Rome is full of incredible things to visit but if you want something really exclusive, there’s only one place to go: the Vatican Scavi. Also known as the Vatican Necropolis, The Tomb of the Dead or St. Peter’s Tomb, the Scavi is famous for being the final resting place of one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, Peter.
It’s a VIP experience for a reason – only 250 people are allowed through each day! If you compare that to the 20,000 that visit the Vatican Museums, it’s an incredibly small number – this means it is notoriously hard to get a ticket, and gets booked up months and months in advance.
How to get tickets to see St. Peter’s Tomb
The only way to get tickets for the Vatican Scavi is to email the Scavi Office directly, at [email protected] You will need to provide the following:
- The exact number of visitors – please remember that no children under 15 are allowed!
- The names and surnames of everyone you need tickets for
- Language desired for the tour
- The dates you are available for a visit (the more you give, the more chance you have!)
- Contact information
Tickets are 13€ per person. There are no concession tickets available, and when you receive confirmation of an available spot, you must pay for the tickets online within 10 days in order to secure them.
It’s best to send your email as early as possible – in fact, as soon as you book your flights is the best time to do it to ensure that you’re in with a chance of getting a ticket.
Where is St. Peter’s tomb?
The Scavi were found during an excavation in the 1940s when they were expanding the underground area to bury the popes who had died. As they excavated, they found the temple of Emperor Constantine and a significant piece of ancient graffiti that translated as “Peter is here.”
There is some debate as to whether the bones really are from St. Peter, but there are a fair few archaeologists today who are quite sure that bone fragments retrieved here belonged to the man himself.
As the story goes, St. Peter was crucified in Rome in 64 CE on the orders of Emperor Nero. Then, when Constantine became the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity in the 4th century, he had a church built on the site of Saint Peter’s grave – this was the original Saint Peter’s Basilica.
When Michelangelo was designing the current Saint Peter’s Basilica, he centered the dome right over the spot where St. Peter was presumed to be buried.
The necropolis wasn’t always buried underground – it was originally an open-air cemetery with tombs and mausolea. The mausoleums unearthed were initially labeled with the Greek alphabet letters Φ (phi), Χ (chi) and Ψ (Psi). Later, Latin letters were used.
How long is the Scavi Tour?
Your tour will be in a small group with a maximum of 12 people, which lasts around 90 minutes. At the end, you get to see the actual tomb of St. Peter and the bones of the dead Apostle.
While the guided tour only takes around 1.5 hours, when planning your visit, you should also factor in the time it will take you to find the entrance, and gather and show your tickets. At the end, the tour leaves you in the Vatican grottoes, underneath the Basilica. You are free to roam those for as long as you like, before heading up to see the Basilica.
What is the difference between the Vatican Scavi and the Papal Tombs?
The Vatican Grottoes is the vast underground graveyard below St. Peter’s Basilica, which you’ll be able to see at the end of the Scavi tour. In the Vatican Grottoes, there are the tombs and sarcophagi of many popes, as well as secular monarchs such as the tomb of Queen Charlotte of Cyprus, the tomb of the Stuarts, and the tomb of Queen Christina of Sweden.
There’s also some incredible archaeological sights, such as remaining columns from the original 4th-century basilica. The entrance is in the Pier of St. Andrew near the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, and it’s free to enter – however, there may well be a queue. These grottoes form part of our Detailed Itinerary Vatican Tour.