Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) - A Walk In The Ancient Rome Through Appia Antica Park

"Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) - A Walk In The Ancient Rome Through Appia Antica Park" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 11th January 2012

Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) - A Walk In The Ancient Rome

While the Via Appia is lined with monuments and tombs of ancient Roman patrician families, many find what’s under the Appian Way to be more interesting. Below the street are miles of tunnels – known as catacombs – where the early Christians buried their dead and, when necessary, held secret church services. Several of the catacombs are open to the public and on a guided tour led by local priests and monks, visitors can view ancient burial niches and a handful of remaining examples of early Christian art.

The Via Appia was often referred to in ancient Roman times as "longarum regina viarum" -- "queen of highways" - because it was the first and in many ways the most important of Roman roads. It also was the only road that really led to Rome. Via Appia Antica (Old Appian Way) was once one of the world's most important roads and the most famous of all the roads that radiated from Rome towards the far ends of the Roman empire.

A tourist itinerary along the ancient Appian Way (Via Appia)

Its long history can be reconstructed with the aid of a detailed map of the first eight miles of the route. Together with the adjoining park the Appian Way is one of the most popular locations for Romans to take a stroll, enjoy the surrounding countryside, or relax under a tree surrounded by ancient remains. Besides famous sites such as Cecilia Metella’s Tomb, there is the Church of Quo Vadis, where it is said that a vision of Christ admonished Peter and told him to return to Rome, from where he was fleeing. Then there is the Tomb of the Curiazi (ilTumulo dei Curiazi) and that of the Orazi. There is also the aquaduct, the ruins of Villa dei Quintili with its Ninfeo, the mausoleum of Casal Rotondo and the tomb that is known as the “Priest’s beret” (“Berretta del prete”) because of its dome-like shape.

The stretch close to Rome, the Via Appia Antica, is now part of an nature and archaeological park, the Appian Way Regional Park (Parco Regionale dell'Appia Antica)/ Appia Antica Park (Parco dell'Appia antica) and makes a lovely day out, particularly on Sundays when the area is closed to traffic. To conserve and enhance this huge historical and natural heritage the Parco dell’Appia Antica was instituted. Its main reference is the Via Appia. The Park covers an area of around 3,400 hectares. Within this area are 16km of the via Appia Antica and its adjacent features, the valle della Caffarella (200 hectares), the via Latina archaeological area, the Aqueducts archaeological area.

Today the Via Appia starts at the Aurelian wall, at the Porta San Sebastiano. The first part of the road is not exactly pedestrian friendly. It leads along the Quo Vadis church, the catacombs of San Callisto and the catacombs of San Sebastiano to the imposing funerary monuments tomb of Cecilia Metella or mausoleum of Cecilia Metella placed right after the complex of the circus of Massenzio and the Mausoleum of Romolo.

Even the Christians opened, along Via Appia, some of the most important Catacombs (Catacomb of Domitilla, of S. Calisto, of S. Sebastiano). There are also some villas, one of which is of the Quintili. The beginning of Via Appia was at Porta Capena, next to Circo Massimo, from here the count of the mileage started. After the Mura Aureliane were build, the entrance to the city was at Porta Appia, nowadays called Porta S. Sebastiano . From here the road is paved with the authentic Roman stones. You can walk for many kilometers passing the remains of numerous historic tombs.

The via Appia is believed to have been the first Roman road to feature the use of lime cement. The materials were volcanic rock. The surface was said to have been so smooth that you could not distinguish the joints. The Roman section still exists and is lined with monuments of all periods, although the cement has eroded out of the joints, leaving a very rough surface.

You can take the Archeobus to visit the archaeological park of the Appian Way (Appia Antica), there is stop-and-go system with which you can get and off at and stop on the route that you wish. Every 7 or 9 miles (10/13 Km) in heavy traffic traits, and every 10 or 12 miles (14/17 km) in less frequented stretches, there were the post stations along the road to allow for a change of horses and to offer a place of rest and a dwelling for travelers. Near the towns the streets was flanked by great villas, and especially by tombs and funerary monuments of various kinds.

The first stop outside the walls is at the headquarters of the Via Appia Regional Park, where guide materials are available and where you can rent bicycles. A bike is a good way to explore roads off the route of the Archeobus and especially up the Caffarella Valley which is also the next stop of the Archeobus. The Caffarella Valley, where, according to legend, the ancient battle of Lake Regillus against the Latin League was won for the Romans by the divine intervention of Castor and Pollux, was already a tourist haven in Republican Roman times. It is now the site of another regional archeological park that is contiguous with the Via Appia Park.

