This Awe-Inspiring Destination In Rome Is Never Crowded, According To Rick Steves

Rome is crowded. This isn't news to anyone who has visited in the last several years, especially anyone who has started their Italian vacation in this city. However, there are some incredible historic spots in the Eternal City that aren't packed with people. In fact, one awe-inspiring destination recommended by expert Rick Steves (who has given us some top travel tips) is rarely crowded, despite the historic importance of every foot of it. This favorite spot that Steves recently recommended on his Facebook Page is Rome's Appian Way or Via Appia. As he said in the post, " ... a simple €15 taxi ride dropped me in a pristine setting under umbrella pines, ready to walk the chariot-rutted ancient stones of Rome's Appian Way."


The Appian Way is an ancient Roman road which began construction in 312 BCE and spanned the distance between Rome and Brindisi, a distance of around 430 miles. While some of it is covered by modern roads now, there is quite a bit of it that you can walk. In fact, if you look at the picture above, you can see original paving stones with Roman cart wheel tracks still worn into them. (Some parts have been given modern cobblestones.) The first 10 miles from near the Colosseum towards Brindisi are now a regional park called Parco dell'Appia Antica, and along the route you'll see aqueducts, Christian catacombs, tombs and mausoleums, monuments, and more.

Rick Steves on the Appian Way

On his website, Steves wrote of the Appian Way, "When I visit Rome, I get a thrill walking on the same stones as Julius Caesar or St. Peter. Huge basalt paving blocks form the sturdy base of this roadway. In its heyday, a central strip accommodated animal-powered vehicles, and elevated sidewalks served pedestrians." Truly, it's astonishing that the Appian Way isn't packed all the time. Steves mentions it as a great spot if you're going to Italy in 2025, as that's a Jubilee Year in Rome and about 35 million people are expected to visit. So, finding things outside the city isn't a bad idea. 


If you want a great overview, there is a wonderful documentary called "The Road to Rome," narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, that follows historical authors Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, and Russell Whitfield who walked from Capua to Rome (130 miles) on what would have been the original path and up into the Colosseum, all to raise money for Combat Stress and Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). 

As you walk the road, check out tombs and memorials to the movers and shakers of ancient Rome, like the Tomb of Cecilia Metella (above) from the first century BCE. Plus, stop by the Hostria Antica Roma, a restaurant right across from the tomb that features a few ancient Roman recipes, as well as some vegan options, for which you should consider Steves' important tips about vegetarian food in Europe.


Catacombs and Spartacus

Steves also said of things to do on the Appian Way, " ... you can go underground, touring your choice of early Christian catacombs." These catacombs are miles long and some of the people buried there are now martyrs and saints. Steves tells us there is plenty of early Christian symbolism to explore there as well. If you visit the Catacombs of San Sebastiano (above), created between the late 2nd and early 3rd century CE, a 30-minute tour is around $13. You can also tour the Catacombs of St. Callixtus for around $11.


If Christian history is your area of interest, Steves suggests visiting the Appian Way's Domine Quo Vadis Church. He said, "This tiny 9th century church (redone in the 17th century) was built on the spot where Peter, while fleeing the city to escape Nero's persecution, saw a vision of Christ." Inside he says there is a stone that supposedly has the footprints of Jesus. 

The Appian Way, often called the "Queen of Roads," is also where around 6,000 followers of Spartacus, the famous leader of the rebellion of enslaved people against the Roman Empire, were crucified in 71 BCE in the Third Servile War between Rome and Capua. It's a fascinating destination, and if you bring the younger members of your family, check out Rick Steves secrets for a successful trip to Europe with kids.