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Suggestions for tour of Catacombs in Rome

Hello friendly fellow travelers - Rome end of August. First time for my 12.5 and 15 year old. Thinking Catacombs would be interesting (and cool! given the heat that time of year outside). Can anyone suggest WHICH ones they liked the most AND recommend a reasonable guided tour (company) for them?

also, I assumed there would be bones to see, but now am seeing some posters say they have been removed. is this true of all of them? I woiuld think the interesting part would be to see the bones, no?

Many thanks, Tamara

Posted by
901 posts

You will see very few bones in catacombs tours. When I was there, tours were included in the entrance price and given by employees at the catacombs. Perhaps a more interesting way to spend time and see the catacombs with your children would be to take a bike tour with TopBikes. The company is located not far from the coliseum and uses electric assist bikes. Each tour group is led by an English-speaking guide. Tours including the catacombs travel along the ancient appian way, visit Aqueduct Park, where you will see several different Roman aqueducts, and also visit a sheep farm, where you’ll stop for wine (for you — other beverages for the kids) and fresh pecorino cheese. The tour takes about four hours. It’s really fun.

Posted by
68 posts

Wow that sounds amazing. The electric assist though will be key. How much do they assist? And thoughts about doing that in the swelter of the August heat? Thanks!

Posted by
901 posts

In answer to your question about how much assist the bikes give — you have a choice of settings from none to a lot. And there aren’t really any tough hills. The only steady incline I remember was the approach to the catacombs and it was gradual and not steep. As far as weather goes — it’s sure to be hot, but you’ll be hot regardless of where you are if you are outside. The tour stops several times so the biking isn’t continuous.

Posted by
68 posts

Thanks Patricia. I checked out the tour. with the Catacombs and stop with wine and cheese, that's 6 hours, but I think that part will be fun for all too. Tamara

Posted by
68 posts

Patricia- still thinking about the bike tour you mentioned. Have found other bike tours of course and one called LeadingRoma seems to have the same tour but it is private - yet the same or even better cost that TopBikes. Do you know of them? They don't have nearly as many reviews on TripAdvisor as TopBikes. But I like that we can customize the tour and go at our own pace.

also, thoughts about whether one needs an e-bike for the Appian Way? I know its about 15km, but the route itself - is it ok for a regular bike? I ask mainly because I'm concerned it may be very heavy for my 12 year old who is only 85 pounds herself.

Thanks.

Posted by
11734 posts

Tamara, this recent thread about TopBike tours might be useful as I've included a youtube link to footage from the tour

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/topbike-rental-rome-appian-way-tour-long-or-short

Most tours of the catacombs are handled by their individual staffs so I'm pretty sure the TopBike guides won't be doing that part.

Bones have been removed from sections visited by the public. The catacombs are religious sites and aside from the Capuchin Crypt, displays of remains would be considered disrespectful. Photography inside the catacombs is also not allowed.

Editing to add: oops, I now see that you left a comment on that previous thread...

Posted by
11734 posts

Interesting, Sandra, as reviews from numerous visitors to Priscilla note "no skeletal remains", "no relics (meaning bones) in these catacombs", "no bones visible in the areas the tour took", "it's a shame you can no longer see bones" and similar. I guess it's possible that they just don't call attention to a very few which may still be within view.

Reviews from Visitors to Domitilla are a little more mixed, with just a couple commenting, "we saw a few bones here" and "our guide pointed out a few fragments in a couple spots." Most mentioning remains are along the lines of, "skeletons have been removed from the areas tourists are guided through", "one guy in our group was upset over the lack of skeletons" and "most of the bones have been removed to lower levels".

No matter. We could probably agree that if the goal is simply to see bones - and a lot of them - then the Capuchin Crypt is the place to go?

Posted by
68 posts

I looked at that tour but just seemed like 3 hours was a lot as was the price - $86/pp.

Posted by
11734 posts

Laura, when I did my own boning up (pun intended) on the catacombs prior to doing one (we did San Sebastiano), pieces I read stated that not only had most visible remains on tour routes been relocated to more inaccessible areas out of sensitivity but that many of the catacombs had been looted over a long period of time.

So the main reason to go is for the history: how and why they were created, burial customs, examples of early Christian iconography and art (although non-Christians could be interred in them as well), etc.

Posted by
83 posts

Many of the tours seem high priced to me, hard to tell which ones are worth the cost. My daughter is the kid who listens to every word the guide says, asks questions and remembers it all.

I find Trip Advisor focus is now on "selling" so I don't trust reviews quite as much as I once did.

