History of Christianity Tour with Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and Catacombs

Step back into Catholic history at the Roman crypts and skip the line to see the Vatican treasures

Travel Flexibly 4.8 / 5 See All 13 Reviews · 8.00h · Rome, Italy

Want to explore the underground Roman catacombs and tour the Vatican City in just one day? This in-depth historical tour shows you the most iconic and important Christian sites in Rome and the Vatican! Join an expert local guide to visit the ancient burial tombs and incredible Capuchin Crypts, then skip the line to enter the fascinating Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s the ultimate journey through Rome’s Christian history and present.

  • Capuchin Crypts
  • Catacombs of St. Callixtus
  • Ancient Frescoes
  • Appian Way
  • Vatican Museums tour
  • Galleries of the Candelabra, Tapestries and Maps
  • Raphael Rooms
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Explore St. Peter's Basilica
  • Bernini's Baldacchino

After meeting your passionate local guide at Piazza Barberini in central Rome, you'll take a tour of the amazing bone displays in the Capuchin Crypts. Next, you'll board your private, air-conditioned vehicle for the short journey to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. After exploring the eerie underground tombs, you'll travel back along the Appian Way before being dropped at Piazza Venezia for your lunch break.

Head to the Vatican to skip the line with your guide who will show you the best of the Vatican Museums, plus the historic Raphael Rooms and Borgia Apartments, before you step inside the incredible Sistine Chapel. Finally, after a tour with your guide, you can explore the mighty St. Peter's Basilica independently for as long as you like!

Full-day Vatican & Rome Catacombs Tour Description

Your 8-hour tour includes:

  • Transportation to and from the Catacombs and Appian Way

  • Skip-the-line tour of the Capuchin Crypts and Catacombs of St. Callixtus

  • Skip-the-line entry to the Vatican

  • Guided tour of Vatican Museums, Raphael Rooms, and Sistine Chapel

  • Entry to St. Peter's Basilica

  • Super-knowledgeable English-speaking guide

  • Maximum group size of 15

*Because some of the sites on this small group tour are religious, knees and shoulders must be covered for both men and women at all times. This dress code is strictly enforced and should you not comply, you run the risk of missing parts of the tour. We know that Rome gets quite hot during the summertime - please consider bringing a shawl/scarf/sweater with you to cover your knees and shoulders when necessary.

Capuchin Crypts and Bones

Your first stop is a guided tour of the incredible Capuchin Crypts. This medieval crypt contains the skeletal remains of some 3,700 human bodies, believed to be Capuchin friars buried by their order. They were buried between the years 1500 and 1870, during which time the Roman Catholic Church permitted burial in and under churches.

The underground crypt is divided into six chapels: Crypt of the Resurrection, Crypt of the Skulls, Crypt of the Pelvises, Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thigh Bones, and Crypt of the Three Skeletons. Lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks and small fluorescent lamps, the crypt walls are elaborately decorated with skeletal remains.

Catacombs of St. Callixtus

Along the Appian Way is where the first cemeteries of Rome were built. It’s here that you’ll stop to see the above-ground cemeteries of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. Then it’s time to head underground to see extensive network of burial sites at one of the most popular catacombs in Rome.

Over time, these catacombs became the coveted burial place as prominent martyrs and pontiffs were laid to rest here. Your guide will lead you to the crypts filled with popes from the third century as well as an area with impeccably preserved paintings.

The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are typically closed on Wednesdays and sometimes close on other days too. Your guide will take you to another incredible catacombs site if your tour lands on one of these days.

The Appian Way and Aurelian Walls

Emperor Aurelian built a defensive wall around Rome during the third century to defend the city against invading barbarians. As you travel towards the Vatican, you’ll pass the Aurelian Walls in your climate-controlled vehicle and see them up close. In addition, you’ll walk a small stretch of the ancient Appian Way. Leading all the way to Puglia in Southern Italy, the Appian Way is one of the most important ancient Roman roads, connecting Rome to Magna Grecia—the area of southern Italy controlled by the Greeks. 

This road was also the location of the crucifixion of 10,000 slaves during the revolt of Spartacus. Thankfully, you won't see any crucifixions today, but your guide will retell the story for you and make it come alive. 

Highlights of the Vatican Museums

After you skip the line to enter the Vatican, you'll follow your guide through the Pio-Clementino Museum, Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries and Gallery of Maps. Admire the ancient Roman and Greek statues, the Flemish tapestries created by Raphael's students, and the gorgeous topographical depictions of Italy.

Based on painted maps by Dominican Italian friar Ignazio Danti, the Gallery of Maps is both beautiful and informative. Predating a unified Italy by nearly 300 years, the Gallery of Maps shows the length and breadth of the peninsula in the late 1500s. You'll hear the stories behind these treasures from your expert guide as the Vatican secrets are slowly unveiled to you.

