Explore the highlights of early Christian Rome on this 3-hour coach and walking tour. With an expert guide, visit the magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and Basilica of St John Lateran, two of Rome’s great ancient churches. View the Holy Stairs; the 28 marble steps that Jesus is said to have climbed to his trial; and follow the ancient Appian Way to visit Rome’s ancient catacombs. Descend into these eerie tunnels used as cemeteries and hideouts by the early Christians and witness first hand their burial niches, frescoes and other hidden treasures.
Meet your guide in central Rome or enjoy a pickup from your central Rome hotel. Then, board your air-conditioned coach to start your 3-hour tour.
Get an interesting lowdown on Rome’s Christian heritage from your guide as you head to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on Esquiline Hill. Dating from the 5th century, this magnificent church is one of Rome’s five great ancient basilicas, and considered second only to St Peter’s Basilica for beauty.
Marvel at the exterior façade and hear how the church was among the first dedicated to the Virgin Mary that sprang up across the Roman Empire in the 400s.
Then, head inside to admire the interior. See the stately columns and sumptuous chapels, and view the golden mosaics, many depicting the life of Christ.
Continue to the Holy Stairs (Scala Sancta), the 28 marble steps that, according to legend, Jesus climbed to his trial in Pontius Pilate’s palace. View the wood-encased stairs and then visit the ornate Basilica of St John Lateran, the church that was dedicated to Christ in 318 and the first to be built in Rome.
Next, trace the Appian Way, the famous ancient Roman road, passing the Chapel of Domine Quo Vadis, reputed to stand where St Peter saw a vision of the risen Christ.
Arrive at Rome’s catacombs – the nearly 186 miles (300 kilometers) of tunnels used as burial chambers and hideouts by early Christians. Then, depending on accessibility, explore the San Castillo, Santa Domitilla or San Sebastiano tunnels to see the burial niches, frescoes and other treasures lying inside.
Lastly, take in views of the Baths of Emperor Caracalla, the ruins of a 3rd-century Roman bathhouse. Then, end your tour at the start point or your choice of several city-center locations.