Appian Way

This ancient Roman road goes outside the city walls and is crammed with fascinating sights.

TravelCurious Tip

Rent a bike and enjoy a leisurely cycle along this gorgeous Roman road.

The way to go

The Appian Way, or Via Appia Antica, was first built an incredible 2,300 years ago as an important strategic route to Naples and the south of Italy from Rome. The Romans were terrific road engineers; the road needed to accommodate travelling legions and all their retinue, so the Appia Antica is much wider than other ancient roads, and was smoothly covered with volcanic stone, today bearing the marks of carriage wheels. Every main road led back to the Eternal City, giving us the phrase ‘all roads lead to Rome.'

On the weekends, most of the Appian Way is a public park which no unauthorised vehicles may enter, and is a great place to spend the day. At the top of the road is the early Renaissance house of Cardinal Bessarione, who once hosted lavish parties in its frescoed rooms for the greatest minds of the day. Close by are the old Roman Walls which circled the city, known as the Aurelian Walls after the Emperor who built them in order to keep out the attacking Goths. Now their ruins make up a large museum, and you can patrol the walls like an ancient Roman guard. Inside the museum you will also see famous landmarks like the well-preserved gate of Porta San Sebastiano, named for the nearby Christian catacombs, and the Arch of Drusus, part of the aqueduct for Emperor Caracalla’s enormous baths.

An important spot for Christian pilgrims is the church of Domine Quo Vadis. According to legend it was on the site of this church where Jesus appeared to St. Peter, who was fleeing the persecution of Nero. Domine quo vadis means ‘Lord, whither goest thou?’ which is the question Peter asked the vision of Christ, who responded that he was going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter then returned to Rome, and was crucified upside down for his faith. The miraculous imprint of Christ’s feet from this fateful visitation are now held in the nearby church of San Sebastiano fuori le Mura.

Dine among the dead

If you get hungry, pay a visit to a fantastic restaurant called Hosteria Antica Roma, housed in an ancient building in which the urns of dead freed slaves were kept. Served by the charismatic elderly owner, customers may eat in the open-aired burial hall or inside the medieval building beside it.

One of the most fascinating sights on the Appian Way is the private chariot racing circus of Emperor Maxentius, which is almost as big as the Circus Maximus, and better preserved. It once stood beside his magnificent villa, now lost. Close by is the tomb of his son Valerius Romulus within its own walls. If ancient burials are your thing, there are also two ancient Christian catacombs which can be accessed from the road.

Admired in the poetry of Lord Byron, the huge round turreted Tomb of Cecilia Metella, daughter-in-law of Crassus, member of the first Triumvirate with Caesar and Pompey and the richest man in Rome, is one of the chief attractions on the road for its scale and preservation. With so much to offer, all trips to Rome should lead to the Appian Way.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
The Roman Empire’s largest amphitheatre, and one of the world’s most awe-inspiring ancient monuments.
Arch of Constantine
The largest and most magnificent of Rome's triumphal arches, with a curious history in its sculpture.
Basilica of San Clemente
This church is on three levels: medieval, early Christian and finally an ancient Roman cult sanctuary.
An underground network of ancient Christian burial grounds.
Circus Maximus
A magnificent ancient chariot racing stadium.
Testaccio Food Market
One of the largest and most vibrant food markets in the city, particularly in the morning.

Related Tours

Rome Catacombs & Appian Way: Private Golf Cart Tour
This tour will whisk you away to the cobbled lanes and idyllic fields of the Italian countryside to visit the Catacombs and drive along the famed and historic Appian Way. 

On your private tour, you will:

  • Enjoy pick-up in central Rome and a panoramic drive past the iconic ColosseumRoman Forum, Arch of Constantine, Circus Maximus and Imperial Palaces on Palatine Hill;
  • Drive along the historic Appian Way, the ‘Roman Queen of Roads’ - and step on the actual paving stones laid by Ancient Romans;
  • Visit the Roman Catacombs with tickets for a guided tour included;
  • Venture off the beaten track Rome to discover ruins, relics and curiosities hidden from the eye;
  • Learn about Roman engineering on your drive back into the city, and admire an Ancient Roman Aqueduct hidden in plain sight!
  • Combine the intimacy of a walking tour with the comfort of a driving tour with your private golf cart.
Your experience starts with a pick-up in central Rome and a panoramic drive past the iconic ColosseumRoman Forum, Arch of Constantine, Circus Maximus and Imperial Palaces on Palatine Hill, before you embark on an adventure across the less travelled side of beautiful Rome - the majestic Appian Way. 

The Via Appia Antica (Appian way) was at one time, the most important road in the Roman Empire rolling from Central Rome to the beautiful hills and fields of the neighbouring countryside and eventually all the way to the City of Brindisi. Sided by sleepy churches, farmhouses and crumbling Roman ruins, it is a truly magical picturesque route.

You will stop at one of Rome's ancient catacombs to explore the network of underground burial grounds that date from the second to the fifth century, and then drive out to the city’s remaining visible network of aqueducts.

Please note: Private guides are not allowed to guide inside the Catacombs so you will join a small group with an official Catacombs tour guide.

Once the pride of Roman engineering, these wonderful aqueducts transported water over long distances to towns and cities, providing the means to construct complex sewage irrigation systems, and supply fresh, clean water for baths, fountains, and drinking water for its citizens.

Your four-hour tour will end with a drop-off back in your hotel or any central Rome location.


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