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Rome – Old Appian Way Park

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More than 2000 years ago, the Appian Way (Via Appia) was a well-travelled road that extended from Rome to the coast at Brindisi. The Romans buried their dead outside the city along the Appian Way, putting up splendid monuments and tombs. In the 3rd century, Christians were under a cloud in Rome, so they buried their dead in underground cemeteries, the catacombs, near the Appian Way. It's not far from the city center to the Appian Way Park (Parco dell'Appia Antica), but kids can feel like they've stepped into ancient Rome.
Appian Way Photo Album

The Old Appian Way Park is a perfect spot for a picnic (or a place to go on Mondays when the museums are closed). And it's a great place to escape the noisy city – here it's open countryside, green fields and forests, birds and crickets, working farms with horses and goats, and it's quiet and peaceful. Our favorite spot - huge grassy area of the Circus of Maxentius.



      The catacombs are a coolest places (quite literally) on the Appian Way. To visit the catacombs, it's guided tours only (tours are in multiple languages) but the guides are friendly to kids and encourage questions. Some of the catacombs are closed during the lunch hour, so check the schedule.
    St. Sebastian Catacombs (Catacombe di San Sebastiano) is one of bigger catacombs, with a labyrinth of galleries and tunnels. On the tour, the guide takes you through a maze of tunnels, lined with catacombs, some with the original marble plaques inscribed with "Rest in peace." In addition to the Christian catacombs are three Roman tombs (like little houses) with funerary urns. Closed Sunday.
      The St. Domitilla Catacombs (Catacombe di Domitilla) has the largest underground basilica, and the tombs and galleries are beautifully painted. Closed Tuesday.
      St. Callixtus Catacombs (Catacombe di San Callisto) were the burial place of the popes in the 3rd century, the tomb of St. Cecilia and other church martyrs, as well as family tombs, decorated with lovely frescoes. Closed Wednesday.

Circus of Maxentius (Circo di Massenzio) – Kids can get out and run around the large grassy area that was a stadium (circus), built by the Emperor Maxentius for chariot races. Imagine 10,000 people on either side in the stands, a magistrate drops a white cloth for the race to begin, twelve chariots (each with four horses) break out of the gates and race laps around the circus.

    There are still remnants of the twelve starting gates and round towers on the west side, long center divider (once adorned with an obelisk that now sits on the fountain in the Piazza Navona), imperial box for the emperor on the north side of the seating, triumphal arch at the eastern end.
      Tip: The Circus of Maxentius was second in size to the Circus Maximus 1,700 ft (520 m) long, 300 ft (92m) wide.

Tomb of Cecilia Metella – More than 2,000 years old, this fancy conical mausoleum was built between 30 and 20 BC for Cecilia Metella, the wife of one of Julius Caesar's generals. In the 14th century, the Caetani family enclosed the tomb in a crenelated brick castle, where they lived.


After the entrance, at the left go through the short dark tunnel, and peer up into the mausoleum, now a home for pigeons and open to the sky. To the right, go through the curtained doorway into the medieval brick tower. Look around at different fragments collected from the Appian Way, including funerary monuments, such as a young boy and his father, and animals - lion, griffin, and ox heads.


Tip: Included in the Archaeologia Card, closed Monday.

    Capo di Bove – The bath at home certainly doesn't look like these ruins of a bath complex from the 2nd century AD, which included cold and hot water pools, warm rooms and sweat bath. The black and white mosaics with twirling vines are lovely, there's also a peaceful garden, tables and chairs.
To see the actual Roman road, just walk south of Via Cecilia Metella on the Appia Antica. Here you'll see the huge smooth paving stones (basoli) on the road, shady trees and fields. The road was built in a remarkably straight line, wide enough for two carriages. As you walk along, you'll come across bits of crumbly tombs and funerary monuments – just imagine the Appian Way in its heyday, the "queen of roads," flanked with tombs in all shapes and sizes, as well as elegant villas, parks and gardens.

Rent bikes (kids bikes are available) at the Appia Antica Caffe, Via Cecila Metella. Bike north on the paths through the Valle della Caffarella (which is very nice), or go south on the dirt paths next to the Via Appia Antica (the road itself is pretty bumpy for bikes). At the cafe next to the bike rental, buy a detailed map of the Old Appian Way Park, marked with paths. Tip: Avoid busy roads such as via Appia Pignatelli.

    Restrooms – Restrooms are available at Capo di Bove, Tomb of Cecilia Metella, and Appia Antica Caffe.
    Tip: To get to the Appian Way from Rome, take the metro Line A to Colli Albani. Pick up bus 660, and get off where it turns around at Via Cecilia Metella and Via Appia.

Fun food


There are a number of restaurants along Via Appia (open on Sundays), as well as Appia Antica Caffe where you can get cold drinks, sandwiches, lasagna, excellent gelato, sit outside in the garden.



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