Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica, also known as the Appian Way, is one of the oldest and most important roads leading to Rome. Built in 312 BC, it was slowly extended and, by 191 BC, it reached the port of Brindisi, over 550km southeast of the city (along the “heel” of Italy). Thus, Via Appia Antica became a gateway to the east.

In 66 BC, Julius Caesar became the curator of the Appian Way and, to gain crucial electoral votes, borrowed significant sums to restore the ancient highway.

Over the centuries, several important events are said to have occurred along Via Appia Antica and, perhaps most notably, Christian legend has it that it was the road on which Christ appeared to a fleeing St. Peter, convincing him to return to Rome thereafter being executed and martyred.

In ancient Rome, the Via Appia Antica was a popular location for tombs and catacombs, many of which are scattered along the road today, including the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella. Christian catacombs such as the Catacombs of San Callisto and the St. Sebastian Catacombs can also be found there.

Other impressive monuments on the Via Appia Antica, which became the route to the affluent suburbs of Rome, include the Villa and Circus of Maxentius, the Villa dei Quintili and the Baths of Caracalla.

With such a clear route to so many incredible monuments, the Via Appia Antica offers tourists a great way to explore the road’s history, which is so inextricably intertwined with that of Rome. Today, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica oversees much of the site.

Probably the best way to travel along Via Appia Antica is by public transport. Indeed, it is closed to private traffic on Sundays and on holidays. For itineraries along Via Appia Antica, check the official website.


Cycling on history: discover Rome Appian Way and its catacombs

The via Appia Antica is the old Roman Appian Way, which ran from Rome down to Brindisi, three hundred kilometers to the south. The stretch close to Rome is now part of a nature and archaeological park which includes early Christian catacombs, original Roman causeways, monuments and mausoleums, the remains of seven Roman aqueducts dating back to the Republican and Imperial age, and large, untouched rural landscapes dotted with cypress and maritime pines.

Walking or riding a bike along the Via Appia Antica is a refreshing change from the city, particularly on Sundays when the area is closed to traffic. The road is attractive and atmospheric, with plenty of grassy spots where to relax and to picnic. You could easily spend a whole day here (the complete itinerary is more than 30 Km long!), but with so much else to see in Rome most visitors spend there just two hours or less.

The Appian Way can also be the convenient visited with the hop on-hop off buses.

For bicycle fans wanting to plunge into nature the Appian Way park is the ideal place for a full-immersion experience.

After renting your bikes at the Park headquarters, not too far from the imposing Porta di San Sebastiano (one of the mane gates in the Aurelian walls) head to the Catacombs of St Callisto following a causeway bord er ed b y r ows of cypresses.

The catacombs of St. Callixtus are among the greatest and most important of Rome. They originated in the middle of the second century and are part of a cemetery complex which occupies an area of 90 acres, with a network of galleries about 12 miles long, in four levels, more than twenty meters deep. There were buried tens of martyrs, 16 popes and thousands of Christians.

Passing through imposing galleries full of loculi, we reach five small chambers, truly family tombs, commonly known as the cubicles of the Sacraments, and particularly important for their frescoes.

Keeping cycling on the Appian Way, you will shortly see, on your right, the basilica of Saint Sebastian. Built at the beginning of the IV century but rebuilt in the XVII century, it was dedicated to the martyr buried in the adjacent catacombs to which access is besides the church. San Sebastiano Catacombs are smaller than San Callisto’s, but host some really impressive underground mausoleums.

Some two hundred metres after San Sebastiano, on the left, you will find the ruins of the imperial residence of Maxentius, which includes the 250 metres long and 92 metres wide circus. The stadium steps could accommodated 10,000 spectators.

Immediately thereafter stands the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, erected shortly after 50 B.C. The cylinder shaped mausoleum, faced with travertine marble and crowned with a marble frieze, has an impressive size of 11 metres high for 29.50 metres in diameter.

Today, the Ghibelline battlements form part of a medieval supra-elevation while the tomb was transformed into a tower and included in a fortified quadrilateral that comprised the Appian Way. At the beginning of the XIV century, it was incorporated in the Castello dei Caetani, which also comprised the Palazzo, built against the tomb.

If you’re hungry or thursty, the nice Appia Antica café, just besides Cecilia Metella mausoleum, will offer you a fresh inside garden and simple traditional dishes, as well as sandwiches and beverages. You can also rent bikes here, in case you arrived by foot or with the Archeobus, which stops just in front of it.

