Visiting other ancient funerary sites in and near Rome
Ancient burial sites are evident throughout Rome - from the bottom of the staircase to the Vittorio Emanuele Monument at Piazza Venezia (Sepulcrum Cornelii Publicii Bibuli) to the intersections of modern streets and railway lines on Rome's periphery (Sepulcher of Largo Preneste, "Torre del Angelo", Tomb of Eurysaces, and many more). These structures include tumuli, pyramids, columbaria, and brick temple-tombs, administered either by the Italian Archaeological Commission or by that of the Municipality of Rome (with the exception of Vatican territory). The InfoRoma website is an excellent online resource for locating ancient burial sites in Rome. Tombs open to the public or possible to visit by reservation are listed below.
Vatican Necropolis below Saint Peter’s Basilica
Visits to the necropolis below St. Peter's Basilica are organized according to the schedule set by the Vatican's Excavations Office.
Excavations below the central nave of Saint Peter’s in the years 1940-1949 revealed part of a Roman necropolis which had spread over the Vatican hillside during the Imperial period. Debate over the interpretation of graffiti scratched onto a red-painted plaster wall in the area of the apostle’s shrine cannot detract from the important archaeological discovery of a well-preserved street lined with brick mausolea and surface tombs. Some of these family tombs close to the monument marking Peter’s grave were early adopted for Christian burial. The site and visit are visible testimonies to the devotion to Peter, an apostle to Rome, through the centuries.
Vatican Necropolis of via Trionfale
Visits are arranged through the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Necropolis of via Trionfale, on the lower slopes of the Mons Vaticanus, contains a great diversity of tombs from first century BCE to the first decades of the fourth century CE, many of which are decorated with mosaics, paintings, stucco molding, and elaborate brickwork and contain a wide array of funerary artifacts, including marble sarcophagi, altars, tombstones, and portrait busts and reliefs.
Appia Antica and Caffarella Park
In recent years, the Appian Way and Caffarella Valley in Rome have been transformed into vast public parks where archaeology and nature create one of the most classic of Roman panoramas – the ruins emerging from the vines and hillsides. One still comes across underground caverns and ancient and medieval walls which look as if they had been copied for a Piranesi print. The volcanic creases in the earth show deep holes where pozzolana has been quarried since Roman times, and basalt paving stones in the middle of a field or fragments of pottery and marble emerging from rubble foundations indicate an area rich in settlement history. Several new studies and restoration projects have greatly increased our knowledge of the area’s history and actual state, but the Appian Way has attracted the attention of antiquarians and early conservationists since the sixteenth century.
The most immediate changes to create a visitor-friendly itinerary in the "parco-passeggiata archeologica" include a ban on traffic on the Appian Way on Sundays until sunset; a new bus line from the Piramide subway station (#760 from Piazzale dei Partigiani) to the Church and catacombs of San Sebastiano, and paved bike paths winding through the Caffarella valley from the via Latina to the newly-restored Grotto of Egeria and Church of San Urbano near the via Appia Pignatelli.
For a video of a bike visit by Rick Steves and Tom Rankin, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIHGlj_MoxY
Free maps of the area translated into several languages are available from the information kiosks around the city (at Termini, via Nazionale, Santa Maria Maggiore, via del Corso and many other locations), and many guidebooks, including those on specific sites like the Villa dei Quintilii and Tomb of Caecilia Metella published by Electa, are available for purchase at the ticket booths or at the Visitors’ Center for the Parco dell’ Appia Antica (via Appia Antica #42).
There are also numerous opportunities to participate in guided tours of the area, which can offer a translation into English of the visit. The Parco Appia Antica (parcoappiaantica.org) sponsors guided tours of the area on many Sundays of the year, and its multilingual Visitor's Center at via Appia Antica, n.58, provides information about other tours, bike rentals, lectures and courses, didactic activities for children, and special openings of many of the area's archeological sites.
Special tips: The bus routes mentioned above are still not very frequent. For those willing to explore these areas but also those more wild (in a modern, inner-city sense), bus #660 from the subway stop Arco di Travertino provides a ten minute ride to the bar at the corner of the via Appia Antica and via di Caecilia Metella – a good starting point for exploring the archaeological sites and rest of the Appian Way to the Casal Rotondo (a cylindrical mausoleum even larger than that of Caecilia Metella). There is also no need to retrace your steps on the Appia once you reach the seventh mile marker: there are bus stops along the via di Torricola – which becomes the via di Erode Attico and via Appia Nuova (#665) which return you to the city.
The Caffarella Valley can be reached by taking the buses bound for the Appia Antica (#s 118, 218, 760, or 660) or from the subway stop Furio Camillo (Line A) and via Cesare Baronio.
Via Latina Tombs
The tombs are located in a public park at the corner of via Arco di Travertino and the via Appia Nuova, close to the route of the ancient via Latina. Visible are columbaria, temple tombs (including the two-storied "Barberini tomb"), and the ruins of an ancient church to St. Stephen. The catacombs on site are not accessible to the public at this time. The park is open to the public, but visits to the tomb chambers of the Valeri and Pancratzi must be reserved in advance by contacting Coopculture.
Villa dei Gordiani (Mausoleum & Basilica)
via Prenestina, 351 - 00177, Rome
T. 06 6710 3238/3887
Notable ruins of the Imperial period emerge from the grounds of a public park on the via Prenestina, including a columbarium, mausoleum, and "circus-shaped" funerary basilica. A small and badly damaged "anonymous" catacomb is found nearby (on via Rovigno D'Istria).
Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castel Sant'Angelo)
Lungotevere Castello, 50 - 00193 Rome
T. 06 6896003/06 6819111
Necropolis of San Paolo
Viale Ostiense 195 - Parco Schuster (next to basilica)
Tel. 060608 (reservations)
Necropolis of via Portuense
Via Portuense, 319 - 00149 Rome
T. 06/477881 (reservations)
Tomb of the Scipios
Via di Porta San Sebastiano 9 - 00179, Rome
T. 060608 (reservations)
Via Raffaele Persichetti, 00153 Rome
T. 06.5743193 (Museo della Via Ostiense); 06.39967700 (visits)
Hypogeum of the Ottavi
via della Stazione di Ottavia, 73 00135 Rome
T. 0647788415 (Archaeologist Daniela Rossi)
Ostia Antica and Portus
Soprintendenza Archeologica di Ostia
Viale dei Romagnoli, 717 - 00119 Ostia Antica
Isola Sacra Necropolis, Fiumicino
Via Monte Spinoncia, 52 00054, Isola Sacra, Fiumicino (RM)
Free entrance, but reservations are necessary via telephone 06 6583888.
Hours: Thursday and Saturday mornings, and afternoons on the first Sunday of each month. Closed on December 25th, January 1st and May 1st.
Information on booking and other services: http://archeoroma.beniculturali.it/en/node/187.