The Appian Way, or Via Appian Attica, was once the major highway of the Roman Empire. Connecting Rome with Southeast Italy it is known as ‘the Queen of long Roads’, to this day it still holds the record for Europe’s longest stretch of straight road – 62km.
Today, the most famous section of this road is within the environs of Rome. During the week it is still used by motor traffic, but on Sundays it becomes Rome’s largest pedestrian only zone. Surrounded by protected parkland, as it leaves the city walls, The Appian Way Archaeological Park is an incredible green-space in the heart of Rome. Popular with cyclists and walkers, the Appian Way is more than just a simple open green space. Full of monuments, ruins, churches, museums and restaurants, this is a thriving ancient space ready to be explored.
Entering the park through the Porta San Sebastino, you’ll come across the church of San Sebastino, the final resting place of many early Christians. The Catacombs beneath the San Sebastino, are considered to be the most accessible of Rome’s Catacombs. Descending from the Church’s main floor, you’ll find the various tombs. Many have been decorated with paintings and frescos, dating from the 4th Century. Continuing along the ‘Way’, after passing the Tomb of Cecilia Metella which resembles a fortified castle, you’ll find yourself in Rome’s countryside.
Throughout the park are cycleways and footpaths, as well as even more museums, monument and ruins to explore. There are several catacombs, of Christians, Jews and Pagan Romans throughout the park, most are open to the public, but several are only opened by appointment. In addition to the morbid atmosphere of catacombs, are villas, aqueducts and a couple of Roman Baths – all in ruins and all waiting to be explored.
The entrance fees of the various museums and catacombs vary, but remain around the 5Euro mark. As to opening hours, these vary considerably. Most are closed around lunchtime, but many are only open in the afternoon with others only opening in the morning. While the various ruins and museums attract many visitors to the Appian Way, the main lure remains the open countryside. Hiring a bicycle for the day and exploring the various cycleways is incredibly popular amongst locals. For tourists, not confident in their map-reading skills, most cycle-hire shops also offer guided tours that include the Appian Way.
The Appian Way is known for having a distinct lack of shade, while this rarely puts off dedicated picnickers, for many the option of cafe or a restaurant is a much preferred respite from the hot Roman Sun. One of the best restaurants in Rome calls one of the many ruined monuments on the Appian Way home.
The Hostaria Antica Roma restaurant is housed within the ruined monument to the freed slaves of the Emperor Augustus. This incredibly welcoming restaurant serves classic italian dishes, but with an ancient Roman twist. The food is of exceptional quality, and all palettes will find something divine. But it is the adventurous palettes that will be well rewarded. From ancient lasagne, that is without tomatoes, to the Ancient Roman chicken served with authentic Garum sauce, the ancient roman inspired dishes are rather different, but no less tasty. The emphasis is on freshness and quality, with the fish menu changing depending on what was the best catch that morning. As for dessert, the tiramusu is one of the best in Rome. Wine is served by the bottle or the glass and there is something for all palettes and budgets. Known as a picture perfect wedding spot, this is not a tourist only restaurant by any means. Well loved by locals, reservations are a must for evening service.
The Appian Way is a lot more than just a parkland in the centre of the city. Full of museums, catacombs and ruins waiting to be explored, and divine restaurants, the Appian Way lures visitors and locals alike to its unique landscape.