) is high on the top of a lot of people's lists.

And it's often hard to get tickets, because space is limited. So book early, and don't miss this fabulous site.

Where: Colosseum, Piazza del Colosseo, 1

How to book: Either on Parco Colosseo or with a tour company, such as Get Your Guide. Read detailed instructions for both options on this page.

Opening Hours: The Rome Colosseum is open Daily 8:30 am–7 pm. Earlier closing hours in winter. Closed December 25 and January 1. The underground tour is not available on dates when there is free entry to the Colosseum.

Ticket costs: 24€ full price per adult; 2€ for Europeans between the ages of 18-25. Free for everyone under 18. 

Photos allowed? Yes

Minimum age: Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Wheelchair accessible? Yes (There is an elevator to the underground. However, not all parts of the tour are wheelchair accessible.)

Do you have to go with a tour? Yes. There is a set route to follow, and you have to stay on track. There are also parts that are simply off limits and your guide will make sure you stay together and in the right spots.

Claustrophobic? - You can almost always see the sky, and the spaces are fairly large, wide, and well-ventilated. I have never felt claustrophobic here.

Saint Peter's Tomb

Saint Peter's Basilica (the Vatican) is named for the apostle, who was the first Pope.

Did you know that the location is based on the site where Saint Peter is said to have been buried after being executed by Emperor Nero in Rome?

No photos are allowed on this tour. This photo is widely available on the internet, and is credited to the Fabbricato di San Pietro, the official entity that manages the site.

Deep below the surface of Saint Peter's dome, lies what is said to be the tomb of the apostle.

Visiting Saint Peter's tomb (the Vatican Necropolis) is one of the most sought-after visits in Rome, and it can be especially difficult to get tickets due to the limit of the number of people allowed in each day. (Tour groups consist of 12 people, and only around 250 visitors per day are permitted to enter.)

So definitely book in advance, and enjoy this truly amazing Rome underground site.

Where: Swiss Guard Gate on the left-hand side of Saint Peter's Basilica.

How to book: You can book via the Vatican website, or through a tour agency (much more expensive). Visit my page all about this amazing site to find out all the details.

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday:  9 am - 6 pm, Saturday 9 am - 5 pm. Not available Sundays.

Tickets: 13€ if you book through the Vatican and, 59€ if you book through a ticketing agency.

Photos allowed? Strictly forbidden

Minimum age: 15 (strictly enforced)

Wheelchair accessible? No

Do you have to go with a tour? You will go with a guide working for the Vatican, who will give you all the history, take you through the different rooms, and make sure your group stays together and does not take photos.

Claustrophobic? - Yes, a little. The spaces here are sometimes fairly narrow. Also, in the very beginning, the ceiling is not that high above you, although this improves as you go further in. And, to preserve the site, they keep the rooms sealed with glass doors that automatically open and close, which can make the space feel even more cramped.

Dress - You MUST be dressed appropriately for a holy site - no bare knees, midriffs, or shoulders.

This can be a difficult place to get tickets to. Another, much easier option, is to visit Saint Peter's Basilica and visit the grottoes just under the altar.

You may want to try this guided tour which includes the basilica, the dome climb, and a visit to the grottoes.

Domus Aurea

The Domus Aurea is one of my favorite hidden Rome underground sites.

I have seen it several times over the years, and each time am left gob-smacked.

Inside the vast complex of the Domus Aurea, one of the most amazing Rome Underground sites, you'll see intact frescoes, vaulted ceilings, and much more.

The Domus Aurea was part of a humongous party palace the Emperor Nero designed for himself. In ancient Rome, this was a massive complex, full of gardens, porticos, lakes, and much more.

Today you can really get a sense of this incredible complex from ancient Rome. Many rooms and frescoes are intact.

In one part, you will wear virtual reality goggles. You are transported back in time and into this man's mindset. It's so realistic I found myself reaching out with my hands, even though my brain knew I was wearing these goggles.

(Click here to find out why Nero's Domus Aurea was part of the reason the Colosseum was built.)

This octagonal room in Nero's Domus Aurea is clearly a precursor to the Pantheon, which would be built around 50 years later.

Nero was pretty crazy, so after his death in 68 C.E., the Senate issued a Damnatio memoriae on him (let's damn his memory, forget he existed.)

So they filled it all in with rubble (which preserved it), and built stuff on top. It finally came to light in the Renaissance, and now, you can visit it. 

Read all about the Domus Aurea, and how to visit it, here.

Where: Via della Domus Aurea, 1.

How to book: On Parco Colosseo or with a ticketing agency (below), or take a guided tour.

Opening Hours: Saturdays and Sundays 8:30am–5pm; On Easter Sunday hours might differ.

Tickets: 18€ on Parco Colosseo, more if you use a ticket agency or tour.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? According to the Domus Aurea official website, "The site is partially accessible to the disabled with wheelchair."

Do you have to go with a tour? Yes. You will go with one of the archeologists that is currently excavating the site. You will wear hardhats throughout the tour.

Claustrophobic? - The spaces are enormous, wide, and well-lit. I never felt a bit of claustrophobia here.

Domus Romana at Palazzo Valentini

This is another one of my favorite Rome underground sites. 

Right next to Trajan's Column on the via dei Fori Imperiali, they found the ruins of an 17th/18th century nobleman's home.

Underneath that, there are stunning ruins of elegant homes of wealthy Romans from Ancient Rome. And the way they have set it up to tour is fantastic.

Photos of the Domus Romana at Palazzo Valentini are not allowed. This photo is from the official website of Palazzo Valentini.

You begin with an introductory video to the site.

Then your guide will take you beneath the surface, and through the different rooms, many of which have intact tiled floors and frescoes.

It's a wonderful experience but if you suffer a little bit from vertigo, make sure you stand next to a wall so you can hold it or lean on it.

Sometimes the whole space goes dark, and they light up just one thing beneath your feet. It's entertaining and immersive, just make sure you don't get dizzy.

Where:  Foro Traiano, 85

How to book: You can purchase tickets via their Call Center and on their website. You can also use a ticket vendor for easy smartphone/tablet booking.

