On Sunday in Rome it is especially beautiful on the Appia Antica because there is hardly any traffic. During a walk or a bike ride you will see ancient tombs on the right and left side of the road and after visiting the catacombs you can enjoy a delicious meal in a garden restaurant.
During the week it is very lonely on the Appia Antica as soon as you leave the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella behind. On Sunday, many Romans and tourists come to the Appia Antica for a walk or to do sports. The street is traffic-calmed during the day on Sunday.
The Via Appia Antica in Rome has been an open-air museum for a walk for more than a hundred years. From the tomb of Cecilia Metella there is hardly any car traffic because the road is difficult for cars to drive due to the paving.
When you are on the Appia Antica, visiting the catacombs is practically a must. The Catacombs of Calixtus and the Catacombs of Domitilla are open until 5 p.m. on Sundays. Out of town behind the Catacombs of Calixtus lies the Basilica of St. Sebastian. However, the catacombs of St. Sebastian are closed on Sundays.
Circus of Massentius
A few hundred meters further on on the left is the Circus of Massentius, an ancient racetrack, next to it the remains of the villa and a mausoleum. The complex is one of the museums of the municipality of Rome and admission is free.
Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella
A little further is the mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, which was converted into a castle with a customs post in the Middle Ages. This facility is one of the national museums and there is a ticket that is also valid for the Villa dei Quintili.
Capo di Bove
The Via Appia continues to rise. A few hundred meters after a crossroads you come to number 222. Here is Capo di Bove, an estate where ancient thermal baths and a villa from the 2nd century were discovered. A country house was built on top of a former Roman cistern. The facility is one of the national museums and entry is free. There are changing exhibitions in the country house.
The distance from Saint Sebastian to Capo di Bove is about a two-thirds mile. From here on, the Appia Antica becomes rural. After you have passed a few more villas, you will find agricultural areas to the right and left of the road. The street is modeled on the original street, with a lane and sidewalks. To the right and left of the road there are remains of graves and inscriptions.
Villa of the Quintili
If you continue for two miles from Capo di Bove, you come to the back of the Villa dei Quintili. A little further after the intersection with Via di Tor Carbone and after Villa Dino, there is a kind of back entrance on the left at number 251, which leads to the Villa of the Quintili through the Santa Maria Nova complex. The villa dates from the 2nd century. It is the largest residential complex in the ancient suburb. The same ticket is valid here as in the mauseoleum of Cecilia Metella. !! If the back entrance is closed, you will have to walk a long way back. Depending on the time of year, the villa closes between 4:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., last admission is one hour before. When you exit the villa through the main entrance, you will find a stop for the 118 bus that will take you back to the city center.
The Via Appia Antica is still walkable for many kilometers, past Ciampino Airport to the village of Santa Maria delle Mole. From there you can take the train back to Rome.
It is also very nice to walk back and have dinner in one of the restaurants we mentioned above.
How to get there
There are two bus lines that go through the via Appia Antica, the lines 118 of Piazza Venezia and 218 of the Basilica of St. John.
Both lines stop at the park office of the Regional Park of Appia Antica at the Quo Vadis stop and from there begins a beautiful path with little traffic inside the Catacombs of Calixtus.
The 118 continues on the Appia Antica to the Basilica and the catacombs of St. Sebastian and then on to the Villa of the Quintili. The 218 continues to Via Ardeatina, where there is another stop for the catacombs.
In the area of the catacombs there is a sign for a stop of the line 118. However, the stop has no sidewalk and there is a lot of traffic. If you want to go back to the city, you should go down to the Quo Vadis stop. For line 218 you can also go to Via Ardeatina.
Unfortunately, the 118 runs irregular on Sundays. Alternatively, from Piazza Venezia, take line 30 or line 160. The common stop for 118, 30 and 160 is Teatro Marcello / Ara Coeli. Coming from Piazza Venezia, it’s on the right past the stairs to the Capitol. 30 and 160 stop at Navigatori. From there you have to cross Via Cristoforo Colombo and then follow Via delle Sette Chiese to the Catacombs. The distance to the entrance of the catacombs of Calixtus is just a two-thirds mile.
An alternative to public transport is the purple line of the Hop on Hop Off Big Bus. It offers a ticket for the ride to the Appia Antica bike rental included. With the Premium Ticket and the Deluxe Ticket you can use both the normal Hop on hop off line and the purple line to Appia Antica. City Sightseeing offers in the summer 2-3 trips per day to the catacombs of Domitilla.
It is also very nice by bike on the Via Appia Antica. There are very nice guided bike tours for the park of the Appia Antica and for the park of the aqueducts. You can also go alone, but better book a bike in the city, because the bicycles could all be rented at the park office, at Quo Vadis, on Sunday.
On the Via Appia Antica there are some good dining opportunities.
A first address is L’Archeologia. In this elegant restaurant you can eat inside and out. There are very good fish and fresh oysters and very good meat dishes. The Archeologia often offers regional specialties. The restaurant is opposite the Basilica of St. Sebastian.
Right in front of the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is Garden Risto. The garden is very nicely laid out, maybe there used to be a garden center. The restaurant has made a name for itself in recent years.
Very family-friendly is the garden restaurant Giulia e Fratelli opposite the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella. The family also runs the adjoining noble restaurant Hostaria Antica Roma. Online reservation
A little further up the road is Trattoria Qui nun se more mai, a restaurant with Roman cuisine and an open Grill.
Appia Antica map
Combine our suggestions to put together your program in Rome. Any suggestion is good for half a day or more.