The Appian Way, "Regina Viarum" was one of the most important key route during the Ancient Rome period: built between IV and III century B.C., this route connected Rome to the essential port of Brindisi, passing across Campania. It is now a low traffic route and that makes it perfect for cyclists who love travelling in a unique and lovely road. You will bike for many kilometers immersed in an outside of time atmosphere, surrounded by ancient monuments and beautiful pines in the Roman countryside.
You won't need more than a bike and a sunny day! We recommend to rent the bikes at the near civic 58 in the Ancient Appian Way. Following in Virgil and Horace's footsteps way down towards Puglia, we'll head South on the Appian Way. This ride is within reach of everybody, there's no need to be an athlete, it's just 7 kilometers after all.
Taking the Appian Way from the center, at the 110/126 civic, we'll be on the site of the Catacombs of San Callisto, developed from the half of the 2nd century. This mortuary center is the most ancient and best preserved of the "Regina Viarum" (aka the Appian Way) and it extends for over 15 acres, with a tunnel system of almost 20 kilometers on different levels that can reach a depth of more than 65 fts.
Within the walls of these catacombs were buried dozens od martyrs, 16 Popes and many Christians, but the name comes from the deacon S.Callisto that, at the beginning of the III century, was made responsible by Pope Zefirino to handle the catacombs. Since that moment, this cemetery became official for the Roman Church. This underground cemetery includes different areas, such as "Cripte di Lucina" (Lucina's Crypts) and the area of the Popes and S.Cecilia's, that were found to be the most ancient one of the whole catacombs.
Moving forward the 3rd mile, we leave this place and its rich historical background for many others places alike.
Here, at the 3rd mile of the Appian Way, we find San Sebastiano's Basilica. Story tells that in this church, during Christian persecution, were temporarily secured the bodies of the apostles Peter and Paul. Once in the Basilica, you can access to the wide S.Sebastiano catacomb's system via some stairs.
These Catacombs are made by almost 12 kms of galleries. Its location made them to be the first underground necropolis to be called "catacombs", precisely because they were "close to the quarry" (from the Greek "katà kymbas") of tufa and pozzolana. The tour of these galleries only includes the access of certain areas: from the deepest one, which is Giona's cubicle, named after the IV century murals showing everyday's life scenes of this biblical figure, to the Crypts of S.Sebastiano and to the small square where we find three mausoleums, originally only Pagans.
Keeping on riding our ancient Way, we come across an alluring Villa, devoted to the Emperor Massenzio.
A couple hundred meters from S.Sebastiano, on the left side, you can see the ruins of the Massenzio's Villa, built on behalf of the same emperor. These ruins extends from the second to the third mile of the Appian Way and its composed of three main buildings: The Palace, the circus and the dynastic mausoleum, created in a single architectural unit.
Within a unique structure lined up on the Way, stands the dynastic mausoleum, as known as "Romulus Grave" from the Emperos's son, supposedly to be buried there. The most popular part of the Villa is the circus, the only one among those in Rome to be still so preserved in all his architectural components.
Let's get back on the bike and continue to what is to be considered as the most important sepulchre of the Appian Way.
Moving south along the Way, just after the Massenzio complex, we bump into a very important funerary monument: The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, emblem of the Ancient Appian Way. This massive and elegant tomb was built by a Roman noblewoman known only for the incisions carved in the stone, explaining her family tree. Her father was Cecilio Metello, a consul in 69 b.c., and her husband was Marco Licinio Crasso, who stood up for himself alongside Caesar during the Gaul expedition. This mausoleum is therefore considered to be both a tribute to the departed and a kind of glorification for the wealth, prestige and glories of this family.
The mausoleum is made by a large squared base, on which is put a travertine plated cylinder, decorated on the upper part with a marble ornament with streamers and bull's heads. This ornaments give the name "Capo di Bove" to this area, a term mainly used in the mediaeval period. Despite its likely erection at the beginning of the I century b.c., this mausoleum has been used at least until the II century a.c.. During the Middle Ages, this huge grave became an essential checkpoint along the Appian Way, it was used as defense tower of a fortified village belonged to some among the most powerful Roman families.
Now the gorgeous ruins of the majestic Quintili's Villa, surrounded by 23 acres of green.
Once passed Casale Torlonia (civic n°240), the road is free to ride, flanked by pines and cypresses and full of easy access grave ruins. Enjoy the sun and the nature until our next stop: Quintilli's Villa, State property from 1986, the biggest and showy estate of the Roman suburbs.
Located at the fifth mile of the Way, this Villa is considered to be the largest of the whole suburban Rome. This Villa belonged to the Quintilio brothers, Sesto Condiano and Sesto Valerio Massimo, consuls in 151 a.c. and popular personalities at that time. The actual entrance of the Villa is on the New Appian Way, where an Aniquarium is set up. On the Ancient Way's side there are visible traces of a moumental Ninfeo, that became a castle in the medieval period and that was, the original gate of the estate. This complex faces the Roman countryside with its terraces and offers a breathtaking panorama that has been of inspiration for many artists.
Now let's head toward our last spot of this incredible itinerary, a location that you might have seen in the movie "La grande Bellezza" (The Great Beauty). Get back on the Ancient Appian Way for 200 meters and turn on Pignatelli Appian Way. Follow that road until you find and cross New Appian Way and the Aqueducts Park (as shown in the map).
Caught between Cinecittà and Quarto Miglio, this wonderful 15 acres urban green area, once was Roman countryside connecting the Alban Hills and the doors of the Eternal city. In this area, once arose 6 of the 11 acqueducts providing water to the ancient Rome, that's where this name comes from. In this Park you can find the "Acquedotto Felice" (Happy Acqueduct), built during the Renaissance by the papacy and still used for watering. Like we said before, completing our itinerary here, in this green paradise, might bear you in mind some movie scenes from Paolo Sorrentino's "La grande bellezza".
You will totally remember this bike tour...surrounded with the Roman countryside nature and spectacular places so full of historical significance.