• Medieval mosaic of the Cross in the upper level of San Clemente
  • In the third level of San Clemente there is a rectangular room with an altar dedicated to Mithras
  • Ancient Roman street flanking the Caelian Roman Houses
  • Medieval church of Saints John and Paul at the Caelian Hill
  • Painting in the courtyard of the Caelian Roman Houses
  • Paintings in the ancient Roman houses of the Caelian depicting guardian spirits

Rome Underground Tour


Rome is like lasagna. If you have visited Rome, you may have heard this expression.

In other words, the city has multiple underground layers since its inhabitants have constantly rebuilt the city using materials from previous sites (ancient temples, the Colosseum, etc).


This tour will take you into the heart of ancient Rome. You will descend beneath the busy streets of Rome and will visit the underground levels of the Church of San Clemente, a stone’s throw away from the Colosseum, and the ancient Roman apartment buildings under the Church of Saints John and Paul at the Caelian Hill.


Church of San Clemente with its underground levels


The Church of San Clemente (or Basilica of San Clemente) is one of the most stunning medieval churches in Rome with its exquisite mosaics and paintings. Moreover, it hides 2 more levels underneath its magnificent marble floor. Beneath the “modern” 12th century church you’re going to discover the first church (4th century CE) abandoned for mysterious reasons at the end of the 11th century.

One layer further into the earth are the remnants of a 1st century CE Roman building and a temple dedicated to the Persian god Mithra, called Mithras by the Romans, the bull-slayer. The cult of the sun god Mithras, was widely spread across the Graeco-Roman world but it was a  ‘mystery cult’, meaning that only the initiates knew exactly what happened in the temple.


Then we will walk to reach the second stop of our tour passing by the ruins of the Gladiators’ School (called Ludus Magnus in Latin), the largest gladiators’ school in Rome, built by emperor Domitian toward the end of the 1st century CE.


Ancient Roman Houses under the Church of Saints John and Paul


After approximately 10 minutes we will reach the Church of Saints John and Paul. According to tradition, John and Paul were Christian martyrs who died in the mid 4thcentury CE because they refused to worship the pagan gods.

The medieval church that bears their name sits on the site of previous Roman constructions: an apartment building with shops facing the ancient street and an ancient Roman villa. This complex of underground Roman houses at some point was probably used by a community of early Christians before Christianity was declared State religion in 395 CE. We will see the paintings in some of these rooms from both phases of  life of the houses (pagan and Christian).


For more info on the locations, you may check out the official websites:




✓ Church of San Clemente with its 3 levels
✓ Ruins of the Gladiators’ School

✓ Ancient Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill

  • Tour duration: 2.5/3 hours
  • The tour doesn’t run on Tuesday and Thursday, on Sunday morning and on religious festivities due to mass in San Clemente
  • Meeting point: outside the Church of San Clemente in Via di San Giovanni in Laterano
  • Remember that a dress code applies in all religious buildings: covered shoulders (a light scarf will do in summer) and no shorts or mini skirts
  • Comfortable shoes

Admission Tickets are not included. San Clemente: Adults: 10 €; Free for the under 17; Roman Houses: Adults: 8 €; Free for the under 13

  • Tour for 1 person: 130 €
  • Tour for 2-3 persons: 160 €
  • Tour for 4-5 persons: 180 €
  • Tour for 6-7 persons: 220 €