Walking tours in Rome take on an eerie turn when you visit the world that lies below the surface and venture into ancient catacombs and crypts where Romans worshipped and were buried. With 2,000 years of history, there are bound to be a few hidden mysteries and scary stories.
After dusk, Rome takes on an altogether more sinister feel, and it's the perfect time to listen to tales of myth and legend, explore the city's great monuments while you journey to the dark side. Here we present the most popular eerie and spine-chilling walking tours in Rome.
The eerie fun starts at Piazza Barberini, in Centro Storico, the city centre. The first stop is the 17th-century Church of Santa Maria della Concezione. Beneath this 17th-century unassuming church are the Capuchin Crypts. As you enter the crypt's museum, stop for a while to admire Caravaggio's St Francis in Meditation, a soulful and dark painting with St Francis kneeling before a cross, holding a skull, as he contemplates death. A fitting image for the crypts!
Now look around you — from the arched walls to the picture frames, everything in the underground chapel is made from human bones! It was the Capuchin monks (yes, that's where cappuccino comes from) who used the remains of their departed brothers to create elaborate artwork. (Until 1870, the Roman Catholic church permitted burial beneath churches.) Look for the haunting plaque that reads, "What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be."
Back above ground, it's a short walk to the queen of the long roads, the Appian Way, one of the world's longest roads, that stretches from Rome to Brindisi 350 miles away. The Appian Way itself has a few secrets — beneath it run 186 miles of catacombs and tunnels used as burial chambers by early Christians. Since you're on a tour, and not a mere tourist, you happily skip past the long line to see the biggest and best preserved — the Domitilla Catacombs, Catacomb di Santa Domitilla.
In the period when Christianity was banned in Rome, the catacombs were a peaceful sanctuary for worship. In fact, a complete church was built underground in the 4th century.
The final highlight is the Basilica of San Clemente, a church built like a layer cake. Explore this stacked tower of churches, each built over the other. Follow steps to the 2nd-century pagan temple, a few more steps and you're at the 1st-century church. You're so far down, you can hear the river flowing beneath your feet. We said it was eerie!
Wow! 3 different tour stops with an exceptional tour guide named Melanie. She really knew her stuff. Couldn't pick a favourite part as I loved it all. No queuing anywhere. I would always pick a tour over visiting these types of places ourselves, as we would never have found out half of the information we were given. She was so enthusiastic in her delivery and we loved it."
– 5-Star Review
Everyone loves a ghost story! As the sun sets, a darker and more mysterious side of Rome emerges. You meet your guide beneath the Baroque facade of Sant'Andrea della Valle church (the setting for Puccini's Tosca) just as night begins to fall.
Follow your guide as you weave through winding alleyways, historic bridges and ancient squares, listening to fantastical, supernatural stories. Don't worry, it's not all scary — you'll also discover the Ponte Sisto, the bridge that spans the river Tiber; Palazzo Farnese, a Renaissance palace; and the Castel Sant'Angelo, the mausoleum of Hadrian, all beautifully illuminated by night.
Discover the Corte Savella Prison, where Renaissance noblewoman Beatrice Cenci was put to death for her father's murder. It is said that on September 11, the anniversary of her torture and death, you can hear her ghost appealing for justice! Keep an eye open for this plaque on Via di Monserrato, at the prison: "From Here Where Corte Savella Prison Stood on September 11, 1599, Beatrice Cenci Left, Heading to the Scaffold, an Exemplary Victim of an Unfair Justice."
Such a great tour! Be prepared for lots of walking. You don't enter any buildings, but you learn so much from standing outside and being transported back in time by the guide's colourful stories."
– 5-Star Review
On this half-day walking tour you escape the city's hubbub to the peaceful Roman countryside.
You know about the Appian Way, the most important road in Ancient Rome, but you may not know about the mysterious catacombs that lie beneath. On this walking tour, you visit those catacombs — Ancient Rome's most well-preserved burial sites — and discover the underground labyrinths.
Built in the 2nd century, the catacombs of San Callisto — named after the deacon, Saint Callixtus — are home to the Crypt of the Pope. Explore the underground tunnels, frescoes and subterranean Christian cemeteries and learn the burial techniques used in Ancient Rome.
Walking along the Appian Way you also see the amazing arches of Rome's aqueducts that carried the fresh water supply to Romes baths, fountains, and latrines. This tour include everything — includes hotel pickup and drop-off & entrance fees.
This was such a fun and interesting tour. Our guide was awesome! Very fun and very informative. She made us laugh a lot! The catacombs are so interesting and she took us into little rooms to tell us stories and history where we weren't overwhelmed by the other, larger tours. Well worth it and highly recommended!"
– 5-Star Review