Opening Hours: Wednesday – Monday 9:30 am–6:30 pm, Closed Tuesdays and December 25, January 1, May 1.

Tickets: Adults 12 € (for reduced prices and free admissions visit the official website). This site does participate in the Roma Pass.

Photos allowed? In parts

Wheelchair accessible? Disabled or physically impeded visitors are recommended to inform the call center and book the entrance.

Do you have to go with a tour? Yes. First, you will watch a movie in the language of your tour (English is one of the languages available). Then your guide will take you through the site. You need a guide partly because, frankly, it can be disorienting. There are really cool light shows but they can leave you feeling dizzy.

Claustrophobic? - This tour can make you a little dizzy, but it did not make me feel claustrophobic. Most of the spaces are large, and where there is a narrow walkway, it's not very long, and the groups are well-managed so you don't feel over-crowded.

Nero's Domus Transitoria

The Domus Transitoria was Roman emperor Nero's first palace on the Palatine Hill. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 C.E. Nero would go on to build the Domus Aurea, an even grander-scale palace (which you can visit today. Read more on this page, above.)

The Domus Transitoria was meant to connect all of the imperial estates. Today, much of the Domus Transitoria remains to be discovered and excavated. 

Unfortunately, currently the Domus Transitoria is closed for excavations. Please check back for updates.

Usually the only way to visit this fantastic Rome underground site is by booking a S.U.P.E.R. ticket, which gives you access to particular sites on the Palatine Hill/Roman Forum. 

The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome

Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.

In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, and much more.

And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.

Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.


The Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore in Italian - the biggest church to Mary in Rome), is one of my favorite churches of all time.

It's a stunning example of a 4th century Roman structure and like so many churches in Rome, the basilica you see today is built on top of Ancient Roman stuff.

santa maria maggioreSanta Maria Maggiore is one of my favorite churches in Rome. And there is a whole treasure trove of things to see from Ancient Rome underneath it!

When I took this Rome underground tour of Santa Maria Maggiore, I was already thrilled to see the frescoes, the tiled floors, and the intact structures.

santa maria maggiore undergroundVisiting the area underneath Santa Maria Maggiore will give you another glimpse of life from Ancient Rome. In this Rome Underground site, you are walking through a huge calendar!

What blew me away was when the guide told us what we were looking at: the entire structure that you can visit underneath Santa Maria Maggiore was once a calendar in Ancient Rome.

On this visit to Santa Maria Maggiore underground, we are looking down below us to see well-preserved frescoes from Ancient Rome.

Yes, a giant calendar, made up of rooms with stories told on the walls, to depict each month. Awesome in the true sense of the word.

Where: Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 42

How to book: Just show up at the basilica. Staff is standing in the front loggia before you enter the church, and you can book then and there for the next tour. Tours go regularly, and I've never heard them say they are fully booked.

Opening Hours: The basilica is open daily from 7am to 6:45pm

Tickets: 5€ for the tour. The basilica itself is free.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? The basilica has very good access for people in wheelchairs. You can also visit their special tour of the upper loggia, papal rooms, and Bernini's staircase, but the underground portion is not wheelchair accessible.

Do you have to go with a tour? Yes. You will go with an employee of the basilica. Your tour includes a visit to parts of the museum, and then you will descend into the underground space. It's important to have the tour so you know what you are looking at.

Claustrophobic? - The spaces are mostly wide and have very high ceilings. It's all well lit and ventilated. I didn't feel at all claustrophobic here.

Dress - While this Rome underground site itself is not itself a holy site, you can only access it via the basilica, so you MUST be dressed appropriately - no bare knees, midriffs, or shoulders.

Visit their official website here for more details.

Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, the other three are St Peter's Basilica, St John in Lateran and St Paul Outside the Walls.

Rome Catacombs

I sense that when people think about visiting Rome underground, they often think of the catacombs.

We have many catacombs in and near Rome. Some have yet to be excavated, some are available only by special permission, and others are regularly open to the public for visits and tours.

The catacombs are where the ancient Romans buried their dead.

Roman law decreed that people could not be buried inside the city. As Rome grew, land became scarce. So these Rome underground spaces were ideal for burying a lot of dead together, sometimes literally one on top of the other.

Many, though not all, of the dead were Christians. Some were saints, martyrs, and even popes.

By the Middle Ages, the catacombs fell into disuse and were largely forgotten. The dead were eventually buried within the city, and inside churches.

On this page, you can find out how to visit three catacombs on the Appia Antica (Ancient Appian Way), and also the Catacombs of Priscilla, one of the most important catacombs in Rome.

Some quick tips about visiting the Catacombs:

  • These are Christian sites. You must come properly dressed, which means no bare knees, shoulders, or midriffs.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, and bring a bottle of water.
  • Photos of the catacombs are strictly forbidden. You may take photos of the above-ground spaces, and inside churches where applicable. The guide will inform you.
  • No catacombs participate in the Roma Pass or other Rome City Pass.
  • None of the catacombs participate in the Free Sunday or other free days run by the Italian tourism ministry.
  • None of the catacombs are wheelchair accessible.
  • Do you have to go with a tour? Yes. Each of the catacombs has their own guide. You can also opt to book with an outside tour company. A typical tour of just one of the catacombs lasts a little under an hour. With an outside tour company, you may visit several catacombs in a 3-hour visit.
  • Claustrophobic? - Visiting the catacombs can be claustrophobic in parts. In some places you will be in a fairly narrow, long tunnel, and you cannot see any sky above you. It can be pretty dark and chilly sometimes. In other places, the tunnels are much wider, and you may stop in a fairly big room. If you easily suffer from claustrophobia, visiting these Rome underground catacombs may not be for you.

Ready to plan your trip?

Ready to plan your trip?

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Catacombs on Rome's Appian Way

The easiest to visit, especially if you want to see more than one in a day, are these three catacombs on the Appia Antica: San CallistoSan Sebastiano, and Domitilla.

I snapped this diagram along the Appia Antica. It shows where the three main catacombs are in relation to each other.

The Rome catacombs on the Appian Way were rediscovered in the 18th century, and have been a tourist attraction since then.

Some of the most famous saints buried here have since been moved.

