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Rome Attractions - The Appian Way

Opened in 312 b. C. by the censor Appio Claudius, during the Sannite wars, in order to join Rome "caput mundi" with the southern provinces of the peninsula, with Africa and the East. It became in short time the elected road, sacred to the cult of the dead, crossed during the Latin holidays by the crowd going to the temple of Giove on the summit of mount Cavo or to the temple of Diana, by the shores of the Nemi lake. The Appian way ran here straight -after this the name of " recto " - at first followed the line of an existing road to the Alban hills and reached the Agro Pontino. After the Appio Forum it touched the city of Terracina and it continued for Fondi until Capua.

Some year later it was extended via Benevento and Venosa, native land of Orazio, and a century later to Taranto and Brindisi. In the first years of II the century A.D. the emperor Traiano added his name to the road. With the New Appian Traian Way it was possible to go from Rome to Brindisi in 13/14 days with a total distance of 540 kilometres. The road was approximately 4.15 meters wide, enough to permit the transit of two chariots at the same time. Two sidewalks in earth delimited by stone flanked the track. Every 10/13 km in the most busy sections were aligned along the road the so-called "stations" for the change of the horses and " taberne ", which offered refreshments and lodging for travellers.

The construction was extremely difficult , was realized solving natural difficulties with an amazingly modern plan of conception which made of it a solid, rational road with easy access. Bridges across the rivers were built, valleys filled, heights flattened, channels dug, banks raised in order to contain waters of the rivers, it was covered with blocks of hard basalt that still today emerge from the road. After the fall of the empire and barbarian invasions the road fell into decay and was abandoned. The monuments were sacked and lost their works of art and decorations; Grass grew wildly upon the road which slowly disappeared from sight. Columns, marbles, statues, friezes, relieves started to embellish the new buildings of the City, the new Christian basilicas and noble castles.

Towards the half of the ' 700 historians started to dig discovering important works and collecting fragments. The first Christian cemeteries rose along the Appian Way at the end of the I century: along this road the most important necropolis were discovered, the Catacombs of S. Callisto, going back to the II sec., and those of S. Sebastian, in which were housed for a while the bodies of the two Apostles of the Roman Church: Peter and Paul. The history has confirmed that the Apostle entered in the city walking along the Appian Way.

The most interesting section of the Appian Way goes from the tomb of Cecilia Metella to Casal Rotondo, approximately km. 4,500 long: marble ruins, relieves or broken statues, other ruins covered by grass, along the road flanked by high pine trees and cypresses of the Campagna Romana; on a side run the arches of a Roman aqueduct, at the horizon emerges the profile of the Roman Castles and towards the sea the plain, a sight out of time that has fascinated many great poets, from Orazio to Ovid, Goethe, Byron, Carducci, D'Annunzio