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Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica (95)

The Appia Antica was built by Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 BC. Later, this Via would link Rome with Brindisi. More than 530 kilometres long, it became the nexus between the Italian capital and the Orient.

If you decide to take stroll along the Via Appia Antica, remember that this could be quite a long walk, but it is well worth devoting some time to losing yourself along this narrow, cobbled road. If possible, you should walk along it on a Sunday, when the Via Appia is closed to traffic and it will be much more enjoyable and quieter.

The road was originally the route for funerary processions, and it was also the way by which Saint Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner in 56 AD.

The Via Appia is currently a spot for losing yourself in and for visiting the catacombs of the early Christians. The route starts at the Porta San Sebastiano, where there is a small museum and a marvellous view from its tower. Further on is the Parco degli Scipioni, with the tomb of the Scipioni family, and the Arco di Druso, which supplied the water to the Baths of Caracalla. 

On your way you will also come across the church called Domine Quo Vadis ("Lord, where are you going?"). It was built in 1637 on the spot where Saint Peter, fleeing from Rome, met Jesus.

The story goes that when the first persecutions of the Christians in Imperial Rome took place, Saint Peter wanted to abandon the city to escape death. While on the Via Appia, Christ appeared before him carrying his cross, going towards Rome. The saint, shocked, asked him, "Domine ¿Quo Vadis?" ("Lord, where are you going?"), and Jesus replied, “I am going to Rome to be crucified ". And Peter, understanding his error, returned to Rome to be crucified.

In the nearby church of San Sebastiano is the slab of stone with the supposed footprint of Christ.

Opposite the church are the Catacombs of Saint Callistas and, further on, the church of San Sebastiano fuori le Mura. Facing you will see the tomb of Romulus, son of Emperor Maxentius, and the ruins of the Circus of Maxentius which, though much smaller, is better conserved than the Circus Maximus.

Continuing, you will come to the large, round Tomb of Saint Cecilia Metella. From here you will see that the road goes into the field and is flanked by sepulchres of leading Roman figures. The walk ends at the junction with the Via del Casal Rotondo, where there is another large mausoleum. 

At number 87 of the Via Appia Antica was the Colambarium, which looked like a dovecot but in reality was an old deposit for urns where the Romans kept ashes. It currently houses a lovely restaurant, in which one can appreciate the mortuary chamber, with the recesses in line on the walls, today in the open air and a very welcoming spot, perfect for tasting Italian cuisine.

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