About 80 metres further on a portion of the original road paving is still visible, with its great slabs of volcanic lava. After the crossroads with Via di Cecilia Metella, you will find the ruins known as Torre di Capo di Bove (recently opened to the public, free entrance)

From now on, the road finally runs freely flanked by pine and cypress trees with numerous remains of tombs and huge portions of Roman causeway. It’s pure beauty and amazement! Up to you to decide how long you want to cycle and explore. You will find plenty of ancient statues, monuments and tombs along the way, partially rebuild in the last century.

When you get tired or out of time, just turn your bike and go back along the same way.


The catacombs on the Appia Antica

There are numerous catacombs in the Appia Antica regional park. Since in Rome the dead had to be buried outside the city and space was tight, the necropolis, the cities of the dead, were dug deep. The catacombs of Calixtus, Domitilla and St. Sebastian can be visited without prior notice.

The dress code in the catacombs

Please keep in mind that the catacombs in Rome are sacred sites and therefore access is allowed only with salonable clothes.

The catacombs of St. Calixtus

These second-century catacombs became the official cemetery of the church at the beginning of the 3rd century, and the administration was transferred to the deacon Calixtus by Pope Zephyrinus.

The catacombs of St. Calixtus are closed on Wednesdays.

The catacombs of Saint Sebastian

In this originally pagan plant, St. Sebastian is buried. The catacombs and the basilica are named after him. The entrance to the catacombs is at the basilica.

The catacombs of Saint Sebastian are closed on Sundays.

The catacombs of Domitilla

They are named after Flavia Domitilla. She was the owner of the land, which was made available to the Christian community in the 1st century AD. Here is the largest Christian catacombs plant in Rome.

The catacombs of Domitilla are closed on Tuesdays.

The Jewish catacombs in the Vigna Randanini

The Vigna Randanini catacombs are the second of a total of six Jewish grave sites in Rome. They were built in several phases between the 2nd and 4th century AD and were accidentally rediscovered in 1859. Due to the good state of preservation and the numerous paintings of various objects from pagan and jewish times as well as the numerous inscriptions, they are unique in the Mediterranean. The Vigna Randanini catacombs are not open to the public and can only be visited by appointment in a guided tour.

The catacombs of Vigna Randanini

By Martina Kliem, from the book “Rom für Fortgeschrittene”

Let’s come to the fantastic Jewishs catacombs at number 119. Again, it is important to register in good time – preferably already from Germany. The tombs were discovered in 1859 and date back to the 3rd century. Unique in its kind – at 720 square meters at a depth of ten meters niches, burial chambers and frescoes with Jewish symbols and motifs are distributed. And the Kokhim, the sliding graves that characterize the Jewish culture. They originated as early as the second century, and it is even thought that they were the model for all subsequent catacombs.

(From the chapter “Der Regionalpark der Via Appia Antica”)


Best Attractions in Rome—the Appian Way

The Appian Way (via Appia) is an ancient roadway that highlighted the greatness of Rome. Today, it is one of the best attractions in Rome. Strategically important, it intimidated foes and friends alike since it meant that Roman legionnaires could mobilize and move out quickly. The Appian Way was one of Rome’s earliest roads—the first section was completed in 312 BC and used as a route for military supplies and the Roman legions during the Samnite Wars.

Its history includes gory moments such as the crucifixion of 6000 slaves thought to be involved in a revolt started by Spartacus in 73 BC. Walking down the street, I imagine what a gruesome (and threatening) sight it would have been to see all those bodies hung along the side of the via Appia.

The road played important roles in modern times too, especially during WWII when Allied troops who had landed at Anzio re-took Rome from Nazi occupation. Today, ruins of marble statues and benches line the road giving visitors a place to sit and an idea of how impressive it would have looked to those setting their sights upon Rome for the first time.

Ancient stones still line part of the Appia Antica (Ancient Appian Way) providing a snapshot into the past and allowing one to feel as if they have just walked down the road to a different millennia.

Where It Is: just outside the city walls starting at Porta San Sebastiano. A well-preserved massive gate giving access through the Aurelian Walls, the San Sebastiano gate is an impressive place to start your journey. The port is right near the Pyramide metro stop and gives easy access to the no. 118 bus that runs the Appian Way route. Not only is there a cool pyramid built into the wall nearby the gate, there is a museum there that details Roman walls and roads providing a nice overview for the rest of your Appian Way sightseeing. For more information on the Museo delle Mura: http://en.museodellemuraroma.it/

How to Get There:

  • Public transportation is your cheapest and best bet, since taxis can be pricey and there is no guarantee you will be able to summon one to take you back. The 118 bus runs fairly frequently (about every 40 minutes) and has several stops on the Appian Way including Porta San Sebastiano, the Visitor Center, Domine Quo Vadis Church, various catacombs, and the point where the Appia Antica (the ancient Appian Way) splits off from the Appian Way. You can pick the 118 bus up from the Pyramide stop on the metro.