An Excellent Itinerary of Suggested Walking Route: From Porta San Sebastiano To Appian Way (Column Marking Mile I To Mile Xi)

  1. A copy of the small column marking mile I, with inscriptions of Vespasian and of Nerva in the modern wall
  2. Caffarella, the ancient Almone
  3. Complex of the former Latin Paper-mill, now the headquarters of the Appian Way Park Authority
  4. Sepulchre of Geta
  5. Church of Quo Vadis or Santa Maria in Palmis at Via Ardeatina
  6. Cement core of a cylindrical tomb
  7. Via Ardeatina, where Via Appia arrives at the Alban Hills
  8. Catacombs of Saint Callistus
  9. Jewish Catacombs of Vigna Randanini
  10. Basilica of Saint Sebastian
  11. Tomb of Romulus
  12. Circus rose the Villa
  13. Circus on the top side by two semi-cylindrical towers
  14. Tomb of Cecilia Metella
  15. Castello dei Caetani
  16. Little church of San Nicola
  17. Great ruin, known as Torre di Capo di Bove
  18. Tomb of Marcus Servilius
  19. One after the other - the epigraph of one Gneo Bebio Tampilo and the inscription of the family Turania, then a high relief in marble with a character depicted in "heroic" nakedness
  20. Seneca's Tomb
  21. Round mausoleum
  22. The nucleus of a chamber sepulchre and the tomb of the children of the freedman Sextus Pompeus Justus
  23. Temple of Jove
  24. Sepulchre of Saint Urban
  25. Tomb of the Licini
  26. Doric Tomb
  27. The tomb of Hilarius Fuscus
  28. Tomb of Tiberius Claudius Secondinus
  29. Columbarium
  30. Tomb of Quintus Apuleius
  31. Temple-shaped sepulchre
  32. The Tomb reconstructed by the Rabiri
  33. Tower sepulchre
  34. Festoons Tomb
  35. Frontispiece reconstructed tomb
  36. Quadrangular tomb in the shape of a four-fronted arch
  37. A tall tower , in concrete core
  38. Two temple sepulchres dating from the II century A.D.
  39. Two temple sepulchres dating from the II century A.D.
  40. Round mausoleum on a quadrangular base, surmounted by the remains of a medieval tower.
  41. Tumulus of the Curiazi
  42. Nova tomb in the form of a pyramid
  43. Tumuli of the Orazi
  44. Nymphaeum of the Villa dei Quintili
  45. The ruins of the circular sepulchre of Septimia Galla
  46. A sepulchre with an arched doorway
  47. A headless statue
  48. A baths complex, perhaps belonging to the villa, and the tomb of a magistrate
  49. Mausoleum on the Appian Way, known as Casal Rotondo
  50. Tomb in brickwork faced in marble slabs
  51. Torre Selce similar to that of Cecilia Metella
  52. Funerary inscription frame
  53. Headless statue of a man in a toga
  54. Great Ring Road that since 1848 stands on the balustrade of the Capitol, on the Aracoeli side
  55. Great exedra, perhaps originally roofed with a semi-cupola, faced in precious marbles and adorned with statues.
  56. A tomb in brick (56) on a square base that contained the sepulchral chamber
  57. Hillock - a sepulchre over which in the Middle Ages a tower had been built.
  58. Area containing stumps of columns in peperino that indicate the presence of a portico earlier referred to a temple of Hercules
  59. Column marking mile VIII
  60. A tabernacle tomb in a good state of conservation where stands a round mausoleum originally with cupola roof, known on account of its shape as the "Priest's biretta".

Finally cross-roads with Via di Fioranello, after which the Appian way continues up to mile XI, in the neighbourhood of the inhabited centre of Santa Maria delle Mole, where the ancient layout is overlaid with the modern one of the Via Appia Nuova ("New Appian Way").

Castrum Caetani Circo di Massenzio presso l'Appia Antica.
Fig: Castrum Caetani and Circo di Massenzio presso l'Appia Antica.

This new Appian Way was built in parallel with the old one in 1784 as far as the Alban Hills region. The new road is the Via Appia Nuova ("New Appian Way") as opposed to the old section, now known as Via Appia Antica. The old Appian Way close to Rome is now a free tourist attraction. It was extensively restored for Rome's Millennium and Great Jubilee celebrations. The first three miles are still heavily used by cars, buses and coaches but from then on traffic is very light and the ruins can be explored on foot in relative safety. For complete details about this Itinerary please visit: http://www.parcoappiaantica.it/en/pdf/itinerario1.pdf

Practical Information:

Bicycle Hire

Horse Riding Centres and Pony clubs:

Also Visit:
Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome (Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma) Website: Click here

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