If you have time during your visit to Rome, a day on one of the oldest roads in Rome should definitely be on your list. If you head to the south of the city, you will this ancient and historically significant road that connects Rome to the port of Brindisi. Here is a beginner's guide to walking in the footsteps of ancient Romans.
How to get to Appian Way
There are several different ways to reach the Appian Way from Rome:
1. Take the Metro Line A to the Colli Albani station. From here you can catch bus number 660 to the Cecilia Metella bus stop. You should see the Appia Antica Café on your right, and here you can rent bikes to go along the Appian Way.
Take the Metro to the Piramide station. Here, get off and find the 118 bus, where you can either get off at the visitor's centre (where you can also rent bikes), or at the San Callisto catacombs. The 118 bus also leaves from the Circo Massimo metro station.
If you are using a hop on hop off bus service, some of these will also take you to the Appian Way. The Big Bus service will take you to this area if you are on the purple route, and it will stop at the catacombs of St Callixtus, St Sebastian and Domitilla, and the ruins of the Caracalla Baths
What to do at Appian Way
1. Visit the Catacombs
During ancient times, pagan Romans were generally cremated, but Christians preferred to be buried as the physical body was an important part of the religious tradition. The catacombs of San Callisto are the most significant catacombs in Rome, where many martyrs and popes are buried.
2. See attractions along Via Appia Antica
Most people wander between the visitor centre and Cecilia Metella, and along here you can see tombs, villas, and churches. The road itself is a memorable experience as you walk along, where you can retrace the footsteps of the many soldiers and travellers who passed along this road at the height of the Republic.
3. Eat at the Hostaria Antica
If you are in need of something to eat after walking along the Appian Way, eating at the Hostaria Antica will be an experience in itself. The restaurant is built in a mausoleum that was built over 2000 years ago, and they make food that reflects ancient Roman cooking traditions. Here you will dine amongst ancient artefacts, and eat Ancient Roman Lasagne that has been adapted from the world's oldest cookbook that is displayed inside the restaurant.
4. Visit the Domine Quo Vadis Church
5. Go under Porta San Sebastiano
This is a great starting point for any visit to the Appia Way. This is probably the best preserved gate from the ancient era, and was built as a way to show visitors the power and majesty of the Empire
Useful tips for visiting the Appian Way
1. Rent a bike
The best way to explore the most of this beautiful walkway is to rent a bike and go up and down on two wheels. Except on Sundays, there is generally a bit of traffic, but if you get to 184 Via Appia Antica, the road will start to look more like it did 2000 years ago. This is where you will start to feel like you have gone back in time, as you bike over the irregular paving stones, over chariot grooves, under trees, and past the Roman countryside. You can rent bikes from the Appia Antica Café, or at the visitor's centre, where you can also pick up maps with bike routes on them.
2. Visit on a Sunday
If you come on a Sunday, the Appian Way is a pedestrian's paradise as there is no traffic allowed on this day.
3. Visit the catacombs before renting a bike
If you are planning on exploring using a bike, you should rent a bike after you have explored the catacombs. The most popular bike way is south of the catacombs so this is a good way to plan your visit.
4. Don't try to see everything
The Appian Way has many interesting things to see, but they are fairly spread out, and most people only plan to spend a couple of hours in this area. It would be a good idea to look up the 54 attractions that are placed along the road and decide what you want to see before you go.
5. Keep your eyes open for celebrities
If spotting the rich and famous takes your fancy, look out for the mansions that replace the ancient Roman ruins as you continue along the road- you might just catch a glimpse of famous Italian actors and fashion designers
6. Pick up maps at the visitor's centre
Whether you are walking or biking, it would be a good idea to pick up some maps and leaflets at the visitor's centre in order to get the most out of your visit.