Things to Do & See:

  • Porta San Sebastiano—a gate in the Aurelian Walls with a museums that covers Rome’s walls and roads.
  • Visitor Information Center—this is a good starting point as you can get a map of the vast Appian Way and its attractions. You can also rent bicycles there, which will be necessary if you plan to take in more of the Appian Way Park than just the first couple kilometers.
  • Bike riding—I highly recommend riding bikes. The older part of the Appian Way (via Appia Antica) doesn’t start until further down the road. Via Appia Antica is not to be missed though, nor are the ruins (and some fabulous modern villas) that dot the road once you get further away from the city. Riding by bike you get out into nature—the hustle and bustle of Rome falls away and is replaced by peaceful pastoral scenes. We even spotted a herd of goats being driven across the road! The noise from their bells was the only loud thing we heard once we were out on the via Appia Antica. The stones that pave the road are also distinctly older and give better insight into its original condition.
  • Picnic—there are marble rocks (formally benches or statuary) that provide excellent seating to stop and have a picnic. Stop at a local COOP (pronounced kind of like ‘cope’) and pick up the fixings. The deli workers will cut you enough prosciutto for however many panini you indicate…due, tre, quatro. There are usually other tasty goodies in the deli case: cheeses, olives, marinated artichokes, salads. You can pick up a baguette for each sandwich, some fruit, a bag of chips, and some bottles of water and you’re ready to go. There are a couple water fountains along the Appian Way where you can refill, too.
  • Church of Domine Quo Vadis—this church is located on the spot where St. Peter reportedly met Christ. The church dates from 1637. It is free to enter plan on a 15-20 minute visit.
  • Catacombs—there are three main catacombs: San Domitilla, San Callixtus (Callisto), and San Sebastiano. Not every catacomb is open every day, so check into the individual one you decide to visit. The San Domitilla are the oldest catacombs, but aren’t directly on the via Appia so you will need to venture off the path a little to get there. There are less things to see than the other two, but it is generally less-crowded so you can a more intimate tour. The tombs of San Callisto tend to give a favorable impression with high ceilings, over twelve miles of tunnels, numerous frescoes, carvings, and drawings, and having been the final resting place of 16 popes. The tombs of San Sebastiano do not seem to get as favorable reviews as the other two. I’ve provided a website link by each of their names so you can research them and find your perfect fit.
  • Tomb of Cecilia Metella—this building looks like a run-down castle, but is the tomb of the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus (a consul in 69 BC) and the daughter-in-law of Marcus Crassus, a political and financial patron of Julius Caesar. The massive fortress is neat to roam around, but I’m not sure I would pay individually to see it. It is included, however, if you visit the Baths of Caracalla (which I highly recommend). There is a combo ticket for 6€ that includes: Tomb of Cecilia Metella, Baths of Caracalla, and Villa of the Quinitilii
  • Villa dei Quintili—this is a vast archaeological site further down via Appia Antica. It is included in the combo ticket mentioned above. There is a rack to leave your bikes. We started walking the grounds on foot, but it is quite expansive. We later found out that there was another entrance not off of the Ancient Appian Way that would have gotten us closer to the actual villa.
  • Parco degli Acquedotti (Aqueduct Park)—if you veer off of via Appia Antica and cut over to via Appia Nuova (new Appian Way) you will reach the Parco degli Acquedotti—the impressive remains of one of the engineering feats that made Rome great.

The Appian Way will take at least a half day to visit. If it’s your first time to Rome and you have three days or less, it is probably best reserved for a time when you can truly relax and enjoy it. But do make it at some point! It is a treasure not to be missed.

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On Site Observations

This section of the report is made up of three subsections. The first describes the current condition of the Via Appia. The second describes how the Via Appia is used today. The final section focuses on any aspects of the Via Appia that can be used in the modern construction of roads.

