The Vatican Scavi Tour, or a tour of the Vatican Necropolis, is one of the most exclusive tours in Rome, Italy, and maybe even in Europe! This is because they only let around 250 people in each day (compared with the more than 30,000 who visit the Vatican each day). You can only visit Ufficio Scavi (the Vatican Office of Excavations, or the Tomb of St. Peter, or the Vatican Necropolis) on a tour, and your tour guide will take you through the streets beneath St. Peter’s Basilica where a large number of early Christians were buried.
You will also be within feet of the room the Vatican believes St. Peter was buried, and will show you what they believe are his bones (although there is of course different opinions on whether they are him or not). You will hear a history of early Christians in Rome and how they lived. Whether you are Catholic, or Christian, the history itself makes the tour completely worth it.
How to apply for the Vatican Scavi Tour
Taking the Vatican Ufficio Scavi tour is not the easiest thing. To sign up, you will need to email the Vatican and let them know what days you will be in town. You should do this a minimum of a few months in advance of your trip, because these tours fill up in advance. They will email you back with a time and date for your tour — and you have very little choice at that moment. In our case, the date we were assigned was a different day than we were hoping for, but we made it work.
Important Scavi Tour Tips:
When you receive your email back from the Office of Excavations (Ufficio Scavi) you need to reply with a confirmation, as well as going through their online system to purchase your tickets.
Ufficio Scavi Office
To find the Scavi office, go to the left side of St. Peter’s Square when facing St. Peter’s Basilica. There is a security line there that they will send you through, and then you will find a Swiss Guard member who will direct you to Ufficio Scavi.
Important: Do not let anyone tell you that you need to go through the security line for St. Peter’s Basilica. You do not need to.
You should show up to the office at least 15 minutes ahead of your appointment. Be prepared for your tour to last around 1.5 hours.
A few things to know about the Ufficio Scavi Tour:
- You cannot take photos on the Vatican Necropolis tour, so do not plan this if you are hoping for a great photo opportunity.
- The tour can get very humid and therefore very hot. We went on a day when there was nonstop rain, so the fact that we were soaked on top of the fact that it was humid made for a fairly uncomfortable tour.
When you leave the tour, you will end up in a hall of popes — this is something the public has access to. But don’t mistake it for the actual tour location, because the tour itself will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life.
Learn more about visiting the Vatican, including the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and St. Peter’s Dome