Appian Way, 1st and most famous of the ancient Roman roads

One of the best ideas to enjoy the sunny Roman weather and feel like you’re moving back in time is to take a walk along the Appian Way. The Appian Way was Europe’s first superhighway and remained one of Rome’s best attractions. Perhaps the oldest way still in existence was antique Rome’s most important military and economic artery, and it’s mostly intact today! The Appian Way was founded in 312 BCE by the judge Appius Claudius Caecus.

The Via Appia Antica in Rome

The Appian Way was founded in 312 BCE by the authority. The most prominent part is the Via Appia Antica in Rome, which can be traveled over 14 km from the start at the Porta di San Sebastiano to Santa Maria delle Mole.

The Appian Way is amazingly well-preserved. It’s made of large, flat rocks, which have continuously been set in place by thousands of years of rain, feet passing, and wheels over them. Romans come for barbecues and bike rides, and tourists can tour the monuments and visit three of the most comprehensive and most crucial catacombs in Rome. Because of its historical and archaeological value, the area along Via Appia Antica is protected from new constructions and significant changes to the existing ones.

What you can visit in the Appian Way

(left) Façade; (right) interior

San Sebastiano

A part of the road which links S. Sebastiano with S. Paolo Fuori le Mura is still called Via delle Sette Chiese. Cardinal Scipione Borghese nearly totally reconstructed the church in 1612, nephew of Pope Paul V. The new church was designed by Giovanni Vasanzio and Flaminio Ponzio, the architects and designers of Casino di Villa Borghese. S. Sebastiano is one of the seven basilicas tourists to Rome usually visited, in particular after 1552 when St. Philip Neri developed la Visita delle Sette Chiese. This unique pilgrimage was made in one day, beginning from S. Pietro and finishing at S. Maria Maggiore:

  • S. Pietro
  • S. Paolo fuori le Mura
  • S. Sebastiano
  • S. Giovanni in Laterano
  • S. Croce in Gerusalemme
  • S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura
  • S. Maria Maggiore

According to a statement by St. Ambrose, Sebastian was a director in the guard of Emperor Diocletian. He welcomed the Christian faith and supported two guards’ conversion. When Diocletian heard about his action, he punished him to death and commanded his comrades to kill him. They tied him to a tree and shot some arrows at him, then they left the site thinking Sebastian was dead, but he wasn’t, and he recovered thanks to the medicines of a Christian housemother. Then he turned to the Imperial Palace to prove his faith and to be condemned to death.

The reputation of St. Sebastian developed in 680 when a pestilence ended after his remains were taken in Rome during a solemn parade. Later on, depicting his sacrifice became an approved subject for painters and sculptors, as it allowed the possibility to paint a naked male.

Catacombs of Saint Sebastian

They built six underground churches and decorated the walls of dungeons with spiritual paintings. Some of the details of this painting survived to the existing day. Underground constructions are a primary interest for pilgrims and researchers who analyze the survived frescoes and murals.

This crypt, named after the saint St. Sebastian, who is buried here, was first called “catacombs.” According to the description, the name means “near the hollows” because of the tuff deposits located in this area. The term is used commonly to symbolize all underground Christian graves.

Many of these works of art belong to the 3 century. Visitors can admire them only with a guide. The catacombs have a length of several hundred meters. The place is very confusing so that usual visitors can get lost easily. Nearby, the amazing San Callisto dungeon is characterized by the impressive scale and a variety of great religious artifacts. There is a papal crypt, where 9 pontiffs have been buried.

Cecilia Metella

Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella and Castrum Caetani

We know very little about Cecilia Metella, the most famous memorial of Via Appia Antica and a figure of Ancient Rome. Cecilia was the daughter-in-law of Marcus Licinius Crassus, a prime triumvirate member, and a very affluent man. Pope Boniface VIII attributed the ancient monument to his relations, who transformed it into a small fort which blocked the entrance through the Appian way. Its main structure included the grave of Cecilia Metella.

November 11, 1786. I visited the tomb of Metella, which is the first to give one a true idea of what solid masonry really is. These men worked for eternity – all causes of decay were calculated, except the rage of the spoiler, which nothing can resist.

J. W. Goethe – Italian Journey

More activities the Appian Way

Via Appia Antica, you can even find Bars for cafés in peace. That is the best way to bike, drive-by Golf Cart, or walk the ancient Appian Way, as on other days of the week, the road is clogged with cars.

Location: Via Appia Antica, Roma