Condition of the Via Appia

Today there exists several sections of the original Via Appia, including the Via Appia Antica in Rome. It starts from the Porta San Sebastiano gate within the Aurelian walls and ends nine miles later where the Via Appia Nuova has been laid over the top of the original Via Appia. The road has been under the care of the Parco Regionale Dell’ Appia Antica since 1988 (Povoledo, 2008). The Via Appia Antica has many layers of history incorporated into it. The side of the road is lined with ancient monuments, modern restaurants, and extravagant villas. The Via Appia itself is a strange mixture of history as well, sharply transitioning from the ancient paved stones, to sampietrini, and even modern asphalt, as seen in Figure 8.

Figure 8: The surface transition of the Via Appia Antica.

The Via Appia Antica retains some key features of the original Via Appia. One is the width of the street. Near the beginning of the Via Appia Antica, the road easily allows for two-lane traffic, and has just barely enough room for foot traffic as well. As the road continues away from the Aurelian Walls and Rome, the width of the road narrows to just barely two lane traffic. This follows with the original intent to accommodate for the heavier traffic near Rome while maintaining the minimum two-lane width along the Via Appia’s entirety.

Another feature that remains is the remarkable straightness of the road. As can be seen in Figure 9, the Via Appia Antica stretches in a straight line as far as the eye can see. In fact, along the first 5 miles there is only one noticeable slight bend, as seen in Figure 10. This again keeps in line with the original intent of constructing a road that travels from one destination to another in the quickest manner possible.

Figure 9: The straight profile of the Via Appia Antica. Figure 10: The rare bend in the Via Appia Antica.

The final noticeable feature maintained is the igneous stone surfacing of the road, although only present in small sections today. Here the large igneous stone paving added after the initial construction of the Via Appia can be seen. The surface is badly worn from over 2000 years of traffic and weathering. Despite this, the original crowned shape of the road is still maintained, and continues to fulfill its original design intent to drain the water away from the road, as seen in the below video.

Another major use of the Via Appia Antica is from the citizens residing in the extravagant villas that line the road, one of which can be seen in Figure 13. Mostly located about 4 miles down the Via Appia Antica and on, these villas are known to contain ancient artifacts and ruins that remain private to the owners. This has been a major issue the guardians of the national park face, as up to 90% of the allotted area remains under private ownership (Povoledo, 2008). Also, extravagant parties are known to occur at these villas, which dramatically increases the traffic on the Via Appia Antica. Because of the location of the villas, cars are forced to travel over some of the few remaining sections of the original igneous stone paving, albeit at a slow pace. This can be seen in the below video. Such traffic further wears down the road to nonexistence, and for this reason it is important to view some of the engineering aspects of the Via Appia for possible use in modern road construction.

Figure 13: Villa along the Via Appia Antica.

Engineering Aspects of the Via Appia

Several important engineering aspects of the Via Appia should be noted. One is the way weathering is reduced by the crowning of the road and the incorporation of ditches on either side of the road. Water is a serious problem to any road. Standing water can make traveling much more dangerous, especially today with the chance of hydroplaning cars. Also the water can seep into the road and undermine the foundation, causing settling and the formation of potholes (Nardo, 2001). This is why it is important to drain the water away from the road and keep it dry whenever possible.

Another important engineering aspect from the Via Appia was the layer system they used in order to create long lasting roads. This system established strong foundations to build upon which has supported various kinds of traffic for more than 2300 years. This layering system was also adaptable, changing whenever necessary to meet the conditions of the soil and available material. The Romans were able to use alternative materials when the primary was short in supply, dig smaller trenches when the firm soil allowed it, and shorten the road width when the terrain demanded it. These aspects saved time and money in construction.

Finally, the Via Appia was constructed through a process of gathering materials on the go. Instead of merely digging up and removing the surrounding soil and vegetation, the Romans used whatever they could find along the way. This included not only the use of sand, clay, and stones, but also existing roads. In fact, the road incorporated the use of the Via delle Terme di Caracalla and the Via di Porta San Sebastiano, thereby reducing time and construction costs (Staccioli, 2013). These techniques also created a green way of constructing by reducing the need of excavating materials from areas outside of the route of the Via Appia and utilizing roads already constructed. It is engineering aspects such as these that have continued to be incorporated into the modern construction of roads.


Via Appia Antica

L'Appia ritrovata. Passeggiata nel borgo di Sanzanello (Venosa).

Domenica 20 giugno ore 9,30 - Venosa (PZ), loc. Sanzanello, prenotazione obbligatoria al numero: 0972/308682
La passeggiata nel borgo rurale di Sanzanello è organizzata ​dal Comune di Venosa con la partecipazione della Soprintendenza ABAP della Basilicata ed in collaborazione con l'Università di Foggia.

