A fantastic tour with limited numbers per day!
This is one of the most coveted and exclusive tours in Rome, as each day only 250 people out of the 30,000 that visit the Vatican are allowed to visit the excavations. If you are able to get your hands on tickets then you will not regret it!
Scavi is the general term for 'excavation' in Italian, and the Scavi tour will take you through the Vatican Necropolis that lies far beneath Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. The tomb was discovered around the time of World War II when the Vatican commissioned excavations to be carried out. This is a gritty underground world that provides a stark difference to the glittering Basilica high above.
Archaeologists were not expecting the extensive 4th century burial ground that was eventually uncovered. Here they also found evidence of Emperor Constantine's temple, and ancient graffiti on the wall that said "Peter is here". There is still some discussion around this, but it is generally accepted that this necropolis is the final resting place of Jesus' disciple Peter that the Basilica is named after.
Step by step booking guide - Scavi Tour tickets
1. Be flexible with your timing and book well in advance
Decide when you will be there and on what day (remember that you cannot visit the Necropolis on a Sunday or on Wednesday mornings). It is a good idea to have several options available in case your preferred day is already taken. It cannot be stressed enough how far in advance you will need to book this tour, and the Ufficio Scavi will reject your request if there are no tours available on your selected dates.
2. Send a detailed email
To request a ticket, you must email the Scavi office months in advance so that you can go on your preferred day. Email the following information to email@example.com:
The exact number of people that will be on the tour (maximum of 12 people)
The names of the people in your group
What language you want to take the tour in (you want to be able to understand your guide!)
Give the days that you will be able to visit and spell each possible day out (day, month, year). The time of day will be assigned by the Excavations office.
Provide them with an email address that they can contact you on.
3. Expect a response, then make a payment
If your request is accepted, they will reply with a date and time, as well as a link to pay for your tickets. Tickets are €12 each, and payments must be made within 10 days of confirming your date and time.
4. Take a print out
Print out your confirmation number for when you arrive (they will email you this number once you have confirmed your date and time). The Swiss Guard will not let you past without your confirmation details, so make sure you take it with you.
5. Look out for cancellations (if no tickets)
If you don't manage to get tickets, you can always ask the office if there has been any cancellations - it is not that common, but it is always worth asking.
Extra tips and information for Scavi Tour:
Carry details - You must have your confirmation details with you to get past the Swiss Guard. You will also need to arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand, maybe even earlier (they will not allow you through if you are late).
No kids - People under the age of 15 are not allowed on the tour
Small groups - You cannot book tours for groups of more than 12
Small spaces - When you go down into the necropolis itself it will be very humid and fairly cramped, so dress appropriately and mentally prepare to be a little bit uncomfortable if you are claustrophobic
Dress modestly - You should dress as if you are visiting the Basilica- no bare shoulders, knees or midriffs
Go light - You are not allowed to bring large bags or cameras with you. It is easier to leave these at home as they will probably not check in large bags for you.
Carry an ID - It can be a good idea to have your passport with you just in case they want to check your ID.
Why this tour is a must do for people interested in archaeology and Christian religion
The Scavi are an incredibly significant and interesting piece of history that lies beneath the glittering Basilica above. This is an incredibly important part of the Christian church due to its connection with Saint Peter, and it is also an impressive insight into Roman history.
Connection to St. Peter
During the reign of Emperor Nero, Christians were ruthlessly persecuted, and in the year 64 A.D., Peter the Apostle was crucified upside down by the brutal ruler. Peter was the first leader of the Catholic Church, and so he was one of the most significant martyrs in the early church. His remains were buried nearby, and this became somewhere that pilgrims wanted to be buried, as well as a significant pilgrimage site.
The area was levelled over time as temples were built over the top of it, and evidence of Nero's reign started to fall apart. As well as the necropolis itself, there is evidence of structures made by Emperor Constantine, and the whole complex is impressive even if you are not religiously inclined.
As this is the final resting place of the first leader of the Catholic Church, this is a place of great importance for pilgrims and anybody who is interested in the early life of the church.