Which tour would you choose?

Apr 15th, 2015, 12:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 23
Which tour would you choose?


In addition to obvious visits to St. Peter's and the Vatican, My wife and I are very much interested in doing a private tour to more deeply explore our Christian Heritage, especially as it relates to the Apostle Paul.

We seem to be most often presented with 2 options:
1. Christian Heritage tour that includes:
Catacombs on the Appian Way;
Church of Domine Quo Vadis;
Basilica of St. John in Lateran;
Basilica of St. Mary Major;
Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
Holy Stairs and Sancta Sanctorum

2. Footsteps of St. Paul
Mamertine Prison
San Paolo alla Regola, Saint Paul Outside-the-walls
Abbey of Tre Fontane

I think I would favor option 2--if there was a way to figure out the Holy Stairs feature (But my guess is that tour logistics/locations would not likely make that very practical)

What experiences have any of you had with either or both of these tours? Your thoughts?

Thanks in advance for your serious replies. (If you happen to want to offer a snarky comment about the content validity of these tours, that's fine too--but we plan to go on one of these anyway )

Prestonator is offline  
Apr 15th, 2015, 01:36 PM
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I would choose no. 1. The catacombs alone are outstanding.
traveller1959 is offline  
Apr 15th, 2015, 02:00 PM
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apart from the fact that you can do most of these yourselves with a guide book [not a snarky comment, just a fact] no 1 seems to have the greatest content, though you don't say how long each tour is nor whether there will be other people and what the cost is.

Re the 2nd option, you can certainly do the Mamertine prison yourselves,


as you can St Paul Outside the walls [San Paolo Fuori le Mura]

and the monasterio dei tre fontane.


as for la scala santa - I'm not really sure why you feel that you can't fit it into a tour you do yourselves - but if you change your minds, the info is here:

annhig is offline  
Apr 15th, 2015, 02:23 PM
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How long are the tours and how are you moving from point to point?

I enjoyed the Tre Fontane Abbey, but I like the list of tour #1 more. The Mamertime prison was gloomy and dark as you'd expect underground cells to be.

You don't have to be on a tour to see the Holy Stairs or Sancta Sanctorum.
Jean is online now  
Apr 16th, 2015, 01:36 PM
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I would also prefer the first tour, but I think you'd probably be better off putting together your own tour.

Actually, it's extremely unlikely that either the Apostle Peter or the Apostle Paul was ever in the Mamertine prison. This prison was used only as a holding cell, mostly for important political prisoners, which certainly doesn't describe either apostle. Moreover, according to Paul's letters, he was under house arrest when he was in Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia says the following:

"In the floor of the Tullianum [the ancient name for this prison] is a well, which, according to the legend, miraculously came into existence while St. Peter was imprisoned here, enabling the Apostle to baptize his jailers, Sts. Processus and Martinianus. The well, however, existed prior to this date, and there is no reliable evidence that the Chief of the Apostles was ever imprisoned in the Tullianum. "


They don't even mention St. Paul, as it's even less likely that he was ever there. In fact, the church of San Paolo alla Regola is supposed to stand on the site where he lived under house arrest.

This prison used to be freely accessible, with an offering requested. Now it's been turned into a tourist attraction with a audio tour, which doesn't get great reviews. I would skip it.

The Basilica of Saint Paul is a very beautiful basilica. The original was mostly destroyed by a fire in the 19th century, but it was rebuilt, as much as possible, like the original. There is a beautiful cloister there.

When St. Paul was brought to Rome as a prisoner, he is thought to have landed at Pozzuoli (ancient Puteoli), on the Bay of Naples, where there is some kind of a commemoration of the landing. I was there, but I don't remember exactly what there is. Pozzuoli has a wealth of ancient ruins, including two amphitheatres.

All of the catacombs have their own private tours, so I don't see the point of including them in a separate tour. If you can get there (by taxi or bus) you can take the tour offered by the catacomb, sometimes with a monk as a guide.

From a Christian heritage point of view, I think the two catacombs north of Rome are the most interesting. The Priscilla catacomb has some remarkable early Christian art, including the earliest know image of the Virgin Mary and child (although it's a bit hard to make out). The Saint Agnes catacomb is the only one that grew up around the tomb of a Roman martyr. Saint Agnes was killed at around the age of 12, supposedly for refusing to marry the son of a Roman official. Her foster sister (the daughter of her nursemaid) was also killed because she persisted in praying at the tomb after being forbidden to do so. The murder of these two young girls shocked even non-Christians, and Christians were soon clamoring to be buried near them.

The family of St. Agnes donated the land around their private burial ground to allow the construction of the catacomb. The Emperor Constantine built a large basilica on the spot, and his daughter Santa Costanza built a mausoleum in which she planned to be buried. However, she died while away from Rome, and the mausoleum was turned into a church, which is on the grounds of the convent that has custody of the catacomb. It's one of the few totally intact ancient Roman buildings in the city, and has beautiful ancient mosaics in the ambulatory, including one that depicts an ancient grape harvest. The original basilica is in ruins, and the present basilica dates from the 8th century. It's partly below ground, and the catacomb is entered from a door in the nave. The tour ends in the crypt, where St. Agnes and St. Emerentiana are buried together.

There are some other basilicas in Rome that have great significance. Santa Sabina is the ancient basilica that's least changed since ancient times. There is a large dedication mosaic above the main door, with the date of the dedication in the 5th century, and a depiction of two matron, one Hebrew and one Greek, representing the two major branches of Christianity at that time. A side door, protected by a gallery has a wooden door from the 5th century covered with carvings representing biblical scenes. It's a very rare example of ancient Roman wood carving, and includes one of the earliest depictions of the crucifixion.

The Basilica of St. Cecilia has a Roman dwelling under it, which can be visited. This is believed to have been an ancient "house church" dating from the days when there were no official church buildings, as they were not permitted under Roman law.

It's really hard to find the perfect tour, and it's very easy to get around Rome on your own.
bvlenci is offline  
Apr 16th, 2015, 02:29 PM
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Thank you all and in particular bvlenci for your lengthy response and perspective. Really appreciate the effort that went into posting all that--thanks.

While I continue to appreciate multiple re-assurances that we can figure out how to tour Rome on our own--and I'm sure that's true--the reality is we have a total of 8 days in Italy and will probably never have enough resources to return. So since this is likely "it"-- I would hate to bank on my abilities to navigate my family around Rome and provide them with the insights I simply don't have.

So, again, it is likely I will splurge on some combination of a tour. But it's kind of a weird thing. The more research and perspective I gather, the more confused and overwhelmed I am about all this...need to take a week off of work just to get my head around it , I think

Thanks again all
Prestonator is offline  
Apr 17th, 2015, 07:30 AM
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prestonator - you say you have 8 days total in Italy - how long do you have in Rome? [knowing the days of the week may be important too to make sure that something vital isn't going to be shut].

There are people here with enough experience of Rome to help you plan your days down to the last minute, if that's what you would like. [i'm not necessarily including myself!]

Then you can compare that against the tours and see what you think.
annhig is offline  
Apr 17th, 2015, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
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I've been following this topic with great interest. I'll be in Rome for 6 nights in Sept/Oct. This is our second trip to Italy and Rome, and I'd like to see some of these Christian sites myself, not on a tour though. The information you are all providing is invaluable. Not to hijack the post, but I thing that Prestonator might be interested in this question also.....can anyone recommend a tour book specifically for a Christian self guided tour of Rome? I've searched Amazon and there are a few but it's hard to tell if they are any good. I have the Fodors and a Rick Steves, I was just looking for a little more detail in a book instead of just doing internet research.
Cpelk is offline  
Apr 17th, 2015, 08:15 AM
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The Blue book has a high degree of detail on art works and architecture. It's not specifically Christian but by the very nature of Rome contains a lot of religious works.

another you might be interested in is HV Morton's a Traveller in Rome - he's a funny old cove and it's quite old-fashioned but full of interesting information about priests, churches, etc. etc.
annhig is offline  
Apr 17th, 2015, 04:11 PM
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For Cpelk:


Several books were published before 2000 in anticipation of Christian pilgrimages. Most of them are out-of-print but available used at fairly reasonable prices. One of them is an out-of-print Fodor's guide that you can buy used for a penny.


And this one:

[but note in the reviews the comments about errors in the maps within the book]
Jean is online now  
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