Tour of Underground Rome
A tour of Underground Rome is a more unusual and unknown way of touring
Rome, through which the visitor enjoys continuous surprises and emotions
which are difficult to find elsewhere. It's a buried city, made of hypogea,
columbaria and Mithraea, but also buildings made to be illuminated by
sunlight and then ending up buried by the stratification of the soil
with the slow passing of time.
Near to the Colosseum, a visit to the basilica of San Clemente and
its underground levels enables you, going down level by level, to go
thousands of years back in time. The base of the building corresponds
to a 2nd Century house, in which later was created a Mithraeum, a grotto-shaped
room, devoted to the worship of the Persian god Mithras.
Along the walls are arranged the stone benches with which the faithful
celebrated the sacred banquet. In the centre of the room, the altar
with the cults image is still visible: the god killing the bull, a symbol
of good and fertility. Above this level, rose a fourth century church
that was abandoned after seven centuries, although, it still has a delightful
fresco representing the story of Sisimius.
A highlight of a Rome Underground tour is a visit to Nero's famous
Domus Aurea (Golden House). The huge underground rooms, in some cases
still adorned with splendid paintings, manage to communicate only a
tiny part of what must have been the magnificence and monumentality
of the complex that the Emperor Nero had built, on an area of 80 hectares.
The Mamertine Prison (named after the Sabine god Mamers, corresponding
to the Latin "Mars"), lies hidden underground and consists
of two levels: the upper part, trapezoidal in shape, is the actual Mamertine
prison, known with this name since the Middle Ages; the lower part,
instead, is the Tullianum, a cavity so-called already in Roman times
due to the presence of a spring. According to legend, the Apostles Peter
and Paul were imprisoned here during the Middle Ages.
Below the Museo Barracco, four metres beneath the current street level
there are interesting structures pertaining to a construction dating
from the mid-4th Century, probably a rich man's house. It's possible
to see the remains of the colonnaded courtyard with its splendid pavement
of polychrome marble slabs, the capitals of the columns and a circular
Throughout the urban landscape of Rome, there are telltale signs of
the influence of previously existing structures buried beneath the modern-day
streets of Rome. Beneath the Piazza di Grotta Pinta, lies the Theatre
of Pompeii, where Julius Caesar was assassinated. The particular semi-circle
shape of the Piazza reflects the internal curve of the facade
of the Theater, built between 61 and 55 B.C.