In particular Saint Peter and Saint Paul have been moved, each to the basilica named for them.

Saint Cecilia has been moved, also to a basilica that bears her name.

Many saints do remain in the catacombs, however, which is why they are important Christian pilgrimage sites.

The tunnels that make up the catacombs stretch for miles. And just consider that many catacombs certainly remain to be discovered and excavated.

  • All three of the below catacombs have the same entry fees. Tickets are 10; 7€ for children between 6 to 16; FREE for children: 5 and under. The cost of the entrance ticket includes a guided tour with a guide from the site.
  • How to book: Individual visitors and groups up to 15 persons do not need to book. You can just show up, but you can also book in advance.
  • To reach these catacombs, you can take the 118 bus. It's a circular bus (it makes a loop) that comes around every 20-30 minutes, more or less, and it stops at places all along the Appia Antica, among other Ancient Rome sites. Alternatively, take a taxi or a tour that includes transportation.

The catacombs of saint Callixtus

The San Callisto (Saint Callixtus) catacombs is one of the best examples of Rome underground burial sites - There are 4 levels, and almost 20 kilometers of tunnels (that we know about!)

At this entrance to the Catacombs of San Callisto, you can also see signs for the entrances to the other catacombs nearby on the Appia Antica in Rome.

Several martyrs, and sixteen popes are buried here, and it was once the burial site of Santa Cecilia (who is now buried in the basilica by the same name in Trastevere, also on this page as a Rome underground site you can visit).

You can see her now-empty crypt when you visit the catacombs of San Callisto.

One of the pleasures about walking towards the catacombs of San Callisto is this tranquil, green walkway. You will often see sheep grazing here.

Where: Via Appia Antica, 110

Opening Hours: Thursday - Monday: 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm; Closed Wednesdays, December 25, January 1, Easter Sunday.

More details can be found on the official website.


If you're looking for beautifully preserved frescoes from ancient Rome underground, you can't miss the catacombs of Domitilla.

Jesus the good shepherd - a fresco from the Rome underground catacombs of Domitilla. Wikimedia Commons - public domain

While other Rome catacombs also have frescoes in varying clarity and conservation, these are some of the most impressive, because they clearly show Christian symbols.

There are also many frescoes showing pagan and mythological symbols as well.

Where: Via delle Sette Chiese 282

Opening Hours: Wednesday - Monday: 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm; Closed on Tuesdays.

More details can be found on the official website.

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THE CATACOMBS OF Saint Sebastian

The catacombs of Saint Sebastian are some of the smallest, and least well-preserved. It is worth visiting in any case, since you can see where the crypt of the saint was originally buried.

The oldest of the catacombs, this is also the site where the apostles Saints Peter and Paul were originally buried right after their respective matrydoms.

San SebastianoStatue of St. Sebastian by Giuseppe Giorgetti, who was clearly influenced by the works of fellow sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The church above the catacombs is also beautiful and worth a look, especially to see the sculpture of Saint Sebastian, and also a gorgeous bust of Jesus, attributed to Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Where: Via Appia Antica 136

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 am - 5 pm; Closed Sundays, December 25, January 1, and all of December.

For more details visit the official website.

Catacombs of Priscilla

It would be easy to miss a visit to the catacombs of Priscilla. They are not in the touristic center of Rome, and they are less famous than the ones above on the Appian Way.

To visit one of the most fascinating, yet little-known Rome underground sites, head to the Convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla on the via Salaria and check out the Catacombs of Priscilla.

Located on the via Salaria underneath the Convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla, these 13km-long (8 miles) catacombs date to the 2nd-4th centuries.

One unusual thing about these catacombs is that they were not named for a specific saint, but rather for a Roman noblewoman from the wealthy Acilii Glabrioni family. She supposedly donated her land as a burial site for early Christians.

Eventually there were probably close to 40,000 buried here, among which, several popes and martyrs.

If you treat yourself to a visit here, you will be amazed. 

The Catacombs of Priscilla have a lot of stunning paleo Christian art, but perhaps its most famous image is that of a woman and child, who many have suggested is the oldest image we have of the Mary and Jesus.

Depiction of mother and child, considered by many to be the oldest image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, dating from the 2nd century. Catacombs of Priscilla.

There is also a Greek Chapel, and other famous frescoes throughout, that showcase the importance of women.

Where: Via Salaria, 430. Phone: 06 4542 8493. 15-minute walk from the Sant’Agnese-Annibaliano Metro stop.

Opening Hours: Opening hours: from 9 am to 12 pm and from 2 - 5 pm. The Catacombs are closed on Mondays, December 25, and January 1.

For photos and more details visit the official website.

San Lorenzo in Lucina

Right on one of my favorite squares for having a coffee or aperitivo in the center of Rome, San Lorenzo in Lucina, is a very special, and ancient church.

Most people sit and sip at the various cafés here, and may not realize that underneath this church lies some beautiful hidden secrets.

Enjoying a coffee outside at one of the cafés on Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina. Meanwhile, some beautiful ruins from Rome underground are literally beneath their feet.

Recently I took a tour of this Rome Underground site with Context Travel, one of the best tour companies out there.

Their guides are not just tour guides – they are archeologists, art historians, architects, truly experts in their fields.

Our guide for this Rome Underground tour was Patrizia, an archeologist – who better to explain all the amazing artifacts and ruins we saw? 

Our excellent guide, Patrizia, is an archeologist. This Rome Underground tour with Context Travel took on a whole new meaning because of her expert knowledge and descriptions.

She explained why this area of Rome was inhabited from about the 5th century onward.

The 5th century CE marks the decline of the Roman empire. Rome was often sacked by northern peoples like Vandals, Barbarians, and Goths. In 537, the Goths knew how to bring Rome completely to its knees - they destroyed all the aqueducts that supplied Rome with water.

In the 500's, Rome was nearly a wasteland, with very few inhabitants. Those that remained could not stay in the area we know today as Ancient Rome - around the Palatine Hill, Roman Forum and surrounding lands. They had to move closer to the Tiber for water. 

