Its significance is confirmed by the nickname given to the road by ancient Romans: Regina Viarum, the Queen Road. Boasting countless catacombs, temples, mausoleums, and villas, a walk down the cobblestone road is almost like walking into a real-life time machine.
Construction began on the road in 312 B.C. in order to connect Rome to the city of Brundisium, today the city of Brindisi in Puglia, southern Italy. This was a strategic decision, as Brundisium was the Peninsula’s most important port of the era, serving as a gate to Greece and the East. Spanning through a wide range of enemy and allied territories, the route also helped Roman colonization efforts, particularly against the Samnite people of southern Italy. The route finally reached completion at the port of Brundisium in 190 BC, 122 years after it began.
Over the next two thousand years, the road had varying levels of significance.
In 73 B.C., the famous slave revolt led by Spartacus resulted in the crucifixion of over 6,000 slaves by Roman soldiers. The bodies were strung along the 200 km track of Via Appia from Rome to Capua, the city where Spartacus was from (today, near Caserta, Campania, southern Italy).
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Appian Way fell into disuse and was largely forgotten. During the Middle Ages, crusaders used the road to Brindisi, where they sailed to the Holy Land. Later, during the Renaissance period, locals rediscovered the road and its various treasures. More recently, in the middle of the 20th century, Italian celebrities and members of Roman society built exclusive villas here.
Along the Via Appia you can find several monuments, tombs, catacombs and villas. Some of the oldest Christian catacombs are found here, including early Christian martyrs. Notable monuments include: the Tomb of Priscilla, the Papal Catacombs of Callixtus, the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, the Roman baths “Capo di Bove”, and much more.
More useful information on the Via Appia, including monuments and different itineraries, can be found here.
Pictures by By Paul Hermans and Lalupa.