Of course the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica are the mainstay of every Vatican tour one can book online or be sold offline in and around St Peter’s Square year round. Sifting through hundreds of Vatican tour descriptions online will inform the reader up to a point, but what else do these other Rome tour agencies offer visitors to the Vatican city? Of our Vatican tours, we include the Vatacombs on one of them. The Vatacombs (remaining papal tombs) lie beneath St Peter’s Basilica. On all our Vatican tours, we discuss the origins of the Circus of Nero, the ancient site where Christians were put to death from 65 AD and, it is believed, where St Peter was crucified. The obelisk on the square was moved there from Alexandria by Caligula in c. 37 AD, some 30 years before the executions began. Free of inscriptions, it was brought to Rome having commemorated the reign of Augustus in Egypt since c. 100 BC .
Standing in front of St Peter’s Basilica on Piazza Pio XII, with the taxi rank and Galleria Savelli souvenir shop right side, the eastern end of the Circus of Nero is just fifteen feet away. It’s underground ruins reach below St Peter’s Square then run behind the modern Basilica to it’s westernmost point, 50 yards from the Vatican Railway Station.
Lanciani’s study of the old basilica of St Peter and the exact location of the Circus of Nero can be seen at LacusCurtius. This illustration shows both structures as well as the (new) basilica as we see it today.
Read the following article about Vatican excavations in 1941 and the possible whereabouts of St Peter’s bones:
At the end of every Vatican tour, as at the end of every Italian dinner, there’s no better way to celebrate the past than with an appropriate liqueur, so we are duty bound to recommend ‘Nerone’ – L’Amaro di Roma (!)