So they moved to the Field of Mars (Campo Marzio). The Field of Mars was once associated with the Emperor Augustus, and the glory days of Ancient Rome. It's where monumental buildings were constructed, and where the Roman army trained.

Since people were moving into this area to live, they needed housing, which is why we find these ruins in Rome underground today.

And, since it was also the beginning of Christianity taking firm root, even if sometimes in hiding, we find these ancient Roman homes often combined with, or underneath, ancient churches.

There is much more to this story, and you can find out all this and more, if you go on the Rome Underground tour I went on with Context Travel. I really loved it and learned so much.

Here you can see an intact fresco from a nobleman's home in ancient Rome. It's amazing the things you can see in Rome underground when you start exploring!

Where: Piazza di S. Lorenzo in Lucina, 16/a.

How to book: Either come the last Saturday of the month at 4:15pm, or, book a tour with Context Travel

Opening Hours: The church itself is open daily 8.00 am - 8.00 pm

Tickets: 2€ if you visit on the last Saturday of the month. More if you take a private tour (varied.)

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? No

Claustrophobic? No. The spaces are wide, with high ceilings, and well-lit and well-ventilated. There is one sort of dark room, but it's large, and the guide will use a torch to show you things along the walls.

Do you have to go with a tour? Yes. It's not that easy to visit the underground of San Lorenzo in Lucina, because you need to visit that part on a guided tour. They regularly offer a tour of the underground on the last Saturday of each month at 4.15 p.m. The cost is 2€.

Most tour companies that offer this visit are primarily local agencies offering tours only in Italian.

Or, you can go as I did with Context Travel, where you will have a fabulous tour of this site, along with a few other sites (like the Vicus Caprarius, also described on this page.)


Want to see where Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini built his bunker and bomb shelter?

They are located underneath Villa Torlonia, one of the dictator's villas, a fantastic site to visit by itself.

Now, they've opened Mussolini's bunker for visits.

When war broke out in 1940, Mussolini had a shelter built under his villa. It came complete with armored doors, anti-gas masks, and other items deemed necessary to survive a bombing.

Inside Mussolini's bunker. Photo credit:

In 1941, Mussolini had another shelter made in this Rome underground space at Villa Torlonia. It had 120 cm-thick walls of reinforced concrete.

By 1943, Mussolini began to make a third, more advanced bunker. This one went unfinished, since July 1943 when Mussolini was forced out of power.

You can now take a guided tour of this fascinating Rome underground site.

Be prepared for a loud air-raid sirens, which they use to enhance the visitor experience and add a sense of realism. Tours last about 1.5 hours.

Where: Via Nomentana, 70

How to book:  Unfortunately, the tours of this site have been suspended. Please check back for updates of visit the official site

Opening Hours: Saturdays and Sundays 9.30 am - 5.00 pm

Tickets: Please check official site for information.

Photos allowed? Yes

Minimum age: Children under ten must be accompanied by an adult.

Wheelchair accessible? No

Do you have to go with a tour? Yes

Claustrophobic? - Yes, a little. You are completely underground in a fairly compact space.

 More Rome Underground Sites

Rome Underground Sites You Can See Without a Guide

The below are my favorite hidden Rome sites you can easily visit without a tour or guide.

In some cases, we are talking about an underground ruin out in plain sight.

In others, you need to buy a ticket.

Here's how to see these hidden Rome underground sites:

  1. Roman Houses at Celio
  2. Capuchin Crypt
  3. Domitian's Stadium underneath Piazza Navona
  4. Basilica of San Clemente
  5. Basilica of Santa Cecilia
  6. Vicus Caprarius
  7. Mamertine Prison
  8. Santa Maria in Cosmedin
  9. Basilica of San Crisogno
  10. Pompey's Theater
  11. Crypta Balbi
  12. Rinascente
  13. Baths of Caracalla


The Roman Houses at Celio is one of my favorite Rome underground sites.

First of all, it's almost never crowded. I've visited many times, and only ever seen a few other people in there, and never a huge tour group.

These pagan frescoes decorated the house of a wealthy person in Ancient Rome. I just love being able to see up close such intact paintings in this Rome underground site.

Second of all, I am amazed at the stunning Ancient Rome frescoes and how well-preserved they are. And how easy it is to visit these up close.

You really get a sense of what this space might have looked like when the family lived here.

This is the shrine of the martyrs who lived here, and who were buried here after their executions. The two martyrs Saints John and Paul were Roman soldiers executed for their faith.

Third, there is a fantastic museum in the back. It's very well-curated, and gives you a chance to take your time studying some of the artifacts from the site. 

A huge bonus of visiting the Roman Houses at Celio is this small but excellent museum at the end. You'll find fascinating treasures from this Rome underground site, including some beautiful Islamic pottery, and a room full of bricks with Roman stamps depicting their origin.

I find it a shame, actually, that it's not a better-known or promoted site.

So many people want to see Ancient Rome and get lost in a sea of people in the Roman Forum, while here, they could experience Ancient Rome first-hand and in peace and quiet.

These paintings were part of what was once an outdoor nympheum (decorative fountain and garden area). At one point, the Roman Houses at Celio were a very large estate of a wealthy person in the 4th century CE.

What are the Roman Houses at Celio?

This Rome underground site is a fairly large space underneath the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo on the Celio hill, just next to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. It was originally thought to be simply the site of burial of the two martyrs, Saints John and Paul, for whom the church is named. They were Roman soldiers who lived in this area, and who were executed for their faith.

When the area was excavated in the 19th century, they found evidence of many different layers of housing, from the 2nd - 4th centuries CE.

Because the area was occupied and changed over the time when Christianity went from being a hidden cult to the religion of the empire, this unique archeological space allows you to see pagan and Christian frescoes in one visit.

What began as a 2nd century Roman domus (home) spread to a wealthy person's large estate, to an even larger complex of shops and small neighborhood. 

The area you can visit contains 20 rooms, and they are all attached and easy to see in about an hour or so.

For an excellent detailed description of this Rome underground site, visit Archeology Travel.

Entry to the Roman Houses at Celio, right underneath the basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, about 10 minutes' walk from the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.

