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
An underground network of ancient Christian burial grounds.
Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
This church was built over the burial place of St. Paul, and is one of the four most important basilicas in Rome.
A marvel of Roman engineering, the aqueducts provided drinking water and indoor sewer systems that carried water away from the city.
Tomb of Cecilia Metella
The most visible and majestic tomb of the first and most important Roman road.
Park of the Acqueducts
Ruins of ancient Roman aqueducts.
Catacombs of San Callisto
They were the official cemetery of the Church of Rome in the 3rd century AD.

Related Tours

Rome Catacombs, Appian Way and Aqueducts Private Golf Cart Tour
This tour will whisk you away to the cobbled lanes and idyllic fields of the Italian countryside. 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 the Platine Hill
  • Drive the iconic Appian Way - the immaculately preserved ‘Roman Queen of Roads’
  • Visit the Roman Catacombs (tickets and tour included)
  • Follow a trail of Rome’s beautiful Roman aqueducts - the city’s lesser-known treasures.
  • Venture off the beaten track to discover ruins, relics and curiosities hidden from the eye.
  • Enjoy the personalised attention of a private tour guide
  • Combine the intimacy of a walking tour with the comfort of a driving tour
Hop on a golf cart with your own expert guide. 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 the Platine Hill, before you embark on an adventure across the less travelled side of beautiful Rome - the majestic Appian Way. At one time the most important road in the Roman Empire, immaculately preserved, it rolls from Central Rome to the beautiful hills and fields of the neighbouring countryside (and eventually all of 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 tunnels and then drive out to the city’s remaining visible network of aqueducts. Once the pride of Roman engineering, these wonders transported water over long distances to towns and cities, providing the means to construct complex sewage and irrigation systems as well as baths, amongst other things. 

Your experience ends with drop-off back in central Rome. 


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