A stroll on the Ancient Appian Way: 5 unmissable stops

Discover Rome

Among naturalistic views, parks, archaeological sites, museums, an entire week wouldn’t be enough to see the entire area of the Appian Way Park. That’s why in this article, we’ll provide you with a brief guide with five stops that absolutely cannot be missed on your stroll along the queen of roads, the oldest street in history. Ready to take notes?

A Place to Explore

Although it effectively represents one of the most evident testimonies of the greatness of the Roman people and their Empire, the Appian Way is often excluded from the itineraries of foreign and even local tourists. This open-air museum, however, absolutely deserves a thorough visit because it tells a story that spans centuries up to the present day.

Our Itinerary and the First Stop

Our stroll begins at Porta San Sebastiano, once called Porta Appia, nestled in the Aurelian Walls that once divided Rome from the suburban areas. Here is the Museum of the Walls with an exhibition divided into three sections: ancient, medieval, and modern. The museum, which is free to enter, traces the history of the city’s fortifications and has a pleasant walkway on the walls from which you can admire a splendid panorama of the city. It’s precisely from Porta San Sebastiano that the Appian Way Regional Park extends over 3500 hectares. What does this vast area include? The first eleven miles of the Regina Viarum – equivalent to about 18 kilometers – the Caffarella Valley, and the Aqueducts area.

The Second Stop

After crossing the Almone River, making a small deviation to the right, you reach the adjacent Via Ardeatina. Here you can visit the site of the Fosse Ardeatine, a quarry where the massacre of 335 prisoners took place on the evening of March 24, 1944, by German occupying troops as retaliation for the 33 comrades fallen during the war action conducted by partisans at Via Rasella. In the post-war period, this place became one of the global symbols of the Resistance.

Third Stop

Catacombs of San Callisto and the Basilica of San Sebastiano
From the 20th century, we go back to the early years after Christ. The Catacombs of San Callisto, the burial site where the early Christians persecuted by the Empire were buried, are among the most iconic religious sites: kilometers of underground tunnels that will undoubtedly leave you speechless. Guided tours are available in multiple languages. A few hundred meters from the Catacombs is the Basilica of San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura, where the remains of the martyr San Sebastiano are located, and where in 258 the relics of the apostles Peter and Paul were temporarily transferred to save them from persecution.

Villa of Maxentius and Cecilia Metella

The archaeological complex built to celebrate Emperor Maxentius, which extends between the second and third mile of the Appian Way, consists of the palace, the circus, and the dynastic mausoleum. A short distance away stands one of the most important funerary monuments in history, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, an imposing square base on which a cylinder covered with travertine slabs is placed, decorated at the top with a marble frieze with garlands and ox heads. The owner of the tomb is Cecilia Metella, daughter of Quintus Metellus Creticus.

Fifth and Final Stop: Villa of the Quintilii

Continuing our stroll, on the right, we find the so-called Tumuli of the Horatii, and after a hundred meters on the left, we have the Villa of the Quintilii, the largest suburban villa in Rome, located at the fifth mile of the Appian Way, in an area where according to tradition the battle between the Horatii and the Curiatii took place. The current entrance to the villa is on Via Appia Nuova, while on the side of the Appian Way, the remains of a monumental nymphaeum are visible. Not far away, you can also see the arches of the aqueduct that supplied the villa.

Useful Information

Dedicating an entire day to exploring this unique road in the world and the treasures you encounter along the way is one of the best ways to discover the history of Rome from antiquity to the present day.

Photo credits: @erminioc2016 on Tripadvisor

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