All roads really DO lead to - and from- Rome.
Considered the world's first super highway, everyone who was anyone traveled along the Appian Way, along with over two thousand years of worth of anonymous citizens too. We were happy to start our first day in Rome by following in their footsteps!
The Appian Way was the first of nearly 30 roads that were built around Rome to connect the heart of the empire to its conquered territories and trade partners. Nicknamed "The Queen of Roads", it's easy to imagine how awe inspiring the Appian Way was thousands of years ago. You can just picture the legions of emperors and senators and military leaders who rode in and out of the world's most powerful city.
It was a good thing that he got an improved bike, as good gear counts for a lot here. The chariot wheel ruts, so beguiling when we first saw them, were a bit of an nightmare when it came to cycling. And the ancient paving stones, still serving the city after two thousand years, were heaved and uneven in several spots. Like everyone else, we soon took to the makeshift dirt path alongside the Appian Way for a slightly improved ride.
However, I was a bit hesitant to explore very far. Sometimes I couldn't determine if I was looking at the entrance to a private estate or a public road. Looking back, I should have been bold and just went for it. What would Caesar or St Peter think of my timid heart?
It was unbelievable that these remarkable treasures were not safeguarded in a museum but were instead just lounging around, waiting for a visiting hand to trace their letters and lean against their base.
The park surrounding the Appian Way is home to several churches, catacombs, tombs, and monuments. While we didn't get to most of them, we were able to take in a few and they were fascinating. We didn't explore as expansively as other travelers might but we did enjoy every moment of it.
The second is that I woke up that morning with a generous assortment of bed bug bites. The previously undetected bites, acquired days earlier, suddenly erupted into vicious welts. I was thrilled to be exploring Rome, but boy was I uncomfortable! Sweaty skin and bed bug bites do not mix.
But even though the day and I were not optimal, the excursion was worth it. I absolutely would return to retrace my steps and hopefully go even further afield.
(In Rome, we stayed at The Beehive and loved it. No bed bugs there! You can read reviews on Trip Advisor, Hotels Combined, and Expedia.)
For reasons that seem a bit silly when I write them down here, it somehow felt foolhardy, even risky, to discover a city in reverse order, tackling Rome from the outside and working my way in. How could I possibly take a metro, and then a bus, and then walk with only vague directions to a no-name bike stand when I still didn't know my Colosseum from my Spanish Steps? And (it's actually embarrassing to admit this) I had never once sought out bike rentals on any other trip. Ever! I had borrowed bikes from hotels, I had been a part of organized bike tours, but I had never gone out of my way to rent them independently, for no other reason than just to explore. Given my inherently wimpy nature, could I really turn my travel plans upside down AND take on a travel "first", no matter how tame, without stressing out? Just the thought of it would bring out my anti-adventurist whimpers. But that was before Rome.
As I look back upon the trip, it seems especially fitting that I became acquainted with Rome the same way that over two thousand years worth of explorers did, sharing an ancient road and a sense of adventure and even trepidation with those who went before me. I loved our time exploring the Appian Way (even with all the itching) and I'm so glad we mixed up our time honored travel style and broke our usual mold to try something new.
- Looking to explore the Appian Way on your next trip to Rome? This is a handy guide and map. If you're going there by public transportation, like we did, this article outlines your different options.
- Bike rentals were about 3 Euros an hour or 15 for the day - cash only. Do a thorough test ride before heading out. Be resigned to walking your bike for several portions of the road. And save a few Euros for cold drinks from the nearby cafe!
- The Appian Way is closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays - but some of the attractions are closed then as well. If there's a particular site that's very important to you, confirm and re-confirm the hours of operation.
- Should this post inspire you to pick up some travel sized bed bug spray, EcoRaider is our preferred brand. Let's just say I learned this lesson the hard way!
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Rome? These article will help:
Rome as a Lasagna: Touring the City's Many Layers.
Roman Recipes: Cooking and Life Lessons from Nonna.
7 Tips To Get The Most From Your Vatican City Tour