The catacombs are on my husband and daughter's to do list, so I think the 2 of them are gonna have to look at this more closely.

Thanks!

Posted by
5937 posts

We toured catacomb San Sebastian, very interesting to see. There were some bones but nothing scary for kids.

Posted by
11734 posts

Suki, we didn't see any bones at all at San Sebastiano.

I find Trip Advisor focus is now on "selling" so I don't trust reviews
quite as much as I once did.

Laura, sorry, but I'm not sure I understand your reasoning there? It's not difficult to ferret out 'fake' reviews, which might be what you mean by "selling"? The difference between the sheer numbers of reviews for some bike tours versus others is an indication, IMHO, of which is offering a product/service preferred by more than not. Even the clarity of communication on one website versus another can be a indicator.

I am not a member of TA but I do use the reviews/pix as a reasonably accurate resource, those from 'fakes', unreasonably high-maintenance travelers and reviews providing no useful info aside. I also wouldn't book any tours through that site.

Posted by
83 posts

I made the comment about Trip Advisor. I wasn't referring to anything specific in this thread, was just trying expressing my displeasure with Trip Advisor.

I used to use Trip Advisor all the time- it was to easy to find a location , hotel or activity I was interested in, now I find it very frustrating. Hotels default to "best deal" and the site wants dates. Just today when I searched for the catacombs it first give me tours to them rather than the actual sites. Just not my preference.

Sorry if it sounded like I was disputing any recommendations made by another poster, I certainly did not mean to.

I am extremely grateful for all the information posted on this forum

Posted by
11734 posts

Sorry if it sounded like I was disputing any recommendations made by
another poster, I certainly did not mean to.

Not at all! Yep, I completely understand when a site you used know well changes and make things difficult! :O(

Posted by
172 posts

I did the Catacombs at San Sebastiano today. You do not see any bones but do see a few gravestones. They did point out one unopened tomb and did explain all bones have been moved to parts not visible to the public, out of respect for the dead and for the sake of preservation. That all being said, I still really enjoyed the tour. Not only do you see the ancient Christian graves but a few deeply buried Masoleums from pagan Rome, St Sebastian’s supposed original tomb, and then you end with the church built above, which houses Bernini’s amazing last sculpture. So beautiful. I did not feel deprived whatsoever because I did not actually see bones. It was a lot of fun.

Posted by
901 posts

Sandra — American tourists grabbing bones and tossing them in the air? How disgusting, and embarrassing to me as an American. Made me cringe.

Posted by
213 posts

I have done the Walks of Italy tour--I think it was called Underground Rome--that includes the Capuchin Crypt, and there were a lot of bones, thousands of bones, entire rooms dedicated to specific kinds of bones. This was in 2016 and I don't remember the price, but there were three stops in all including the "lasagna" church. I enjoyed it. I do feel like once you have seen one catacomb, you generally don't need to see another.

Posted by
901 posts

Tamara, sorry about the lateness of this reply. I didn’t see your earlier question about the Appian Way. Parts of the Appian Way still have the old Roman stones and are quite bumpy and not really good to ride on with any sort of bike. In those areas, we rode on a path on the side of the road, rather than on the actual Appian Way Road, because it was safer. The bikes, even though they are electric assist, look just like a regular bike. They are not heavier and not bulky like some electric bikes I see here in the US. Your daughter will not have any problem writing on one of those bikes. There were other children on the electric assist bikes without any problem. As long as she is tall enough to ride a regular size bike, rather than a child bike, she will do fine. As for the question about the other bike company, I don’t know. My only experience is with Top Bikes.

Posted by
12 posts

Was in Naples in 2011 and there were heaps of bones in one of the catacombs there, so if you are going to Naples, ask for info on those crypts.

Posted by
1008 posts

LauraM.
I just did that Walks of Italy tour and it was very nice. I’ve done other Catacomb tours too, but I liked this one because it had the Capuchin Crypt as part of the tour.

Posted by
83 posts

Dianne,

Thanks so much for checking in, glad you enjoyed the Walks of Italy tour!

We will definitely leave this on our to do list. We still haven't confirmed travel dates.

Laura

Posted by
266 posts

How did you like the bike tour with Top Bikes?

Posted by
68 posts

It was great! Very well run. We chose the afternoon 6 hour tour. I think the 4 hour would have been fine, though then you need to see Catacombs on your own elsewhere. The stop for wine and cheese was not necessary. But they otherwise run a great program. The electric bikes are a must.