Percorrendo la tagliata stradale di età romana, sarà possibile ammirare il paesaggio ed i monumenti della stratificazione millenaria del sito semirupestre, oggetto di un importante intervento di tutela e valorizzazione nell'ambito del Progetto Ministeriale "Appia Regina Viarum" e del Cammino dell'Appia Antica.

Soutenance d'habilitation le 28 septembre 2020 à Nanterre avec un dossier de 2400 pages (Garant Frédéric Hurlet, professeur d'histoire romaine à Nanterre). Un mémoire de synthèse concernant les logiques du parcours personnel de recherche ("ego-histoire") une nouvelle enquête d’histoire sociale, une monographie de 802 pages, intitulée Les modalités d’intégration des sénateurs d’Asie Mineure à Rome et en Italie, d'Auguste à Gallien (Mémoire inédit). Un recueil de 32 articles et 3 notes critiques (recueil d'articles depuis la soutenance de 2003), ainsi que le livre de 2016 (Des Grecs et des Italiens à Éphèse).

Habilitation to conduct researches defense on September 28th 2020, in Nanterre with a 2400-page dossier (and with Frédéric Hurlet, university professor of Roman History in Nanterre). A synthesis dissertation on the logics of the personal path of research a new social history survey, a monograph of 802 pages, entitled The Modalities of Integration of Senators from Asia Minor in Rome and Italy, from Augustus to Gallian. A collection of 32 articles and 3 critical notes, as well as the 2016 book.

Il nuovo allestimento del Museo della via Appia è frutto dei lavori di riorganizzazione e di restauro, realizzati dalla Soprintendenza dei Beni Archeologici di Roma negli anni 1997-2000, ma la scelta di collocare nel complesso monumentale della tomba di Cecilia Metella e del Castrum Caetani una vera e propria raccolta archeologica, risale agli inizi del Novecento. I materiali raccolti nel Museo della via Appia sono esemplificativi delle principali tipologie di oggetti e monumenti funerari: urne, cippi, iscrizioni, sarcofagi, rilievi con decorazioni vegetali o figurate, elementi architettonici, statue ideali ed iconiche e ritratti. Il catalogo è preceduto da un capitolo introduttivo sul complesso metelliano e da alcuni capitoli relativi alla storia del Museo e degli scavi, con particolare attenzione alla documentazione di archivio riguardante gli interventi di recupero e di restauro eseguiti nei secoli al fine della riscoperta e della valorizzazione della via Appia. Un capitolo è dedicato ai risultati ottenuti dalle più recenti indagini archeologiche (scavi 1997-2000), realizzate nel Castrum sotto la direzione della dottoressa Rita Paris.

The new layout of the Via Appia Museum is the result of the reorganisation and restoration work carried out by the Soprintendenza dei Beni Archeologici di Roma in the years 1997-2000, but the decision to place a real archaeological collection in the monumental complex of the tomb of Cecilia Metella and the Castrum Caetani dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The materials collected in the Museum of the Appian Way are examples of the main types of funerary objects and monuments: urns, memorial stones, inscriptions, sarcophagi, reliefs with plant or figurative decorations, architectural elements, ideal and iconic statues, and portraits. The catalogue is preceded by an introductory chapter on the Metellian complex and by some chapters on the history of the Museum and of the excavations, with particular attention to the archive documentation concerning the recovery and restoration works carried out over the centuries in order to rediscover and enhance the Via Appia. One chapter is dedicated to the results obtained from the most recent archaeological surveys (1997-2000 excavations), carried out in the Castrum under the direction of Dr. Rita Paris.
A cura di Annarena Ambrogi e Rita Paris
Anno di Edizione: 2020
Edizione: L'ERMA di BRETSCHNEIDER
Collane:
Studia Archaeologica, 234
ISBN: 9788891319517
Rilegatura: Brossura
Pagine: 608, 286 ill. B/N, 10 ill. Col.
Formato: 17 x 24 cm


Appian Way

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Appian Way, Latin Via Appia, the first and most famous of the ancient Roman roads, running from Rome to Campania and southern Italy. The Appian Way was begun in 312 bce by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus. At first it ran only 132 miles (212 km) from Rome south-southeastward to ancient Capua, in Campania, but by about 244 bce it had been extended another 230 miles (370 km) southeastward to reach the port of Brundisium (Brindisi), situated in the “heel” of Italy and lying along the Adriatic Sea.

