Cycling Ancient Rome’s Queen of Roads: Via Appia Antica

After a wonderful first day exploring the city of Rome, our second day was shaping up to be quite different. As part of our four day trip to Rome, I really wanted to dedicate a day to some sort of day trip. I researched several options. One of my top choices was something called the Appian Way, an ancient Roman road leading to Rome. Turns out, one of the most popular ways of exploring the long road is via cycling. I also found out that on Sundays the road is closed to traffic, which means you can cycle to your heart’s content!

Foot to Bus to Bike

Any guide or advice on Italy is always a bit convoluted online. Things tend to be out of date or unclear. Perhaps adding to the confusion, several websites are only in Italian and the English translation is just a bunch of gibberish. As a planner, this was initially quite frustrating. However, sometimes, you just need to go for it. Even if you do not have all the information you think you need and you actually have no idea how things will turn out, taking a risk is not the end of the world. At least, this is what I told myself. 

The Appian Way is located within the Appia Antica Regional Park, southeast of Rome. Regardless of where you are staying Rome, you’ll end up on a bus on the last leg of the journey. Back in Rome, we stayed near the Termini train station, so we first hopped on the metro to Colosseo. At Colosseo, you’ll be able to take a bus to the Appian Way. From Colosseo you’ll most likely take Bus 118. But, you’ll need to decide how you want to travel along the road.

If you want to cycle, there are two places you can rent bikes from. One is at the south end of the park, a cafe called Appia Antica Caffe. From there you can choose whether you’d like to cycle northwest along the road and through the park (takes about 30 minutes each way nonstop) or continue southeast away from the park if you’re in for a longer bike ride. You’ll then turn around to return the bikes and then take the bus from the same spot. If you like this option, then from Colosseo ride Bus 118 until the stop Appia Pignatelli/Almone. The bud ride takes about 20 minutes and from there you walk 10 minutes to the cafe.

Alternatively, you can rent bikes from the Visitor Centre, located at the entrance of the park as you arrive from Rome. Again, take Bus 118, but this time get off earlier at the stop Appia Antica/Domine Quo Vadis. This takes about 10 minutes and leaves you almost in front of the Visitor Centre, called Centro Servizi Appia Antica in Italian. From here, you can rent bikes and helmets. The Visitor Centre also gives you a handy dandy map to help you make your way along the road. 


The great thing about cycling is that you can still see the sights around you, but it doesn’t take you all day. You can zoom from spot to spot! The Visitor’s Centre gives you a wonderful map detailing all the things to see along the road. There are all sorts of things to discover, like churches, catacombs, and ruins. You could potentially do this all day. 


Of course, keep in mind that this road was not originally made for cycling. The terrain changes quite a bit as you go along the road. From the Visitor’s Centre, you bike up a hill and continue on a paved path. From there you go onto small cobblestones. There is one type of terrain that you shouldn’t cycle on — the large cobblestones. Not only will it be a bumpy ride, but you also might damage your bike. Luckily, there are dirt paths along the side during these segments so just try and make your way around. Alternatively, you can always walk your bike. 


Besides the beautiful scenery and ruins, there are some attractions to see too. Three of the largest and most important catacombs in Rome are along the Appia Antica: San Callisto, San Sebastiano, and Santa Domitilla. They each have different hours and are open on different days so you’ll likely only get to see one. 


We visited the Catacombs of San Callisto (St. Callixtus). Built sometime between 250 and 300 A.D., the Catacombs hold the graves of 500,000 Christians, including dozens of martyrs and 16 pontiffs. There are several zones within the Catacombs, one of them being an area called the ‘Little Vatican’. There are at least five martyred and beatified Popes. Impressive, no?

The Appia Antica is a fantastic day trip from Rome and something I recommend to everyone. It’s affordable, interesting, healthy (built-in exercise!), and lots of fun. 


Does anyone else love taking a break from ‘regular’ sightseeing? It’s always great to get some blood pumping. 

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