Rome's Appian Way is estimated to be about 2,300 years old. It was designed in 318 B.C. by the Roman consul Appius Claudius Blindus, in order to connect Rome with Capua. Later, it was extended to the present city of Brindisi and from there Rome was connected through the Appian Way to Greece, Egypt and the East, facilitating military and commercial expeditions. Since then it has been known as the "regina viarum" (queen of roads).
Today, Rome's Appian Way can be traveled both on foot and by bicycle. It is a wonderful walk, quiet and with many stories to tell. It is a journey to be taken at leisure, admiring the landscapes and monuments that you will discover along the sides of the Appian Way. There are many things to see and do in Rome and walking the Appian Way is one of the best.
Are there guided tours of the Appian Way in Rome?
There are several options for guided tours of Rome's Appian Way and it is really worth taking a guided tour. You can choose to do the tour on foot or by bike. Bike tours can be private or group tours and are usually on electric bicycles.
You can opt for regular bikes, but keep in mind that it is a long way and you have to be very used to cycling to tolerate such a long trip.
Prices range from 50 to 95 euros depending on the length of the tour and whether it is private or group. The duration of these tours is between 4 and 5 hours and include insurance (you should check what coverage is available).
You also have the possibility to choose a tour that, in addition to the Appian Way, includes other attractions. In this case you can opt for one by car, with guide, driver and private for approximately 170 euros.
The advantage of these tours is that the entrance tickets are usually included in the price and they are also preferential and you do not have to queue. By avoiding them you gain a lot of time to enjoy the activities. Without a doubt this is one of the best tours in Rome.
The beginning of the Via Appia tour in Rome at the Gate of San Sebastian
The beginning of the Via Appia tour starts at the Porta San Sebastiano in Rome. Also known as the Appian Gate, it is the largest of the structures that are part of the Aurelian Walls.
Fortunately it is in an excellent state of preservation. Currently at the Gates of San Sebastian is the Museum of the Walls, well worth a visit.
The museum is divided into 3 sections: ancient, medieval and modern, showing the different stages of the fortifications of the city in an interactive and didactic way.
In this museum if you have a special interest in architecture you will enjoy a lot, because it is very well structured and the information that visitors get and the pedagogical support means available are very good.
From here, the tour continues along the Appian Way of Rome until you reach the second point of interest, the Quo Vadis Church.
The Domine Quo Vadis Church on the Appian Way in Rome
Following the route of the Appian Way of Rome, you will arrive at the Domine Quo Vadis Church. It is believed that in this church Jesus, already dead, appeared to Peter while he was trying to flee from the crucifixion. After this appearance, Peter would have returned to Rome to accept his martyrdom and die crucified.
The Domine Quo Vadis Church was built in the 17th century from a small chapel dating back to the 9th century and there are beautiful frescoes to admire inside.
The theme of the frescoes is the Crucifixion of Christ and the martyrdom of St. Peter. If you are a fan of religious tourism you can also visit the Sistine Chapel, one of the must-see sights in Rome.
After a short walk, you will reach the third point of the tour, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus.
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus on the Appian Way of Rome
Along Rome's Appian Way, you will find numerous tombs and catacombs because in ancient times it was forbidden to bury the dead inside the city walls. One such burial site is the Catacombs of St. Callixtus which house more than 170,000 tombs.
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are the best preserved of the entire Appian Way and can be visited.
It is a recommended visit, as there are numerous tombs of Christian martyrs and saints. If the cemeteries impress you, this activity is best skipped.
Keep in mind that both the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Catacombs of St. Sebastian are among the attractions that attract the most attention of tourists, so you should book tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment, it is almost impossible to get tickets on the same day.
The Basilica of St. Sebastian on the Appian Way in Rome
A little further on from the Catacombs of St. Callixtus (San Callisto) is the Basilica of St. Sebastian. In this Basilica, there is also a huge complex of catacombs, which are accessed through a staircase in the right nave of the Basilica.
The Catacombs of St. Sebastian became a Christian burial place at the end of the 2nd century AD. Previously they had already been used as a pagan cemetery.
Keep in mind that to enter the Catacombs (those of St. Callixtus or St. Sebastian) you have to pay entrance fees and queues can take hours. It is advisable to book your tickets to the Catacombs in advance.
Remember that there are tickets with which you can avoid the queues. They are a bit more expensive, but it is worth paying the extra price if you save hours of time by skipping the longest lines in Rome. If you are staying longer in Rome, you can also visit the Vatican Catacombs. 200 meters ahead of the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, you will find the next stop, the ruins of Villa di Massenzio.
The Ruins of the Villa di Massenzio on the Appian Way of Rome
The ruins of the Villa di Massenzio on the Appian Way in Rome are composed of three main buildings: the circus, the palace and the mausoleum. It is a very interesting architectural complex worth visiting.
The dynastic mausoleum is also known as the tomb of Romulus, because it is believed that he was buried there. Whether the story about Romulus' burial here is true or not, it is a magnificent monument and together with the other two buildings it forms a harmonious complex of sober and timeless beauty.
Immediately after passing the tomb of Romulus, you will reach the sixth stop of the tour along the Appian Way in Rome, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella.