Where: Clivo di Scauro

How to book: You can pay for your tickets right at the site. I've never seen huge crowds or a line.

Opening Hours: Thursday - Monday: 10 am - 1 pm and 3 pm - 6 pm; Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tickets: 10€; 8€ reduced. For details, visit their official website.

Photos allowed? Yes.

Wheelchair accessible? Parts of this site close to the entrance are wheelchair accessible.

Claustrophobic? - For me, no. Most of the spaces are pretty big and airy, and you can almost always see a doorway to some other part, so you never really feel closed in.  There are a couple of small metal staircases that take you to important spots, such as the altar where the martyrs' remains are supposed to be, but I don't find them claustrophobic.

Is it possible to take a tour? Here are some options:

  • You can take a Rome underground tour that combines the basilica of San Clemente (also on this page) and the Roman Houses at Celio. 
  • You can also take a very cool tour of the Roman Houses at Celio when they are normally closed on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. This tour includes an "Ancient Aperitivo", with foods you would have found in Ancient Rome. 

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Capuchin Crypt

This may be one of Rome's most popular creepy sites.

The Capuchin Crypt is underneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on Via Veneto. It was created in the 1600s when the order had to move to their current location. The monks brought with them cartloads of bones of their departed brethren, and eventually arranged them in various small chapels.

Photos are not allowed inside the Capuchin Crypt in Rome. This is from Wikimedia Commons by stanthejeep.

There are about 3,700 Capuchin friars' bones buried here, if we can use the word buried. According to the church, this is not meant as a disrespect. On the contrary, they want to demonstrate how fleeting and fragile life on earth is.

In one of the rooms, you can read their decree "What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be."

This is one of the few crypts we have in Rome where you will actually see bones. In fact, you will even see full skeletons, sometimes dressed as monks.

This is the entrance on Via Veneto to the church and the Capuchin Crypt.

To see the crypt, you will first visit a small museum that explains the history of the church and the Capuchin order. You will also be treated to a painting that may be by Caravaggio (it's not confirmed, but it's still a beautiful painting.)

Where: Via Vittorio Veneto, 27

How to book: Purchase tickets on-site, or in advance.

Opening Hours: Daily 9 am - 7 pm. Closed December 25, January 1, and Easter Sunday. 

Tickets:  11.50 €, Reduced 8€ (for more details check the official website)

Photos allowed? Not in the crypt

Wheelchair accessible? Yes, but you need to let them know in advance, because they use an elevator of a neighboring building and need to request access.

Is it possible to take a tour? Yes. See below:

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Domitian's Stadium underneath Piazza Navona

When you visit Piazza Navona, take a look at the shape. The entire plaza is built on top of, and in the shape of, a stadium from Ancient Rome.

Piazza Navona is one of Rome's most beautiful piazzas. Note the shape. It's built on top of a stadium from Ancient Rome.

Emperor Domitian (brother of Titus, son of Vespasian, the three guys responsible for building the Colosseum) had the stadium built in 86 CE.

The stadium could hold up to 30,000 spectators (about half as many as the Colosseum.) It was used for all kinds of games, including nude Greek athletic contests. The stadium was in use at the same time as the Colosseum.

On the left, you see a model of Domitian's stadium from ancient Rome. On the right is an aerial shot of modern-day Piazza Navona, showing that is the exact shape of the stadium that was once here.

Over the centuries, like so many structures from Ancient Rome, it fell victim to earthquakes, disuse, theft, and just abandonment.

Eventually, it was covered with flooring, and made into a square with a market.

In the 17th century, the height of the era for Baroque building and decoration, the square was drastically changed, thanks in part to Bernini and Borromini. (For the full story, visit my page here.)

I really love this Rome underground site - you can easily see up close the structures that made up Domitian's stadium. It's a a very well laid-out and easy to see exhibit.

You can actually see a bit of the original structure at one end of the piazza. But you can also pay and go down into a well-laid out space where you can see the ruins themselves.

The entry to Domitian's stadium underneath Piazza Navona.

I love this Rome Underground site. It's easy to find, doesn't take long to visit, and is not claustrophobic at all.

Where: Via di Tor Sanguigna, 3.

How to book: Book online.

Opening Hours: Daily 10 am  - 7 pm, Saturday 10 am - 8 pm.

Tickets: Full ticket €9 , Reduced ticket €7 (for more details on reduced tickets and free admission check out the official website).

Photos allowed? Yes.

Wheelchair accessible? No

Claustrophobic? No. It's big and airy and has plenty of light. You can almost always see outdoor light coming in from one end.

Is it possible to take a tour? Yes

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Basilica of San Clemente

The basilica of San Clemente has what is arguably one of the most famous Rome underground sites.

The space underneath the Basilica of San Clemente is fascinating and easy to visit.

The basilica is easy to visit, as it's just a couple of blocks from the Colosseum (much easier to pop to quickly than say, a Trastevere church).

The church itself is stunning. It has gorgeous Cosmatesque floors and a shimmering gold-mosaic apse.

But since this page is about Rome underground sites, let's talk about why you should visit this church and what you can expect.

The frescoes in the Rome underground site of San Clemente are fantastically well-preserved and colorful.

Like many Rome churches, this one is built on top of older stuff.

One layer down, you will enter a 4th century church that was once a nobleman's home. There are some stunning medieval frescoes there, among other beautiful things to see.

What's left of the Mithraic temple underneath the basilica of San Clemente. In the center is the classic image of Mithras slaying a bull.

And in the lowest layer, you will see the remains of a Mithraic temple. Mithraism was a religion practiced in Ancient Rome around the 1-4 centuries CE. It was a rival to early Christianity, and popular among Roman soldiers.

It always involved the god Mithras sacrificing a bull, which is why when you do get a chance to see a Mithraic temple, you see this image.

Where: Via Labicana, 95.

How to book: You can book and pay directly at the ticket office inside the church. Recently, the site has been very busy so if possible book ahead.

Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 9am - 12:30pm, 3pm - 6pm; Sunday 12pm - 6pm.

Tickets: 10€ (for reduced prices and free admissions visit the official website).

Photos allowed? Only the outside cloister

Wheelchair accessible? Only the main level of the basilica. The different levels under the basilica are not wheelchair accessible.

Claustrophobic? - There are two levels to this Rome underground site. The first level is from a nobleman's home, and it's really big, with high ceilings, and well-lit. You'll always see another room leading from wherever you are. The lower level is a Mythraic worshiping site. You have to go down some sort of dark slippery steps. The ceilings are still high, but the spaces are just smaller and darker. It feels more cave-like. I have no problem, but you can assess it for yourself pretty easily on the spot.

Is it possible to take a tour? Yes.

Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere may not look like it at first glance, but it's once of the oldest churches in Rome.

Santa Cecilia is an ancient church, but it's been through many renovations. The church was restored in the 18th century, and given this facade, which is why it does not look as old as it really is.

The church was originally made in the 5th-century, and is dedicated to Saint Cecilia. If you are not familiar with her story, keep reading to find out why she is the patron saint of music.

Like many Roman churches from this period, it was probably based on an even earlier church, likely founded  in the 3rd century.

The original church was itself built over the house of a Roman upper-class woman, Cecilia. She was a convert to Christianity, and practiced her faith in hiding. Her parents tried to marry her off, but on her wedding night, she not only maintained her vow of chastity, she converted her new husband Valerian, his brother Tibertius, and another man named Maximus. These three men were soon after martyred. And not long after that, Cecilia was to be martyred as well.

Roman soldiers locked Cecilia in a caldarium, something like a very hot sauna. She was supposed to die of suffocation, but she just kept singing, and after several days in which she did not die, the Romans removed her and tried to behead her instead. They chopped her neck three times with an axe, and yet, she still did not die. Finally, after 3 days, she died.

And now you know why Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music.

If you visit the Rome underground of the basilica of Santa Cecilia, you can spot these incredibly intact Roman mosaic floors.

In 822, Pope Paschal I rebuilt the church, and moved the remains of Saint Cecilia from the Catacombs of San Callisto to this church. 

In 1599, Cecilia's crypt was opened. The sculptor Stefano Maderno was on hand for this moment, and swears, as do others who were present, that the saint was intact, and he could see the 3 cuts on her neck. He sculpted what he said he saw:

Saint Cecilia, by baroque sculptor Stefano Maderno.

It's very easy to visit this Rome underground space. 

You will start by seeing remains from what could be Cecilia's ancient Roman domus (home), along with other remnants from ancient Rome.

Make your way to the beautiful, albeit modern, crypt (built in 1899-1901).

The relics of Saint Cecilia, her husband, Saint Valerian, his brother, Saint Tiburtius, Saint Maximus, and two popes from that time are all here.

The crypt has cosmatesque-style floors, although they are from a much later period than authentic cosmatesque.

Where: Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 22.

How to book: Once inside the basilica, turn to the left and enter the gift shop. That's where you buy tickets to, and access, the underground.

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 am - 12.30 pm, 4 pm - 6 pm. (Visitors are not allowed during Mass or other services.)

Tickets: 2.50€

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? No

Claustrophobic? - I don't find it claustrophobic at all. The rooms are large and well-lit, and there are no small, dark, enclosed spaces.

Is it possible to take a tour?

Visit their official website for more details.

Vicus Caprarius

Have you ever wondered where all the water in Rome comes from? In particular, the water that feeds the Trevi Fountain?

The Trevi Fountain in Rome. Do you know where the water comes from?

Well, it still comes over an ancient Roman Aqueduct. And you can see where this water arrives in Rome, underground, before it gets distributed to the various fountains.

The Vicus Caprarius is the site from Ancient Rome where the water comes into the city before being distributed to various fountains in the area, including the Trevi Fountain.

This site is really easy to visit on your own, and it's just steps away from the Trevi Fountain itself.

I went with an expert archeologist, on a Rome Underground Tour with Context Travel. There is no way I could have gotten such in-depth (no pun intended!) information if I had not been on this tour.

Our guide explained everything about the origins of this site, but also gave us fascinating little anecdotes about the people who lived here nearly 2000 years ago. (This was combined with a tour of the Rome underground site of San Lorenzo in Lucina, making it a very complete tour.)

The entrance to the Vicus Caprarius right near the Trevi Fountain.

Go check it out. 

Where: Vicolo del Puttarello, 25.

How to book: You don't really need to book this in advance unless you want to take a tour. You can just walk up and pay and go in. If you do want to book in advance, you can do so here.

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Friday: 11.00 am - 5.30 pm (continuous); Saturday and Sunday: 11.00 am - 7.00 pm (continued).

Tickets: €4; Reduced €2.50 (more details on the official website).

Roma Pass: This site participates in the Roma Pass and other Rome city passes. I don't recommend it as your free site, since it's already so affordable. But you do get a small discount.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? No

Claustrophobic? - I don't find it claustrophobic in the least. The whole space is large and out in the open.

Is it possible to take a tour?

Mamertine Prison

The Mamertine Prison, also known as the Carcer Tullianum, is said to be where the Saints Peter and Paul were held before their respective executions in Rome. 

The modern altar inside the Mamertine prison, showing Saint Peter with his symbol, the two keys to heaven, and Saint Paul, with his symbol, the sword with which he was executed.

(There is no actual proof Peter was imprisoned here, but there is a lot of evidence that Paul was. Regardless, this is a special place for pilgrims to visit when in Rome.)

The Mamertine Prison, where Saints Peter and Paul were held before their respective executions, sits below a Renaissance church, and right next to the Roman Forum on Capitoline Hill.

The 3000-year-old prison sits underneath the 16th-century San Giuseppe dei Falegnami (Saint Joseph of the Carpenters) church, just next to the Roman Forum and below Capitoline Hill. (It's not inside the Roman Forum, so you do not need to visit the Forum to visit the Mamertine Prison.)

This is the upper level of the prison. The space was called the Carcer, from which the Italian word "carcere" (jail) comes. You san see Medieval frescoes still on the walls.

There are two different parts to this site: the upper half was the Carcer, dating from 640-616 BCE, the period of one of the first Seven Kings of Rome, Ancus Marcius, and the lower half, the Tullianum, dating from 578-534 BCE, the period of another of the Seven Kings of Rome, Servius Tullius.

