A day on Via Appia – Objectives (II)
As I was saying in the previous article, the main objectives on Via Appia are the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, the Circus of Maxentius and the impressive catacombs.
Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella
In the ancient Rome, there was a period when it was forbidden to bury the dead inside the city walls. That is why many important citizens of Rome have been buried along the road that led outside the city. Powerful people of those times built tombs for them or for their entire family. Sometimes, these tombs were quite large and came in many shapes. Many of those monuments can still be seen today along the Via Appia Antica and the most impressive of them all is the tomb of Cecilia Metella, which looks like a fortress.
Circus of Maxentius
Circus of Maxentius was built between 306 and 312 e.n. and it is a large arena where the only games recorded at the circus were its inaugural ones, for the death of Maxentius’ son Valerius Romulus, who died in 309 e.n. at a young age. There were no games recorded there because Maxentius died in 312 e.n.
Close to the Circus, there is a palace built by Emperor Maxentius. This is that emperor who fought Constantine the Great in the battle at the Milvian Bridge, near Rome and died in the waters of the river Tiber.
The Circus was the second in size after the Circus Maximus and it is the best preserved Roman circus. The ruins of the circus can be found between the catacombs of San Sebastiano and the republican tomb of Caecilia Metella.
Catacombs of Rome
Among the catacombs open to the public, we can list:
- San Sebastiano (closed on Sundays and from 26 November to 25 December).
- San Calisto (closed on Wednesdays and from 30 January to 26 February).
- San Domitilla (closed on Tuesdays and in January).
When I went there in January, only the catacombs of San Sebastiano were open, so I can only speak a little about my experience there.
When you arrive there, you buy a ticket and you join a group that is led by a guide. The groups are formed depending on the language you prefer and the guides there speak English, Italian, Spanish and other popular languages. I chose a guide and the group speaking English, though most Romanians would choose Italian for it is pretty easy to understand.
Inside the catacombs you are not allowed to take pictures and you won’t see many bones there, these human remains being moved somewhere else for health reasons.
What is really interesting about the tour through the catacombs is that you descent a lot underground and the guide stops the group for an interesting story at various points. Our group had a guide from Philippines (which is a Catholic country) who was not only very helpful and practical, but also very funny in presenting the historical details. Many times he used to play with us and asked historical or religious questions, just to keep us alert.
One of his questions was about the permanent living in the catacombs. The entire group said that people were living for sure all the time underground. So, if you get there and this question pops up, you should know the answer is different. People couldn’t live there for long because of the volcanic rocks and the toxic gases, sulfur for example, that come from those grounds.
Baths of Caracalla
Baths of Caracalla are among the richest thermal monuments of the Roman Empire.
Open under the rule of emperor Caracalla in 216 e.n., the baths were addressed to all citizens and entrance was free of charge. The buildings complex included a public library and a commercial area.
Palatine Hill – Roman Forum – Colosseum
The Palatine Hill is one of the most important hills of Rome. From 40 meters high, it watches over the Roman Forum on a side and over the Circus Maximus, on the other side.
Legend says that the Palatine Hill is the birth place of Romulus and Remus, the brothers who built Rome. Later on, the place becomes a favorite place for the Roman aristocracy and the emperors who built houses and palaces for themselves on its heights.
The main perspective is to the Roman Forum, which you can admire from the top, before you can go down and visit it.
At the end of the day, you can rest near the Colosseum, the main touristic objective in Rome and Italy. I won’t go into details about Colosseum, I am sure there is already a lot of information online.
I will tell you though that for visiting, you should purchase a ticket online, print it and escape the long queues. More than this, the ticket can be used also for visiting the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
For more details, see here: