Italy is one of those places I’ve enjoyed every minute of every day I’ve been there. Maybe it’s because of my heritage (you, there’s a connection between the name of my blog and my family tree), but I’ve always found the Italians welcoming and the country such a great place to explore. That’s why we’re scheduling another trip this summer, this time while our oldest daughter should be old enough to make some fabulous memories.
I remember waaay back in 2005 when we went for the first time I spent a bunch of time researching my trip. I spent time on the internet and also buried my nose in the Fodor’s book for Italy. I remember coming across a small reference to a tour of the necropolis under St. Peter’s cathedral. I don’t consider myself a terribly religious person but the Vatican was high on our list of stops. A tour to the catacombs underneath the Vatican? Well, duh. Sign me up!
The brief history behind the Necropolis and the tomb of St. Peter is that St. Peter was laid to rest there almost 2000 years ago. Over the course of time the Necropolis was covered over to build a Basilica which later gave way to the Vatican grounds and St. Peter’s cathedral and Basilica now part of Rome today. 75 years ago this small city underneath St. Peter’s cathedral was re-discovered and much later opened to limited public tours. You can find a rudimentary walk-through on the Vatican website.
Some of this may sound familiar if you’ve read Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons (or seen the popular movie starring Tom Hanks) as he uses the Necropolis as a backdrop for a significant chunk of the story. I hadn’t yet read the book when I learned of the Necropolis but was interested just the same.
You have to e-mail the Excavations Office at the Vatican and request a tour. It’s not open to the general public, they only take a handful of folks down to tour it each day though that number has gradually expanded to an advertised 250 folks a day now (still a teeny fraction of the total daily visitors at the Vatican). Our e-mails went unanswered on that first trip. We found the Excavations Office on-site during our Vatican tour and asked again, to no avail.
Italy was back on our radar for a 2009 trip, and another set of e-mails trying to score that elusive tour. Alas, it was not meant to be on this second trip which had us coming through Rome twice during a 10-day span.
So, after booking our airline tickets for a summer trip to Rome, what was the first thing I did?
Realize we aren’t going to see the Necropolis on this visit. Or any other visit in the future unless we sell our children. The nondescript page on the Vatican website where you can view information about making reservations to see the Necropolis and St. Peter’s tomb now says, in part:
Only those who are 15 years or older will be admitted – no exceptions will be made.
Our youngest child just turned 3, so unless we’re leaving the kids home (I think my daughter would disown us) or bringing someone with us to Italy to watch the kids, the Necropolis isn’t really in our future anytime soon.
That’s a bummer, but I’ve got it penciled in for 2027 when the kids are old enough (and we may no longer have pencils in the world).