My son plays tennis at a club just off the Ancient Roman road, the Appia antica – the Appian way. When I see him play, I can also take a walk along these beautiful, ancient cobblestones lined with cypresses and Mediterranean pines, and it never fails to put me in a good mood.
The Appia antica linked Rome with the port city of Brindisi, now in modern Puglia. At the time, Brindisi was the most important port for voyages to Greece and the East, so this was an vital transportation hub for the Ancient Roman capital.
The Appia was the first paved road in the Roman Empire.
Construction work began on the Appia in 312 B.C. , enlarging an already existing road that connected Rome with the nearby hills of Albano. Work continued until 190 B.C., when work on the road reached its final destination of Brindisi.
If you’ve ever seen the classic film Spartacus, you’ll know about the revolt of 6000 slaves – let by Spartacus- that took place in 71 B.C. As punishment, the slaves were crucified along the Appia antica – their bodies stretching from Rome to Pompei.
The amazing network of roads the Romans constructed – hence the saying All roads lead to Rome – is impressive, to say the least. The Via Cassia (Rome to Tuscany), Via Aurelia (Rome to France), Via Salaria (Rome to the Marche), Via Flaminia (Rome to Rimini), and many others still exist today.
Many of the technological and engineering feats the Romans mastered to build this impressive ancient transportation network were lost with the fall of the Roman Empire, and would not be regained during the Middle Ages.
These roads – including the Appia- carried soldiers off to conquer far-flung territories to expand the Roman Empire, goods and wares, workmen, slaves, and travellers.
The Appia fell into disuse after the Fall of Rome. It was rediscovered during the Renaissance period and Pope Pius VI would order its restoration. Today, it’s a wonderful destination for Romans and tourists alike. Take a look at the Appia Reginal Park web site for more information to better plan your visit.
On Sundays, when the road is closed to car traffic (yes, modern Romans still use these roads), it’s a popular point for walks, jogs and bicycle rides. The catacombs along the Appia antica are other ancient Roman monuments not to be missed.
Enjoy your walk along the spectacular Appia antica.