Step back in time some 2,000 years during a 3-hour tour of the ancient Roman homes on Celio Hill. Join an expert guide in the Basilica of St John and Paul, worthy of a visit in its own right, and then head to the lower levels under the church to see the excavations of 20 rooms that were once ancient Roman houses. Marvel at the frescoes still visible on the walls as you hear about the kinds of people who might have lived in these rooms. Back at ground level, explore two more beautiful buildings on Celio Hill: the Church of St Gregory and Oratory of San Andrea.
Explore the ancient houses of Celio Hill on this fascinating walking tour
Meet your expert guide in the center of Rome and, before you set off for Celio Hill, receive an audio headset so that you’re better able to listen to the guide’s commentary.
As you make your way toward Celio Hill, one of ancient Rome’s seven hills, hear about the area’s historic importance to the ancient city. Learn about what archaeologists have found there, including the excavated houses you’ll visit, and some of the ornately-decorated churches that are on the hill.
Walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans on Clivo di Scauro, a road that dates back to the Roman Empire, and stop for a tour of the 4th-century Basilica of St John and Paul (Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo). As you admire the decor inside, learn that when the church was built in the 4th century it was set atop the homes of two martyred Roman soldiers — John and Paul — and how it wasn’t until the late 19th century that a team of archaeologists looking for their tombs found much more than they were expecting.
Under the basilica, 20 rooms have been excavated, thought to have been part of several different private villas. Climb down the stairs to see these rooms (own expense), including the frescoed walls and arched windows that are still in remarkably good shape. Listen to your guide explain the purposes of each room, and the kinds of people who might have lived in them.
These homes were in a particularly wealthy area of ancient Rome, so the exquisite frescoes are not surprising — though they are remarkable to see. Don’t miss the image of Proserpina, a Roman goddess.
Back at ground level outside the church, continue to the Oratory of St Andrew to see the inside of this small 17th-century church and its fantastic Domenichino fresco, The Flagellation of St Andrew. The final stop on your tour is the Church of St Gregory (San Gregorio Magno al Celio), outside of which there are yet more Roman ruins. The tour ends outside this church.