Top Attractions in Rome: The Appian Way

A walk along the Appian Way is a great way to enjoy Rome’s sunny weather and feel like you are stepping back in history. The Appian Way (or, in Italian, via AppiaAntica) was Europe’s first superhighway and is still one of Rome’s most popular attractions. It is the oldest road in existence and remains largely intact today.

Many of the Appian Way’s original stones are still visible from the beginning of this road that was 2,000 years old. Photo by Shaun Merritt

What’s it all about?

The Appian Way was an important road for the Roman Empire. It linked Rome to many of its farthest settlements. The road was originally built by Appius Claudius, then-censor of Rome. It connected Rome to Capua, near Naples. It eventually extended to Brindisi on the Adriatic Coast. This made it the longest and widest road in the world. It is known as the Queen of Roads and was constructed in 312 BC.

The Appian way is an incredible attraction, even compared to other top attractions in Rome. It is made up of large, flat stones that have been held in place by rain, wheels and feet over thousands of years. You can feel as if you’re walking in the footsteps Roman emperors or merchants, saints, and even St. Peter when you touch them. This road was built primarily for military purposes. Julius Caesar walked it with thousands of soldiers, leaders, and consuls. Converts to Christianity were buried along this route, and the famous slave leader Spartacus died on the via Appia in 1971 BC.

The Appian Way’s first 10 miles are part of a region park, Parco dell’Appia Antica. Here, the road and monuments surrounding it are protected.

Where’s the Appian Way? What can you see?

It’s one the most popular attractions in Rome. However, the Appian Way is largely located outside of Rome. You can still enjoy a wonderful day on the Appian way if you have patience and a little planning. The metro stops at Circo Massimo. Take the #118 bus to Circo Massimo, where it runs every 40 minutes seven day a week. For a quicker route, you can take a taxi, but it is best to get a price before entering. Many of the taxis that are parked around are not official taxis. Sundays are the busiest day in the park. Romans love to picnic and ride their bikes, while tourists can explore the monuments, catacombs, and cafes in peace. This is the best way to cycle or walk the Appian Way as it is less crowded than other days.

You can also opt for a local guide to help you navigate through Rome’s most impressive ancient sites, such as the Appian Way.

View across Circus Maxentius from his villa on Via Appia Antica. The western end of the Circus Maxentius is visible in the brick towers. Photo courtesy of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, part of the Ancient World Image Bank

Today’s via Appia begins at the Porta San Sebastiano. It is located just two miles from the Coliseum. To avoid any bumps or bruises that large stones can cause to your bike and you, it is best to ride on the dirt tracks along the road.

Continue on the road towards the Domine Quo Vadis Church, 9th century. Legend has it that this was the spot where Peter saw Christ as he fled Nero’s persecution in 64AD. Christ asked him, “Domine,quo vadis?”. He replied that he was going back to Rome to be executed anew. This led Peter to accept his fate, and to return to Rome to become an apostle. The stone said to have Jesus’ footprints is found inside the church. A fresco of Peter is located on the left wall, and one of Jesus is on the right.

The church is located just after two major Christian catacombs, the Catacombs San Sebastiano and San Callisto. These are the burial places of many early popes, and they are also some of the most popular attractions in Rome. The enormous Cecilia Metella tomb, Rome’s richest man’s daughter-in-law, is also located nearby. This tomb isn’t on most normal tours but it’s certainly one of the top attractions in Rome or just outside of Rome. It is a must-see on the Rome As A Local tour.

Just a little way from Cecilia’s mausoleum, you will find the Circus Maxentius. This is one of the most well-preserved Roman imperial Circuses. This large arena was once the venue for chariot races. It is located next to Emperor Maxentius’ large villa.

You can ride or walk for miles along an ancient Roman highway. Beautiful fields are scattered with historical tombs and Roman ruins.

Continue on the Appian Way after sightseeing to take in the sights. You’ll be able to see the same views as the Romans. Photo by Anthony Majanlahti.

Although there were eventually 30 additional roads that ran from Rome, the Ancient Appian Way was still the best and most important. It is another testament to the power of the Roman Empire.

Related Articles