There is archeological evidence the place was in use (not necessarily as a prison) as far back as the 9th century BCE.

The lowest part of the Mamertine Prison is where prisoners were literally dropped through a hole and left to await their fate - usually a horrible execution, although sometimes prisoners simply starved to death here.

Many notable people from antiquity were imprisoned here, although the word "imprisoned" is not quite accurate - it was used more like a holding cell prior to someone being executed.

The stairs leading to the next level down. It's not easy for someone in a wheelchair to visit the lower levels, but you can at least see part of them.

Recently, they closed the site to renovate it. It has since reopened, and now when you visit, you get a tablet to carry with you that gives great explanations and visuals so you get a pretty clear idea of the space and its history.

Where: Clivo Argentario, 1

How to book: You can book on the official site, on site, or with a ticket agency. You can also just walk right up and buy tickets. I've never seen a line.

Opening Hours: Daily  8:30 am–4:30 pm (Last entry at 3:30 pm)

Tickets: 10€; 5€ ages 6-17; Free for children under 6.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? Only the top floor museum. You can see a little bit of the next lower structure from this floor.

Claustrophobic? - The top floor where the museum is is not claustrophobic at all. The next level down is also really big and open. The final level, the prison itself is a small space. So you might find this claustrophobic. But you can also see it a little bit from above and not go all the way down.

Is it possible to take a tour? The tour you get automatically is a multimedia self-guided tour, that lasts about 1 hour.

Omnia PassOmnia Pass holders can enter the Carcer Tullianum area for free, but will need to pay for access to the museum, and to rent the multimedia equipment to take the tour. For the complete tour for Omnia Pass holders (Museum + Carcer Tullianum+ multimedia device), the price is 7€.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Santa Maria in Cosmedin seems to me to be one of the most easily overlooked churches in Rome.

The basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It's famous for the Mouth of Truth, but my favorite part is the church itself, which has gorgeous Cosmatesque floors, and a hidden Rome underground site.

It's so famous for its outdoor relic, known as the Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Truth, that visitors tend to miss the stunning church inside.

I love the cosmatesque floors of Santa Maria in Cosmedin,
The Mouth of Truth is the big draw here, and people wait in long lines to have their picture taken with this.

One little-known fact about this gorgeous basilica is that it houses the remains of several saints, including what is said to be the skull of Saint Valentine.

The skull of Saint Valentine is another interesting thing to see inside the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

But since this page is about Rome underground sites, I want to let you know how easy it is to visit this site, and see ancient Rome, hidden away beneath the altar of this church.

First of all, the structure of the crypt itself is from ancient Rome - around 2,000 years old. Inside the crypt, you will see the stones that made up the original shrine to Hercules. They were eventually incorporated into the church that was built here in the 6th century.

This ancient Greek structure is called the Temple to Hercules Victor, to commemorate a scene from the life of Hercules, in which he defeated a giant monster in this area. Nearby, there was once an alter to Hercules. It is today incorporated into the church, Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

Second of all, this area became the crypt of Pope Hadrian the 1st, in the 8th century.

He brought relics of some saints from the catacombs, and you can see the cubby-holes where they used to sit.

While I love visiting the basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the area underneath is also fascinating and offers a glimpse into ancient Rome underground.

Where: Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18.

Opening Hours: Daily 9.30 am-6 pm.

Tickets: Admission to the church is free. To visit the crypt, they request a small donation at your discretion. Visitors tend to give around 1-5€ per person.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? The church is wheelchair accessible, and worth a visit. (The Mouth of Truth is also wheelchair accessible.) The underground crypt is not wheelchair accessible.

Claustrophobic? - The ceiling is a little low but other than that, I don't find it claustrophobic. You are in one fairly big room (as you can see above). It's well lit and ventilated so I find it comfortable.

Is it possible to take a tour? Many companies that offer an overall Rome tour, such as a Segway or golf-cart tour, stop at the Mouth of Truth. If you want a tour of the Rome underground part of this church, you'll need to hire a private guide.

Basilica of San CrisogOno

The basilica of San Crisogono sits right on the edge of a bustling Trastevere street. It seems empty and un-noticed. Which is a shame, because it's beautiful, starting with its impressive Cosmatesque floors.

The 12th century bell tower of San Crisogono in Trastevere.
The basilica of San Crisogono is worth a visit alone. The Cosmatesque floors are stunning.

The church itself is worth a visit.

But if you head down underneath the church, you will be treated to a wealth of relics and mosaics from Ancient Rome, and some surprisingly intact frescoes from Medieval Rome.

Immediately as you head into this Rome underground space in San Crisogono, you will see remains of the original apse, which is clear from the shape. Note the frescoes on the side.

The church of San Crisogono is dedicated to the martyr Saint Chrysogonus.

It was likely built in the early 300's, during the time of Constantine I, or Pope Sylvester I. Underneath these ruins, there are remains of houses from the late Roman Republic (before the Roman Empire).

san crisogono frescoIn this medieval fresco in the Rome underground of the basilica of San Crisogono, you can see an image of Saint Benedict of Nursia ealing a leper.

The space is large and has spacious rooms and high ceilings, so it's not claustrophobic. However, its unfortunately lacking in any information or signage, so you'll need to either study a bit before you go, or just enjoy what you are looking at.

When you pay the custodian to head underground, he will give you a little pamphlet that has writing in English, which at least gives some information.

Where: Piazza Sidney Sonnino, 44 (adjacent to Viale Trastevere)

How to book: When you enter the church, look around for the guardian. He is an elderly gentleman, often sitting on a chair near the left-hand wall. If you don't see him, walk along the left-hand wall until you are next to the church altar. To your left, you will see a small room. Go in there and look for the custodian. He will ask you for the entry fee of 3€ per person, and let you into the underground.

Opening Hours: Weekdays 7 am-11.30 am and 4 - 7.30 pm. Sun 8 am - 1pm, 4 - 7 pm. It's not possible to visit excavations during Mass.

Tickets: 3€ per person

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? The church is wheelchair accessible, but the underground is not.