From Rome southward the Appian Way’s course was almost straight until it reached Tarracina (Terracina) on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The road then turned inland to the southeast to reach Capua. From Capua it ran east to Beneventium (Benevento) and then southeastward again to reach the port of Tarentum (Taranto). It then ran east for a short distance to terminate at Brundisium.

The Appian Way was celebrated by Horace and Statius, who called it longarum regina viarum, or “queen of long-distance roads.” As the main highway to the seaports of southeastern Italy, and thus to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, the Appian Way was so important that during the empire it was administered by a curator of praetorian rank. The road averaged 20 feet (6 metres) in width and was slightly convex in surface in order to facilitate good drainage. The road’s foundation was of heavy stone blocks cemented together with lime mortar over these were laid polygonal blocks of lava that were smoothly and expertly fitted together. The lava blocks formed a good traveling surface, and one that proved to have extraordinary durability over the centuries. The first few miles of the Appian Way outside Rome are flanked by a striking series of monuments, and there are also milestones and other inscriptions along the remains of the road.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Via Appia

John Linton Chapman (American, 1839 - 1905), Via Appia (1867), Oil on canvas, 28 ¼ x 71 5/8 in. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia Gift from the West Foundation Collection, Atlanta, in honor of William Underwood Eiland.

"American John Linton Chapman's painting, 'Via Appia' (1867), now in the Georgia Museum of Art, shows a pastoral scene amidst the remains of tombs with a view of St. Peter's in the distance. In the foreground, goatherds rest on the Tomb of the Rabirii and behind them the ruins of the aqueducts along the horizon. The funerary monuments of the Classical past introduce and serve as the teleological focus of Papal Rome, which literally and figuratively arises in the distance from its ruins. The image, however, is fantasy like Piranesi's 'Via Appia Imaginaria.'

Chapman manipulated the locations of the tombs to achieve his perspective of St. Peter's dome. On the right side, the Tomb of the Rabirii, restored by Luigi Canina, is in the foreground next to a brick tomb (know as Laterizio I because of the opus latericium brickwork and also restored by Luigi Canina). The brick tomb is in the correct location on the right hand side of the Via Appia but the Tomb of the Rabirii is actually 500m away on the other side of the Via Appia to the right as you leave Rome. To achieve his perspective, Chapman first painted the brick tomb looking towards Rome but then set up his easel facing the opposite direction to add the Tomb of the Rabirii in the foreground on the right in the place where a brick tomb known as Laterizio II is actually situated, next to Laterizio I looking towards Rome. The Tomb of the Rabirii survives along a tree-lined Via Appia, but a plaster cast of the relief has replaced the original, which is now in the Museo Nazionale Romano (Palazzo Massimo alle Terme)."

Mario Erasmo, Death: Antiquity and its Legacy (Oxford University Press/IB Tauris/ Bloomsbury, 2012), 97-98.

The Tomb of the Rabirii on Via Appia Antica in the direction away from Rome (photos copyright: Mario Erasmo):

Actual view of Tomb Laterizio I on Via Appia Antica from Chapman's perspective looking towards Rome (photo copyright: Mario Erasmo)

For a step-by-step walking tour of the Via Appia Antica, follow Tour 14 of Mario Erasmo, Strolling Through Rome: The Definitive Walking Guide to the Eternal City (IB Tauris, 2015/ Bloomsbury, 2019).

Note that Bus #118 no longer departs from Piazzale Ostiense but there are new stops in the historic centre at the Ara Coeli stop on Via del Teatro di Marcello next to the Cordonata entrance of Piazza del Campidoglio (Tour 5) along Via dei Fori Imperiali and at the Colosseum (Tour 6). To visit at the end of Tour 13, there is a stop in Piazza di Porta Capena along the tree-lined Viale delle Terme di Caracalla towards the entrance to the Baths of Caracalla. The Domine Quo Vadis stop on Via Appia Antica is now just before the fork in the road with Via Ardeatine at the visitor information centre of the Parco Regionale dell’ Appia Antica (Tour 14). Other arrival directions remain the same. Return directions from the Via Appia Antica to the #118 bus stops remain the same, but the bus now returns to the locations listed above instead of Piazzale Ostiense.


Contents

The park aims to be a "green wedge" between the centre of Rome and the Alban Hills to the southeast. It contains a majority of the relics of Ancient Rome to be found outside the city centre. It consists of the Appian Way, from the centre of Rome to the 10th Mile, including the Villa of the Quintilii the Park of the Caffarella the Tombs of Via Latina archaeological zone and the Aqueduct Park as well as other areas not accessible to the public.

