Via Appia Antica ★★

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 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 563 (350 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 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.

Always on a Sunday

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 above)—along with inline skaters.

Biking the Appian Way has become a favorite activity—though please, try it only on a Sunday. » more

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


Rome's Via Appia Antica is lined by vast systems of underground tunnels where ancient Christians would bury their dead

 (Photo by Damian Entwistle)
Tomb of Cecilia Metella
Rome: Outside the walls

This ancient Roman tomb on Rome's Via Appia Antica became a headquarters of papal-endorsed highway robbery in the Middle Ages

The miraculous footprints (Photo by Peter Heeling)
Domine Quo Vadis
Rome: Outside the walls

The only church in the form of a question, built on the site where St. Peter finally found his mettle

Rome tours
More tours


How long does the Appian Way take?

Even if you're just riding a bus out here to explore one set of catacombs, figure on it taking half the day. If you want to see all of the catacombs plus the tomb and other sights, give it a full day—and have lunch at Hostaria L'Archeologia.

Pick your day wisely

Although each of the three major catacombs keeps the same open hours (9am–noon and 2–5pm) and charges the same admission (€8 each), they all close on a different day of the week:

So if you are gung-ho about it and want to hit all three, make sure you visit on a day when all three are open. (This, actually, is quite wise of them; that way, no matter which day you visit, at last two will be open.)

How to get to the Appian Way
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).



See the roadside antiquities at a moderate pace (Photo by Daniel N. Lang)
Bike the Appian Way
Rome: Outside the walls

On Sundays, the Via Appia Antica is closed to traffic—except for bicyclists