Claustrophobic? - Not at all. It's a huge space with high ceilings and lots of (artificial) light. You can always see another room nearby. There are no enclosed small spaces.

Is it possible to take a tour? Yes

Pompey's Theater

If you've been to Largo Argentina, you know that's the site where Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March, 44 BCE.

These ruins at Largo Argentina are famous for two things - it's a city-sanctioned cat colony and adoption center, and, it's the site of Julius Caesar's murder in 44 BCE.

The reality is that he was murdered on the steps of Pompey's theater, which were, at the time, right about where that big green umbrella pine is.

Pompey's theater stretched back, towards what is today Campo dei Fiori. It was pretty huge. And none of it is left today. At least, none of it remains above ground.

This model of Pompey's theater is in the basement of da Pancrazio restaurant. You can see how enormous it was. The steps of the back of the theater, which are towards the back of this model, are where Julius Caesar was assassinated. The restaurant is towards the front.

At this lovely restaurant in Campo Di Fiori, Da Pancrazio, you can enjoy a nice Roman meal, even outside.

Besides the cool Rome underground stuff, I really like eating at Da Pancrazio, this unassuming trattoria near Campo dei Fiori.

And you can also visit their Rome underground, and see remnants of Pompey's theater.

In the basement of Da Pancrazio, you can see the remains of some of the structure of the theater of Pompey.

You can pop in and head downstairs without eating here.

But actually it's a lovely restaurant, the food is good, and the service is friendly, so I'd recommend you eat here anyway.

Where: Ristorante da Pancrazio; Via del Biscione, 73-74. Tel: +39-06-6880-3686

Opening Hours: Tues - Sun 12 pm-3 pm and 5 pm-11 pm. Closed Mondays

Tickets: It's free to visit the downstairs. You can go without eating here, but I do recommend this as a nice place for lunch, dinner, and outdoor dining as well.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? The restaurant itself is wheelchair accessible, but the underground is not.

Claustrophobic? - My mom would have a thing about the tiny corkscrew staircase to get downstairs, more than she would about the space itself. The downstairs is large and comfortable.

Is it possible to take a tour? The only way to visit this Rome underground site with a guide is to hire a private guide. You'll want to combine it with other things, as this visit won't take much more than 15 minutes.

Visit the restaurant's website.

Crypta Balbi

The Crypta Balbi is a museum that shows you an ongoing excavation of a theater from Ancient Rome.

The theater was named for an important Roman by the name of Lucio Cornelio Balbo. Today, this site is part of the National Roman Museum, and you can visit all 4 of these museums on one ticket.

Crypta Balbi is one of the best Rome underground sites you can visit to understand how Rome evolved over the last 2000 years. Source - Wikimedia, photo credit - Sailko.

This is a great Rome underground site for getting a feel for how Rome changed over the centuries to what you see today.

Where: Via delle Botteghe Oscure, 31

How to book: You can buy your ticket on-site, or at any one of the other 3 participating National Roman Museums. Participates in the Roma Pass and other City Passes.

Opening Hours:  Daily from 9am to 7:45pm, except Mondays. 

Tickets:  10€ to visit just this site, or 12€ for a 3-day pass to visit all 4 museums that make up the National Roman Museums: the Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, and Baths of Diocletian.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? It has a lift and is partially accessible by wheelchair.

Claustrophobic? - Not at all.

Is it possible to take a tour? At the moment, there are not tours that include this site.

Visit the official website for more details.


The gorgeous flagship Rinascente shopping store in the heart of Rome is already a magnet for locals and tourists alike. Visitors can get some shopping in, soak up the ambiance at the rooftop bars and restaurants, or just check out this cool new vertical department store in Rome's shopping district near the Spanish Steps.

The new flagship Rinascente department store in the heart of Rome boasts a fantastic Rome underground site - the remains of an Augustus-era aqueduct.

While there are 11 Rinascente department stores throughout Italy (including a second location in Rome), this particular building has become famous for what they found when digging to build the foundations - an Augustan-era aqueduct.

rinascente rome undergroundVisiting the basement of the Rinascente flagship store in the center of Rome, you can spot one of the best preserved Rome underground sites, an aqueduct from the era of the Emperor Augustus.

In 19 BCE, Rome's first Emperor Augustus inaugurated the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, one of 11, that would bring water into the city and supply structures and baths.

During the excavations needed to build this shopping structure, they discovered a huge swath of this aqueduct. They turned it into a feature of the store, and now you can see it, have drinks next to it, and watch a movie about its history if you like. Head to the gorgeous housewares section in the basement, and you'll find this 60-meter stretch of ancient Rome underground.

The "Aqua Virgo" aqueduct still functions today, and happens to be the source of water for the nearby Trevi Fountain.

Where: Rinascente Department Store, Via del Tritone, 61

Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday 10am - 11pm; Sunday 11am - 8pm

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? Yes

Claustrophobic? - No. You are literally on the ground floor of a large department store.

Is it possible to take a tour? You can book a tour that takes you to several sites in Rome underground, including a visit to this ruin.

Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla is one of my favorite sites to visit in Rome.

It's one of the best-preserved sites from Ancient Rome, and is a marvel of Roman engineering and architecture. And, I have never once been to visit it and found it packed with visitors like some other sites in Rome (ahem, the Colosseum.)

Now, after extensive excavations, they have opened a huge underground space that you can visit as part of a normal visit to the baths.

The underground space is easy to visit. It's part of the normal ticket. Just look for the staircase going down (it's outside the regular system of the baths that you walk through. If you don't find the stairs, ask someone.)

Where: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 52

Opening Hours: Daily from 9am. Closing hours depend on the season. Mondays, closing time is always 2pm. Closed December 25 and January 1.

Photos allowed? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? The baths themselves are wheelchair accessible. The underground does not seem to have access.

Claustrophobic? - No. It is an enormous space with huge ceilings and good ventilation.

Is it possible to take a tour? You can take the audio tour, or the 4-D virtual reality tour, both available on-site. If you want a guided tour, you can book a private tour here.

Rome Underground - Map of Best Hidden Sites

Click here to visit my interactive Google map showing all the places listed on this page. It will open in a new window.

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