Raphael Rooms and The School of Athens

Next on this unforgettable walking tour are the Raphael Rooms. These four galleries are dedicated to one of the true masters of the Renaissance, and you'll find his most famous painting School of Athens displayed here. Take in the stunning frescoes and hear how Pope Julius II commissioned the art, as well as the complex techniques used to create them.

Borgia Apartments

Down the stairs form the Raphael Rooms, these lavish apartments were commissioned and occupied by Pope Alexander VI, a member of the Borgia Family. The chambers were frescoed by Pinturicchio who was a contemporary of Raphael and studied under the same master Perugino. Pinturicchio was unique in his affinity for embedding jewels below his painting to present an effect of three dimensions. The Borgia Apartments also contain the depiction of Native Americans by Europeans. 

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel

Towards the end of your Vatican tour comes one of the most celebrated and impressive works of art in the history of Western Civilization. The Sistine Chapel is Michelangelo's true masterpiece. Take a moment to look up and appreciate the vast amount of depth and detail across the massive ceiling, where you'll see the famous Creation of Man and the Last Judgement. The Sistine Chapel is a place of worship and holiness therefore no talking is allowed inside. Before entering, your guide will explain the amazing work and its significance as well as providing a map/guide. 

St. Peter's Basilica

After you've enjoyed your time at the Sistine Chapel, you'll follow your guide through the passage to St. Peter's Basilica and bypass the re-entry line. This famous church attracts millions of visitors each year whether they are faithful devotees, members of a wedding party, or just interested in touring the incredible interior. Your guide will introduce you to the cathedral before you enter to explore on your own, and you can stay for as long as you like. You'll see famous pieces of art by Bernini and Michelangelo and stand under the massive dome.

Please note that St. Peter's Basilica is closed on Wednesdays for the Papal Audience and can occasionally experience other unexpected closures. If this happens, your guide will make up the time at other areas within the Vatican.

What you get with this tour
Transportation to and from the Catacombs and Appian Way
Skip-the-line tour of the Capuchin Crypts and Catacombs of St. Callixtus
Skip-the-line entry to the Vatican
Guided tour of Vatican Museums, Raphael Rooms, and Sistine Chapel
Guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica
Super-knowledgeable English-speaking guide
Maximum group size of 15
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13 total reviews

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4.8/5 (based on 13 reviews)
5 stars
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1 stars
06 December 2023
J
Reviewed by
Jennifer Batts

Learned so much
09 November 2023
J
Reviewed by
Julia Kedward

Our guide was great, friendly, and very knowledgeable. There was way too much to see but we got a good taste of the church, Vatican. Would not have wanted to go through these buildings without a guide as there's so many little things that bring the building and art to life.

05 October 2023
P
Reviewed by
Paul Hayden

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Frequently Asked Questions

What to bring?

Please wear comfortable shoes and clothing that covers your knees and shoulders or a shawl to meet requirements for entering religious sites.

Is there a way to see the Vatican without a guided tour?

Of course. Click here for skip the line Vatican tickets.

I have some doubts about my mobility. What do you suggest?

If you have any doubts about your mobility, we strongly suggest you take a Private Vatican Tour and Private Catacombs Tour so your needs can be better accommodated.

Does the Vatican ever experience unexpected closures?

During State visits or special religious events, parts of the Vatican may be closed unexpectedly. If an area normally covered on a tour is closed, our guide will still provide explanations of the closed areas from outside. Plus, we will show you an extra site or gallery to compensate.

Will the Vatican Museums be crowded during this tour?

The Vatican is often slow in the late afternoon, but there is a chance the museums may be crowded while we are inside.

What catacomb does this tour visit?

Usually the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, although if there is any closure we will substitute with another catacomb site nearby. Please note that the Catacombs of St. Callixtus are typically closed on Wednesdays.

Will we see bones?

Yes! This tour visits the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione which houses a 17th-century ossuary under it. There you will see the bones of around 4,000 Capuchin friars!

Why doesn't this tour run on Sundays?

The Vatican Museums are closed on Sunday.

Why does my kid 6 or under have to pay? C'mon!

Sorry about this. We're parents too and we understand! Unfortunately, they must be seated due to traffic regulations so they take up a seat in our vehicle. We even bring a car seat for children who require one. If it makes you feel any better, we don't make money off your kids for this tour.

Is there a dress code to enter the religious sites on this tour?

We ask both men and women to cover knees and shoulders, otherwise you may be refused entry to religious sites and miss out on a portion of your tour. We understand the summers in Rome can be hot, so a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. That way, you can cover your knees and shoulders when necessary.

What to bring?

Please wear comfortable shoes and clothing that covers your knees and shoulders or a shawl to meet requirements for entering religious sites.

Is lunch included on this tour?

No, lunch is not included. Your catacombs guide will drop you at Piazza Venezia with several great recommendations of places to eat.

Does the transportation also take us to the Vatican?

No, you'll be dropped at Piazza Venezia after your catacombs tour. After your lunch break, make your way to the Vatican meeting point on your voucher for the second part of your combination tour.

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