5. From Rome: Full-Day Best of Christian Rome Tour with Lunch
This tour will start with a pick-up from your accommodation in Rome. A professional English-speaking driver with a private minivan will be with you for the entire day. It isn’t impossible to concentrate 17 centuries of history in one tour. Be guided to visit the most significant sites of the Catholic Church in Rome. Official licensed guides, if booked, will be selected by the local tour operator. Feast on a lunch in a typical Roman restaurant. Consider that in high season from April to October, you must book the tour option with guide included a minimum of 30 days in advance. During your private tour, you will enjoy landmarks such as Saint John Lateran, the Holy Stairs, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Christian Catacombs on the Ancient Appian Way and St. Peter’s Basilica (if and when open).
Dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the first among the four major basilicas of Rome. It is also the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, the pope, and is thus known as Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput: "Cathedral of Rome and of the World." The sanctuary gets its name from the 28 marble steps of the Holy Stairs. According to an ancient Christian tradition, Saint Helena (†335), the mother of Constantine, had the stairs transported from Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem to Rome. It is believed that Jesus climbed these stairs several times the day he was sentenced to death, thus, they are known as the “Scala Pilati” or “Scala Sancta” (the Holy Stairs or Pilate’s Stairs). The Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major reigns as an authentic jewel in the crown of Roman churches. Its beautiful treasures are of inestimable value, and represent the church's role as the cradle of Christian artistic civilization in Rome. Saint Paul Outside the Walls is where Christians venerated the memory of Saint Paul the Apostle, beheaded under Nero around 65-67 AD. Above his grave, located along the Ostiense Way, Emperor Constantine built a basilica. The Christian catacombs originated in Rome between the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd centuries. The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican is the papal enclave within the city of Rome. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world.
You can choose which catacombs you prefer to visit among the following: the Catacombs of St. Domitilla, Catacombs of St. Sebastian or the Catacombs of San Callixtus. The Catacombs of St. Domitilla are the oldest of Rome's underground burial networks, and the only ones to still contain bones. They are also the best preserved and one of the most extensive of all the Catacombs. Included in their passages are a 2nd-century fresco of the Last Supper and other valuable artifacts. There are around 4,000,000 bodies buried in St. Domitilla. They are the only catacombs that have a subterranean basilica. The Catacombs of St. Sebastian, as one of the smallest Christian cemeteries, has always been some of the most accessible catacombs and are thus some of the least preserved (of the four original floors, the first is almost completely gone). On the left end of the right hand wall of the nave of the primitive basilica (rebuilt in 1933 on ancient remains), arches to end the middle of the nave of the actual 13th-century church are visible, along with the outside of the apse of the Chapel of the Relics; whole and fragmentary collected sarcophagi (mostly dating from the 4th-century) were found in excavations. The Catacombs of San Callixtus or the Crypt of the Popes was built after 150 AD. It takes its name from the deacon Saint Callixtus, proposed by Pope Zephyrinus in the administration of the same cemetery - on his accession as pope, he enlarged the complex, and soon it became the official one for the Roman church. The arcades, where more than fifty martyrs and sixteen pontiffs were buried, form part of a complex graveyard that occupies 15 hectares and is around 12 miles (20 kilometers) long. Once you get to the catacombs, your entrance tickets (8 EUR/ person not included) will be purchased on the spot. Your driver will be able to help you complete the task. Then, you'll start your visit inside with a small group tour in your preferred language given by the catacombs staff. At the end of the tour, the driver will take you back to your accommodation in Rome. The tour will be a total of 8-hours from pick-up to drop-off. Suggested pick-up is at 09:00.