The Appian Way was one of the first transportation roads in Italy. It was called “Via Appia” in Italian, but today it is called Via Appia Antica. The road was strategically the most vital Roman route in the ancient roman republic. The road connected the Italian southeast Brindisi to Rome.
The Appian Way was named after a Roman censor known as Appius Claudius Caecus who originally built the road and used it as a military route in the fourth century BC. The road was used to move military supplies to the Roman soldiers during wars. Thus, it was instrumental in several victories recorded during the battles. The construction of the road started with a level ground on which small stones and mortar were laid atop. After this, gravel was placed on top and subsequently, interlocking stones were used to top the road to provide a smooth and flat surface. The original road of the Appian Way has a length of about 210 km. The road starts from the Circus Maximus and passes through the Baths of Caracalla and the Aurelian Wall.
After the city, the road travels through ancient suburbs via the Appian mountains. The road witnessed several ancient extensions which include the Benevenutum extensions in 295 BC and the Tarentum/Venusia extensions in 300 BC.
The Appian Way has astonishing ancient monuments along the routes for tourists to admire. Among the famous ancient monuments are the tombs. Many people were buried along the Appian Way that leads out of the city because it was forbidden to bury the dead within the city of Rome. Thus, famous people built personal and family tombs, some of which were built like houses along the Appian Way. The tombs were built in varieties of shapes that looked like temples, pyramids or a tumulus. Many of the ancient tombs are still intact along the Appian Way today while the remains of the others are very visible with their inscriptions. The tomb of Cecilia Metella who was the wife of a general of Julius Caesar was built like a fortress and it is obviously the best preserved and the most impressive tomb on the Appian Way. Other impressive tombs on the way include the tomb of the family of Sextus Pompeius Justus, the tomb of Romulus, the tomb of Servilius Marcus, and the tomb of the Roman philosopher Seneca amongst others. Emperor Gallienus who was murdered in 268 AD was also buried along the Appian Way.
Apart from the numerous tombs on the Appian Way, there are other famous ancient monuments that lined the road. These include the church Quo Vadis where St. Peter met Christ, the Temple of Hercules, the remains of the San Nicola Gothic church, a chariot race arena and so much more. The underneath of the street contains miles of tunnels which are referred to as the catacombs and are generally loved by tourists.
When the Western Roman Empire fell, the road stopped being used. However, Pope Pius VI later commanded for the road to be restored, and a new Appian Way was therefore built in 1784. The new Appian Way is in parallel with the old one. The new road is known as Via Appia Nuova, which translates to “New Appian Way,” whereas the old section is known as Via Appia Antica.
The first 5 kilometers of the road are used by cars, buses, etc. as of this day and are heavily trafficed. However, after the first 5 kilometers, the traffic is very light. It is therefore advisible for tourists to visit the part of the road that is located a few kilometers outside of the center, where one can explore the ruins and tombs on foot without with too much interfering traffic.