Walking via Appia Antica

On my very last day in Italy, after travelling for nearly 40 days, it was a fine and clear Sunday and a perfect day for an outing. I think it was the 118 bus from Piazza Venezia that made it’s way out of the city walls at Porta San Sebastiano. Because it was a Sunday and the Appia is closed to traffic, the bus turns off before the visitor centre, so I was off and walking sooner than I thought.

The via Appia Antica is the ancient road built in sections, initially to connect Rome to the south in the Samnite wars (312BC), for military means. Eventually, it was extended bit by bit and used to connect Rome to Brindisi. Rome to Jerusalem, Rome to Constantinople. This site linked explains how there is work in progress to attempt to have this safely walkable as a Camino type route for the future: http://www.viefrancigene.org/en/resource/tour/a-piedi-roma-brindisi/ .

The road was constructed with volcanic rock and the use of a lime based cement. When it was originally built the road was smooth and tightly fitted. Now the cement has worn away leaving loosely placed stones. The road in fact changes in appearance from time to time, I assume due to repairs that have had to be made in different eras. Sometimes there are small closely packed cobbles and other times the large stones, and then other times, a bit of seal.(The feature picture shows two kinds).

The Chiesa of Domine quo Vadis was my first stop. See my post ‘No Photos’ for a bit of background to the importance of this church.  https://wordpress.com/post/howfarishappy.wordpress.com/1359

By the Catacombs of San Callisto is a small visitors centre with very welcome public toilets. I did not wish to visit the catacombs this day. Time felt precious to split my focus, the weather was gorgeous and I wanted the walk.

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There is a big park area parallel to the Appia from the visitor centre but I wanted to walk the actual road.

I saw no obvious tourists the day I was here. The people I passed seemed to be all Italians. Families in their Sunday best. There was lots of children.

There were also lots of bikes. I would question how comfortable this would be in places. Mountain bikes are the only kind that can manage the large stones that make up sections of the road. Many resort to going off the road, carving paths into the kerbside to make a smoother run for themselves. A fast biker got a tongue lashing by an Italian women who considered he was going far too fast to be safe for the families walking.

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Some people went by on horses. This looked serene.

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The road is closed to traffic but of course residents need to still come along so it felt like there was still too many cars edging along trying to safely pass the pedestrians. The smaller cars with a lower base had to maneuver very cautiously, sideways at times to get over the bumps and bulges of the stone road.

I passed many interesting markers, ruins, significant structures and lovely rural scenery along the way. The Tomb of Caecilia Metella , the site of where the Circus of Maxentius was, (second in size to circus Maximus in Rome), mausoleums and churches.

 

Capo di Bove was an interesting place to have a look. It was in private ownership and with grapes growing over it until 2002, when it was returned to the Italian government and excavated. There are ruins of baths from the 2nd century AD including the caldarium, (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath) and frigidarium (cold bath) and mosaics. There is also an ancient farmhouse with a photographic display, and modern art in the garden.

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All the interesting history, for me, on this final day of being in Italy, paled in comparison to what I was really enjoying. It was the physical environment. So close to Rome but worlds away. It was such lovely countryside, with trees and green grass, grapes and fruit trees, flowers and sheep. It was a tonic after so much time spent in the city.

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I’ve had trouble trying to figure out the distances but I would estimate I walked about 5 kms to the crossroads of via Appia Antica with via Trebazia and via Cinquetorri. Then turned and started back. It was 3 pm by now and in the last few days of November it started to grow cold in the shade of the trees.

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so ate at the Caffe Dell Appia Antica, http://www.appiaanticacaffe.it/new/index.php/en/  Yum! I had a feast. It had been a big walk and was late in the day. Melanzane, torta, tea. There was a very elegant lady drinking Crodino, so I copied her and had one too, so that I might feel elegant. She did cause a small ruckus though when she commented to the occupants of the next table that the Mother should not be smoking in front of her children, that it does not set a good example. This was not welcome advise and after a few terse words, the family left.

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On the way back there was a sign up showing an apartment in a farmhouse was for let. Out of interest, (as it is soooo beautiful here and so close to Rome), I enquired as to the price. 250 Euro a week. What a nice lifestyle that would be, working in the hum of Rome and then returning each evening to this tranquil piece of Italian paradise. Dream on Andrea…

And so, I trailed back to the bus stop, reentered Rome’s city walls, passed the baths of Caracalla and on in to the centre of the city. It was such a special way to end such a special journey.

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