The idea of a great archaeological park between the Roman Forum and the Alban Hills dates back to Napoleonic times. Following initial restoration work on one tomb by Antonio Canova in 1807 and 1808 and subsequent restoration in the area of the Tomb of Caecilia Metella by Giuseppe Valadier, it was Pope Pius IX who took the first major steps to organize the archaeological ruins of the Appian Way, with the assistance of Luigi Canina. [4] After Italian unification further efforts were made to develop an archaeological walk from the city centre to Rome's southeast, but this only reached as far as the Baths of Caracalla. [5]

In 1931, a new plan envisaged the Appian Way to become a great park but this idea was threatened after the Second World War with the construction of illegal villas and sports clubs close to the monuments and other housing that encroached on the edges of the zone. [4] Moreover, the new ring road for Rome, the Grande Raccordo Anulare, cut in two the Appian Way at the seventh mile, a mistake that was only rectified with the construction of a tunnel before the Great Jubilee of 2000. [5] The Park finally became a reality in 1988 and in 2002 it was expanded with the purchase of an area known as the Tor Marancia. The Park remains 95% in private hands: 40% is held by aristocratic Roman families 25% by companies 21% by small landowners and 10% by the Catholic Church. [5] Attempts to take more of the land into public possession have been constrained by a lack of funds. [6] There remain ambitious plans to extend the Park all the way into Rome as far as the Roman Forum in one direction, and as far as the Castelli Romani park in the other. [7]

The Appian Way (Latin and Italian: Via Appia) was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of ancient Rome. It connected Rome to Brindisi in southeast Italy. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the road fell out of use. On the orders of Pope Pius VI the road was restored and a new Appian Way was built in 1784 in parallel with the old one, as far as the Alban Hills. The new road is the Via Appia Nuova ("New Appian Way") as opposed to the old section, now known as Via Appia Antica. Mile 1 to Mile 10 falls within the Regional Park. Noted monuments along the route include Porta Appia (Porta San Sebastiano), the gate of the Aurelian Walls, the Tomb of Priscilla, the Christian catacombs of Saint Sebastian, and Callixtus and the Jewish catacomb of Vigna Randanini, the Circus and Mausoleum of Maxentius, the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, the Roman baths of Capo di Bove, the Tomb of Hilarus Fuscus, the Mausoleum of the Orazi and Curiazi and the Mausoleum of Casal Rotondo. In places along this stretch of the road the original surface of volcanic rock is exposed.

The Tombs of Via Latina are Roman tombs, mainly from the 2nd century AD, that are found along a short stretch of the old Roman road of Via Latina, on the southeast outskirts of Rome, within the Regional Park. They now constitute an archaeological park and can be visited. The tombs were discovered in 1857–58. Excavations supported by Pope Pius IX subsequently uncovered various sepulchers and tombs along a 450m stretch of the old road.

The Caffarella Valley is a large park bordered on its northern side by the Via Latina and on its southern by the Appian Way. It extends lengthways from the Aurelian Wall up to the Via dell'Almone and contains several items of archaeological interest, as well as a working farm, and has considerable ecological value, with 78 species of birds and fauna. [8] In Roman times much of the area was occupied by a large estate known as the Triopius. Herodes Atticus was a Greek who became a Roman senator and through his marriage to Annia Regilla he acquired the land of the estate. Two ruins in the park date from that time, the tomb of Annia Regilla and the Nympheum of Egeria.

Six Roman aqueducts made their way into Rome through this small area, which takes its name from a 13th Century watchtower. Over the years the area was a popular encampment for armies seeking to invade Rome as it was on the Via Latina and close to the Appian Way.

The Parco degli Acquedotti is a public park of approximately 240 ha. The park is named after the aqueducts that dissect it, the Aqua Felix and the Aqua Claudia. It also contains the remains of the Villa delle Vignacce [9] to the North West.

The Villa of the Quintilii (Italian: Villa dei Quintili) is an ancient Roman villa beyond the fifth mile of the Appian Way. It was built by the brothers Sextus Quintilius Maximus and Sextus Quintilius Condianus during the 2nd century. [10] The villa included extensive thermae fed by its own aqueduct, and a hippodrome, dating from the fourth century. The emperor Commodus coveted the villa strongly enough to put to death the brothers in 182 and confiscate it for himself.

The villa lies to the south of Via Tuscolana. Its name probably derives from Septimius Bassus, prefect under the Emperor Septimius Severus (193 - 211), is second in size only to the villa of the Quintilii. It was built towards the middle of the second century, close to the fifth mile of the Via Latina, in the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius.

