The Appian Way ★★

The Via Appia Antica (Ancient Appian Way) is one of the original seven roads leading to Rome, Italy, and is lined by catacombs and Roman Ruins

The Via Appia Antica, or Ancient Appian way, leading south from Rome
The ancient cobblestones of the Via Appia Antica (Appian Way).
Via Appia Antica ★★

Info office:
Via Appia Antica 58–60
tel. +39-06-513-5316

Open Mon-Sat 9:30am–1:30pm and 2–5:30pm (to 5pm in winter)
Open Sun 9:30am–6:30pm (to 5:30pm in Aug; to 5pm in winter)

Appian Way tours
• Context: Appian Way, Queen of Roads
• Ancient Appian Way, Catacombs and Roman Countryside Bike Tour (S. Callisto)
• Catacombs and Roman Countryside Half-Day Walking Tour (catacomb varies)
• The Appia Antica (either S. Sebastiano or S. Callisto)
• Skip the Line: Crypts and Roman Catacombs Small Group Walking Tour (S. Domitilla)
• Catacombs and Underground Rome Tour (either S. Sebastiano or S. Domitilla)
• Christian Rome Afternoon Tour (catacomb varies)
• The Catacombs and more (catacomb varies)
• The Vatican + Catacombs(catacomb varies)
• Eternal Rome + The Catacombs (catacomb varies)
• Context: Catacombs Excursion (see two less-visited catacombs: Sant'Agnese and Santa Priscilla)
• Context: Jewish Catacombs Rome Map

» View ENLARGED MAP with all listings

The arrow-straight Via Appia Antica was the first of Rome's great consular roads, completed as far as Capua by 312 BC and soon after extended the full 370km (222 miles) all the way to Brindisi in Apulia, the heel of Italy's boot.

Bits of the Ancient Appian Way—there is a semi-parallel modern road called Via Appia Nuova; don't get them mixed up—are covered in tar now to facilitate vehicular traffic.

But the original, rutted Roman flagstones still cover long swathes of this mighty ancient road, and it is lined by magnificent ancient tombs and creepy Christian catacombs.

A quick tour down the Appian Way

The best of the Catacombs
San Callisto - The most crowded, but most impressive.
San Domitilla ★★ - Small but with intimate tours; my favorite.
San Sebastiano - The largest, but least rewarding.
The initial stretch of the Ancient Appian Way in Rome is lined with ancient tombs of Roman families—burials were forbidden within the city walls as early as the 5th century BC—and, beneath the surface, miles of tunnels hewn out of the soft tufa stone.

These tunnels, or catacombs ★★, were where early Christians buried their dead and, during the worst times of persecution, held church services discreetly out of the public eye.  » more

Besides the Christian catacombs, the Via Appia Antica passes by a few other stop-worthy sights. First, at Via Appia Antica 51, is the church of Domine, Quo Vadis?, legendary as the site where the soon-to-be-Saint Peter, scurrying away from the Christian persecutions in Rome, met a vision of Christ blocking the road. Peter asked, "Domine, Quo Vadis?" Latin for 'Lord, where are you going?'  » more

Past the catacombs, on the left side of the road at the top of a hillock, sits the castle-like Tomb of Cecilia Metella. » more

There are loads more tombs, funerary monuments, and roadside attractions along the Appian Way, which are all best explored during a nice stroll, easy mini-bus ride, or lovely (but bumpy) bike ride on a sunny Sunday (see below).

Always on a Sunday

Biking the Appian Way
On Sundays, the Via Appia Antica is closed to traffic—except for bicyclists.

You can rent bikes either in town or at one of four places along the Appian Way (figure €3 per hour or €10–€15 per day):

  • The "Appian Way Park" office in the barn-like structure on your right as you descend the first hill outside the city's Porta San Sebastiano gate (Via Appia Antica 42, tel. +39-06-513-5316,; Nov–Mar: daily 9:30am–4:30pm; Apr–Oct: Mon-Fri 9:30am–5pm, Sat-Sun 9:30am–6pm; Aug: daily 9:30am–5pm).
  • Largo Tacchi Venturi (tel. +39-333-713-7257,; Summer: Sat–Sun 10am–6pm; Fall-Spring: Sat-Sun 10am–4:30pm).
  • Tor Fiscale at Vicolo dell’Acquedotto Felice (tel. +39-339-854-2889; Thurs-Sun 10am–6pm).
  • Appia Antica Caffé at via Appia Antica 175 (tel. +39-338-346-5440 or +39-340-319-8060,; Tues-Sun 0am–4pm—summer to 6pm).

I warn you, however, that the ancient flagstones are terribly bumpy, so you'll end up riding on the dirt path of the grassy shoulder, which can turn into a bit of mountain biking.

The catacombs charge a fee, of course, but the road is also lined with ancient Roman tombs, monuments, and stretches of aqueduct that make for a lovely outing of free sightseeing.

When, after a while, you pass the little Appia Antica Caffé (via Appia Antica, 175, tel. +39-338-346-5440 or +39-340-319-8060,; Closed Mon) on the left at an intersection where your choices are straight or left up Via Cecilia Metella, stock up on snacks and drinks there, as there's nothing but countryside and crumbling ancient, monuments from here all the way to the Castelli Romani hill towns, 19 km (12 miles) away.

The Via Appia Antica remained over the centuries a popular Sunday lunch picnic site for Roman families following the half-forgotten pagan tradition of dining in the presence of one's ancestors on holy days.

This practice was rapidly dying out in the face of the traffic fumes that for the past few decades have choked the venerable road, but a 1990s initiative closed the Via Appia Antica to cars on Sundays, bringing back the picnickers and bicyclists (see sidebar)—along with inline skaters.

Biking the Appian Way has become a favorite activity (see sidebar to the right »)—though please, try it only on a Sunday.

Monday to Saturday this road is teeming with cars, and to try to bike it would be suicidal.

Getting to the Appian Way


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This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 2008–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett