Queen of All Roads - Appian Way In Rome

On the list of the must-see destinations every tourist should have the ancient Appian Way in Rome - Via Appia Antica. In the antiquity it was called regina viarum - the queen of the roads, as it was the most important artery between Rome and the rest of the world. Numerous landmarks are situated along this road with unimaginable past that date back to the Ancient Roman Empire. Surprisingly, this place hasn't lost its prestige with time and is still among the most expensive neighborhoods. No matter if you are a first-time visitor or you’ve been in Rome before, this extraordinary landmark can always replenish your basket of impressions with new thrills.

Historical Background of Appian Way In Rome

The Appian Way in Rome was built in 312-264 BC by Appius Caecus (Caecus, meaning "blind') and step by step connected Rome with Brindisi, a city on the coast that still exists today 476 km away from Rome. The road was made of heavy stone blocks, had an excellent drainage system, was wide and so important that no effort was spared to build it. In fact, road curators, among whom the first one was Appius, held a very high position in those times, because of the great importance of roads in the Roman Empire. Many poets, including Horace mentioned the Appian Way in Rome in their works calling it “the queen of roads”. Today there is absolutely no doubt about how essential this road was for the power of the empire and its meaning for the Great Roman Empire.

Appius who curated this road was a person who involuntarily set a trend after his death. When he died his relatives took his tomb along Via Appia Attica for his name, thus having created a new tradition. For many years to come cemeteries, burials and funerary constructions filled this road from the both sides. So much more that it was law to bury dead outside Rome, the new tradition set tombs in the places where people would travel not only to tribute the dead, but also as a “memento mori” reminder - everyone is mortal. 

Living near the Via Appia Attica was also very prestigious, therefore the first 5 miles (there are more landmarks further, too, actually) contain also an impressive number of historical monuments on the both sides of the Appian Way.

Why Visit the Appian Way In Rome

Today many people admit how picturesque and peaceful the Appian Way in Rome is. Along the road one can see a lot of greenery, which makes this place ideal for those who seek some coolness during hot summer in the capital. It is also not crowded as the rest of the city. The road is paved with stones and needs thorough preparation in terms of foot equipment. It may be problematic to enjoy this place if you wear uncomfortable sandals or shoes, so try to choose the most comfortable outfit. In terms of historical sights the walk is definitely going to be rewarding: all along the way you will see structures of different levels of antiquity, you will pass the famous catacombs, tombs and villas. Some of the best preserved structures are also very famous landmarks of Rome. For example, the Caecilia Metella’s Mausoleum, the Villa of the Quintili, the first milestone, the Tomb of Priscilla, Vigna Randanini Jewish catacombs etc. By the way, the Appian Way in Rome is exactly the place where the word “milestone” comes from. For Romans a “milestone” meant one thousands paces with “thousand” being “mille” in Latin. Every mile Roman signed with a mile stone, but today we only have the first one preserved. 

This road is so old that you still can see traces from chariots’ wheels, which once passed here. Ancient Romans used the Via Appia Antica for military purposes. In fact, the Appian Way witnessed the rise and fall of the Ancient Roman Empire

Where to Start And What to Expect

The Appian Way, Rome, starts at the St. Sebastian Gates (Porto San Sebastiano) with the first milestone at it. The most comfortable way to get to this point is by bus 118 from the Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum or the Baths of Caracalla. 

The Appian Way is very long and covers many hundreds kilometres, but the passage of interest for us is the first 5 km. The first mile after the gates is the narrowest and the most uncomfortable of all, especially on Mn-St. On these days apart from Sunday the Appian Way is also a road for cars. So, if you don’t have a choice to come on Sunday you can take a bus (118, 218) that gets you to Domino Quo Vadis and helps you skip this two-miles passage. 

After this church Domino Quo Vadis the famous catacombs start. It’s impossible to visit all of them in one day, because in fact there are around 70 km of them under Rome and not all of them are open for visits. Just choose one the most well-preserved sights, which are the Catacombs of St. Callisto, the Catacombs of St. Sebastian and the Catacombs of St. Domitilla. 

When you finally go out to the light and proceed further you will see the most exciting and interesting part of the Appian Way. From III to V mile you will meet Villa di Massenzio, the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, Villa Capo di Bove, Tumuli degli Orazi e de Curiazi, Villa dei Quintili etc.

Ways to Explore the Via Appia Attica

Well, here are a couple of dilemmas about the Appian Way. Although the Via Appia Attica is one of the main symbols of Rome, in fact it is located outside the city.  Not many buses go in the needed direction and if they do they don’t cover all the route of the ancient road. However, as the Appian Way contains lots of interesting sights, you will either want to walk 5-7 km (which is great but you will need to save a day for it) or take a bus-tour shaking on the way due the Appian cobbled surface (the latter way saves you half a day though). One more way to see this landmark would be exploring it by bicycle. So, my personal recommendation is to take these things into account and know where you are going rather than be surprised when you get there. Once again, if you are sporty and endurable, then take a long walk, ride a bike or bicycle. If you are not up to strolling, you should take a guided-tour which will help you to cover the rout in less hours. 

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