The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella on the Appian Way in Rome
When you reach this point, you will see one of the most iconic mausoleums of Roman times. The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is one of the most impressive funerary centers in Rome. The huge and beautiful construction served as the tomb of Cecilia Metella, daughter of the consul Quintus Metellus, conqueror of Crete.
The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella was incorporated into the castle by the Caetani family as the main tower and maintained its imposing appearance to this day.
You should continue walking and after a few minutes you will find, on your right, the seventh point of interest of the Appian Way of Rome, the ruins of the Frontespizio and a little further on the medieval farmhouse of Santa Maria Nova and the pyramidal tomb.
The ruins of the Frontespizio on the Appian Way in Rome, the medieval farmhouse of Santa Maria Nova and the pyramidal sepulcher
These three monuments are within walking distance of each other, so it won't take you long to walk around them. The ruins of Frontespizio is a well-preserved, small core of ruins. They are believed to date back to about the 1st century BC. A few meters ahead is the medieval farmhouse of Santa Maria Nova.
Continue walking a few meters and you will see that further ahead rises a pyramid-shaped structure, of which so far there is not much information, but due to the large size of the tomb many speculations have been woven about the owner, but none of the theories have been confirmed.
Continuing along the route of the Appian Way of Rome, about 100 meters ahead, you will find the eighth stop, formed by the so-called Tumuli degli Orazi and 150 meters from the latter, you will see the Villa dei Quintili.
Tumuli degli Orazi and Villa dei Quintili on the Appian Way in Rome
The funerary complex Tumuli degli Orazi, is formed by two tombs similar to the Etruscan tombs found in the necropolis of Banditaccia. Although many theories have been woven around these tombs, the only thing that has been corroborated so far is that one of them is empty and there are no certain indications as to who may have been buried there.
In contrast to the austerity of the Tumuli degli Orazi, you will find 150 meters further on, the Villa dei Quintili. It is a magnificent residential complex, the largest in the suburbs of Rome.
The Villa dei Quintili belonged to the Quintilio brothers, Roman consuls in 151 AD.
The brothers were killed for alleged treason and conspiracy on the orders of Emperor Commodus and the Villa was confiscated. After the execution of the Quintili brothers, the Villa continued to be used as a residence by several Roman emperors, including Commodus.
Continuing the walk you will reach the ninth stop, the Casal Rotondo.
The Casal Rotondo
The Casal Rotondo is the largest circular mausoleum on Rome's Appian Way and one of the largest in Europe. This huge mausoleum was once covered in travertine marble and is believed to have been built around the 1st century BC.
Unfortunately, despite the many studies that have been carried out, it has not been possible to learn much more about its construction, origins and original owners.
Quite some time ago, a fragmentary inscription with the name Cotta was found. This discovery has led archaeologist Luigi Canina to believe that it is a funerary monument erected by Messalino Cotta, son of the consul Messalla Corvinus, lawyer and man of letters at the time of Augustus, but this theory has not been confirmed.
Whoever the owner was, there is no doubt that this is a magnificent monument and the Casal Rotondo is one of my favorite stops on Rome's Appian Way.
A few meters away is the tenth and final stop on the Appian Way tour of Rome, the Selce Tower.
The Selce Tower
It is believed that, in the 12th century, the Astalli family used the foundations of an ancient Roman tomb as the base for a massive tower known today as the Selce Tower. It is located on the Appian Way, almost at the end of the tourist route.
During the Middle Ages, Rome' s ancient monuments suffered great deterioration because they were used as quarries, providing people with cheap bricks and stone.
Over the centuries, the monuments along the Appian Way were successively plundered, losing most of their riches. The Selce Tower did not escape this fate and in addition to the logical deterioration due to the passage of time, the successive sackings have taken away the splendor it must have had in its time.
If you look in the distance you can see the aqueduct that supplied the Villa dei Quintili. The view is magnificent, it is an extraordinary work of engineering and an extraordinary beauty.
Is it possible to walk the Appian Way with children?
Walking the Appian Way in Rome is a wonderful experience, but it means many hours of walking. Walking this far with small children is not recommended if they are not used to it. If you want to do it, bring a stroller so you can help the little ones when they are too tired.
Don't forget to bring water and snacks for the little ones. Don't forget hats and sunscreen either.
Touring the Appian Way with children can be easier outside of the warmer and colder months. If you are traveling to Rome with children, keep the weather in mind when planning your trip, try to plan it during the best time to travel to Rome.
Tips for walking the Appian Way in Rome
- As it is a time-consuming tour, remember to stay hydrated (bring a few bottles of water with you), wear comfortable clothes (even better if they are sporty) and appropriate footwear (avoid sandals and don't even think about wearing heels).
- The best thing to do is to reserve tickets for the Via Appia attractions you want to enter to save time during your trip and to make sure you find available tickets. Always opt for priority tickets, waiting in line in Rome can be really tedious.
- Plan your trip well in advance and make sure you book your tickets to at least the main attractions well in advance.
- If it is your first trip to Rome, try to prepare your itineraries with extra time in case of unforeseen events. The key to an optimal trip is planning ahead.
- Keep in mind these 10 tips for organizing your trip to Rome and you will save a lot of time organizing your visit.