Slightly to the west of the main park area, Tor Marancia is an undulating, wooded area containing considerable biodiversity for an area so close to Rome's suburbs. [7]

In addition to sites from ancient Rome, the Regional Park includes, or borders on, many religious sites and other points of interest, including:


Via Appia Antica: Do All Roads Really Lead to Rome?

The Via Appia Antica (The Appian Way) aka “Regina Viarum” (Queen of Roads) is one of the most famous roads in Europe and is considered to be one of the oldest in Rome. It was named after the Roman censor, Appius Claudius Caecus , who initiated and completed the first 90 kilometers of the road in 312 BC. In roughly 190 BC, the rest of the road was finished, connecting Rome to Brindisi, one of the largest ports on the eastern coast of Italy.

Appius Claudius Caecus Rome to Brindisi The length of The Via Appia Antica: 350 miles from Rome to Brindisi)

The primary purpose of this road was to serve as a military road allowing the speedy movement of Roman troops to the south and overpower the Samnites , Ancient Rome’s neighboring regional enemy at the time. The second was to improve and expedite communication and transport of military supplies and other goods across the country.

Samnites

This ancient road was constructed with huge slabs of stone and during the height of the Roman Empire, beautiful villas and magnificent monuments lined both sides of the road. Today, visitors can still see these villas and monuments but only in their current state of diminished grandeur as time and harsh outdoor conditions had inevitably taken its toll.

Sepulcher of Tiberio Claudio Secondino Rabiri Mausoleum Original slabs of stone used on the Via Appia Antica (Photo by Travelissimo)

The Via Appia Antica has had its share of dark periods in history. In 73 BC, 6,000 of Spartacus warriors (slaves of the Roman Empire) revolted against Rome and lost, and as a consequence, they were crucified on this very road. Represented by 6,000 crucifixes, their bodies were buried on both sides of the Via Appia Antica from Capua to Rome.

SPARTACUS (d. 71 B.C.). Roman (Thracian-born) slave, gladiator, and insurgent leader.

The early Christians who were hunted and persecuted during the Roman Empire’s glory days ran and hid in the underground catacombs. They also buried their dead in these catacombs from 1 to 5 AD. There are about 300 kilometers of underground catacombs in the Via Appia but the major and the most-visited are the catacombs of San Callisto, San Sebastiano, and Santa Domitilla. They also house the bodies of several popes of earlier periods.

The Catacombs of San Callisto

It is also believed that the Via Appia Antica was the road where Saint Peter met Jesus during Saint Peter’s escape from Rome.

How to Get to Via Appia Antica:

The Via Appia Antica is about 5 kilometers from the center of Rome. You can get there by car or by local bus. If you choose to get there by bus, take the nearest Metro train to the Colosseo or the Piramide station, get on the 118 bus and then get off at the Catacombs of San Callisto on Via Appia (Appian Way) . If you get confused, politely ask the driver to let you off at the Via Appia bus stop. There are usually plenty of passengers on the bus who will also get off at the same bus stop so do not worry about missing your stop. Keep walking straight until you reach Via Appia Antica. Once you are there, you will notice the heavy flow of cars, buses, and coaches for the first 5 kilometers but non preoccuparti (don’t worry), as the Italians would say, because as you walk further into the road, the traffic will start to thin out.

Local bus from the Colosseo and Piramide Metro station in Rome (Bus #118)

This old road is very long and you may want to rent a bicycle to fully enjoy your journey. There are bike rentals around the area that also offer maps and tours for a fee.

When I visited the Via Appia Antica in Rome, I went on foot. This has allowed me to freely take photographs of the original slabs of stone on the road, the ancient tombs, the gates to the villas, and to actually touch the trees. It has also afforded me the opportunity to tread on the same exact road as the people of Ancient Rome did at the height of the Roman Empire.

I never imagined that one day, I would be walking on the oldest road in Rome, a road that I only read about in history books. I also never thought that I would be stepping on the same slabs of stone as the Ancient Romans had done centuries ago. Just reminiscing about it gives me a profound sense of connection to the Old World, a world long gone but never forgotten.

The atmosphere was quite eerie but also very serene. (Photo by Travelissimo) Via Appia Antica (Photo by Travelissimo)

Yes, all roads lead to Rome!
I am on the most ancient road, the Vía Appia in Rome. The Vía Appia is probably the oldest road in the world.

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Watch the video: The Via Appia Antica. A Virtual Tour