APPIA ANTICA / APPIAN WAY
By John William Bailly and Corey Ryan, 02 January 2016
“On a later occasion, as he (Augustus) sat lunching in a copse beside the Appian Way, close to the fourth mile-stone, an eagle, to his great surprise, swooped at him, snatched a crust from his hand, carried it aloft — and then, to his even greater surprise, glided gently down again and restored what it had stolen.” -Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars
Complement your time in urban Rome with a day trip to the green Regional Park Appia Antica/Appian Way. The Roman poet Statius wrote, “the Appian Way is queen of the long roads,” and its contemporary offerings of hiking, cycling, and solitary time leads one to agree. Begun in 312 BC by Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus, the Appian Way eventually spanned 360 miles and traversed the country from Rome to Brindisi. It is of great significance to Romans, Christians, and all historians.
South of Rome. Take bus 118 from the Circo Massimo (Line B) metro station or bus 218 from the bus stop across the street from San Giovanni in Laterano. Get off at Domine Quo Vadis Church and find Punto Informativo Appia Antica.
BEST THINGS TO DO
- Rent a bike from EcoBike – Find Marco and his team at Punto Informativo Appia Antica at Via Appia Antica 58. Bikes can be rented by the hour, but we suggest renting for the whole day. The Punto also sells maps, bus tickets, and can arrange a guided tour if contacted ahead of time. This is a Cabeza must. Having a bike will not only allow you to access the rest of the places on this Cabeza 10 list, but will also give you a chance to explore Ancient Roman roads, as well as take in the picturesque, Roman landscape.
- Domine Quo Vadis Church – As Peter left Rome to escape Nero’s persecution of Christians, Christ, bearing his cross, appeared to him on Appia Antica. “Domine, quo vadis,” asked Peter of Jesus, meaning, “Lord, where are you going?” “Eo Romam iterum crucifigi,” responded Christ. “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Inside the church is a set of two footprints, purported to be the footprints of Jesus Christ. You can find this small church where the Via Ardeatina branches off the Appian Way.
- Christian Catacombs – Romans cremated the dead; Christian buried them. Romans did not permit human remains within the walls of their cities. Thus developed the Christian catacombs. There are three Christian catacombs along the Appian Way, with the Catacombs of St. Sebastian perhaps the most well known.
- Villa of Maxentius – Maxentius was the emperor defeated by Constantine. These are the remains of his once magnificent villa, complete with his own private Circus (Roman racing track).
- Tomb of Cecilia Metella – The best-preserved Roman, large-scale tomb on the Appian Way. Cecilia Metella was the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus and wife of Marcus Licinius Crassus, son of the famed Marcus Crassus who served under Julius Caesar.
- Appian Tombs – Roman law forbade human remains within the walls of a city. Therefore, wealthy Romans built tombs to the dead along roads. A few remain on the Appian Way.
- Sacred Forest and Cafarella Valley – The Cafarella Valley is a rich national park just outside of Rome. On the mound of the Sacred Forest, families can plant trees in honor of their newborn children. Look for the nametags hanging from the trees.
- Villa dei Quintili – Two famous, Roman brothers built one of the best villas near Rome. By were murdered by an Emperor so that he could steal their villa.
- Horatti Burial Mounds – Disputes between Romans and other cities were sometimes settled by duels instead of armies. The Horatii family, representing Rome, is famous for partaking in one of these duels with the Curiatti, a family from Alba Longa, with each family sending three brothers to fight each other. Two of the Horatii brothers are killed in the battle, but the third brother is able to chase the three Curiatti brothers, causing them to separate, before killing them. This story is immortalized by Jacques-Louis David’s painting in Le Louvre, aptly titled, “Oath of the Horatii.”
- Parco degli Acquedotti – To get an idea of the monumental scale of Roman engineering, and to enjoy the natural beauty of the Roman landscape, visit the Aqueduct Park. Access through the Line A from Rome, getting off at the Lucio Sestio or Giulio Agricola metro station. Plenty of places to find food, coffee, and, of course, wine to enjoy a day outside with other Roman families. If you’re able to, walk along the stretch of aqueducts until you reach a road. Across the street you will find Rocco Vino, a local winery selling inexpensive and incredible Italian wine.
Fosse Ardeatine Monument – a short bike ride from the Appian Way is the Fosse Ardeatine Memorial Cemetery and National Monument. Here you will find caves where 335 Italian political prisoners and Jewish civilians were murdered by Fascists during World War II. Observe the Cemetery.
Notice the beautiful trees that line the Appia Antica. Once defeated, Spartacus’ rebel gladiators were crucified to those trees and left on display to discourage others from challenging the authority of Rome.
This is one of our favorite activities in Rome. Rarely do you get to combine nature and such a wealth of history. We most definitely recommend a full day.
Appia Antica Park
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