The South of Rome includes the historic Appian Way and nearby catacombs, as well as important tourist attractions in EUR, and San Paolo.
EUR: The Square Colosseum
EUR was built in the first years of the 1940s. It was built in a perfect fascist architectural style, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Fascism (Mussolini came to power in 1922, becoming Prime Minister). Its name means "Esposizione Universale di Roma" (Universal Exhibition of Rome); in fact it was also designated to host the International Exhibition in 1942, but this exhibition didn't take place because of the war.
San Paolo is a residential area not so far from the center. Today it hosts several buildings belonging to the RomaTRE University and a very noticeable piece of art, the "Basilica di San Paolo fuori le mura" which certainly deserves a visit. For the rest, it is just a residential borough.
Via Appia, or the Appian Way, was one of the earliest and most important Roman roads. It connected Rome to Brindisi, in southeast Italy, primarily as a route for troops and military supplies. The main part was started and finished in 312 BC. The original route can be followed for 10km or so, much with little or no traffic. It is lined with tombs and in places the original stones used for the road’s construction are exposed. The Appian Way passes close to three catacombs, the Villa dei Quintili and many other important architectural sites. If you are in Rome for a week or so, an exploration of the Appia, with a visit to some catacombs, is a great day out! Many photos of what can be seen are available at .
The Catacombs of Rome were for underground burials. Primarily for Christian burials, they were also used for pagan and Jewish burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together. They began in the 2nd century, due both to a shortage of land and for persecuted Christians to bury their dead secretly. The Christian catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastiano are on the Via Appia and those of San Domitilla are nearby. There are also Jewish Catacombs.
To reach the Appian Way from Termini station, take the 714 bus from outside the station, and change at the 6th bus stop (St Giovanni) to the 218 bus, which will take you all the way to the main entrance to the San Callisto catacombs and then on to San Domitilla catacombs and the Fosse Ardeatine. The 118 bus, which leaves from Ostiense station and passes the Circus Maximus, will get you to the same entrance and then travels a further mile and a half along the Via Appia. Beware that buses in this area are not very reliable, particularly in the morning or evening rush hours, when journeys can be delayed or even arbitrarily cancelled. From the main sites of the Appian Way, consider returning to Rome with a walk through the Caffarella Park, which will bring you to Metro Line A. The Appian Way is closed to cars, but not buses or cycles, on Sundays and public holidays.
Metro line B goes to EUR, with EUR Fermi being the most central station. The line also passes the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura, with the station being named after the basilica.
The Appian Way zone
(See GET IN, above. The 118 goes to the catacombs of San Sebastiano before turning off the Appian Way. At the first major junction after Cecilia Metella (see below) by the bar you can catch the 660 (every half an hour traffic permitting) which will connect you with Metro Line A at Colli Albani station. A further two km along a pleasantly shaded part of the Via Appia, with many small tombs, and you arrive at Via del Tor Carbone. There you can catch the 765 bus (in theory every 20 minutes). West takes you to EUR and Metro Line B back to Rome at Laurentina station, while east connects you with Metro Line A. An alternative, although more expensive, trip is to take the Archeobus which provides a commentary in different languages.), . The Appian Way begins close to the Terme di Caracalla and heads in a south-easterly direction. For the first mile it is known as the Via di Porta San Sebastiano but after passing through the Porta di San Sebastiano it becomes the Via Appia. The first three miles are still heavily used by cars, buses and coaches but from then on traffic is very light and the wonderfully evocative road and its many ruins can be explored on foot or by bicycle in relative safety. The Church of Domine Quo Vadis is on the second mile of the road by the main entrance of the San Callisto catacombs. Opposite is the office of the Appian Way Park (no. 60) where you can get lots of info and rent bicycles (09.30 to 17.30). At the third mile on the right are the church and catacombs of St Sebastian. Opposite the entrance to the church is an 1852 memorial to Luigi Canina who supervised the restoration of the Appian Way under the orders of Pope Pius IX. Without Canina's work there would be little to see now. A little way further on the left is the Circus of Maxentius, the best-preserved chariot race circus in Rome. From there the road climbs slightly to the tomb of Cecilia Metella. After that there is little traffic and, for the fit, the road is straight and can be followed on foot or by bicycle for another four miles or so, with close to 30 small, mainly reconstructed, tombs to examine. Beyond Via del Tor Carbone there are some fascinating ruins but the trip is best done by bicycle as transport back is difficult to find. For lunch there are a few restaurants along the first few miles and a bar near the entrance to San Callisto. Opposite San Sebastian there is usually a mobile van selling drinks and panini. After Cecilia Metella is the somewhat expensive Appia Antica caffé, where you can also hire bicycles. The restaurant opposite does not seem very tourist friendly. There is a small, hardly noticeable, shop a little way further on the right hand side that sells snacks and drinks. Beyond that there is no source of refreshment, other than one water fountain, without a detour.
The attractions of the Appian Way are described here in the order in which they are found along the road, together with a few detours.
The Porta San Sebastiano gate
- Museum of the Walls, Via di Porta San Sebastiano 18 (At the point where Via di Porta San Sebastiano becomes Via Appia Antica. 118 bus or on foot from Terme di Caracalla). 09.00 to 14.00 last admission 13.30. Closed Mondays. Porta San Sebastiano is a gate in the amazingly well-preserved Aurelian Walls. Inside and upstairs is a museum dedicated to the construction of the walls and their recent restoration. You can take a walk along the top of the walls. No wheelchair access. €3.
- The Catacombs of San Callisto, Via Appia Antica 110-126 (Located in a large diamond-shaped park between the Appian Way and Via Ardeatino. To reach the Appian Way, see above. If you don't fancy the 1km walk from the main entrance, the 118 goes further along the Via Appia and you can enter the catacombs through a small gate to the right at the third stop. Beware, however, that the 118 is only every 40 minutes and not reliable.), ☎ +39 06 513 01580. 9.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 17.00. Closed Wednesdays. Although started in the 2nd Century, San Callisto has had many more recent burials, including 16 popes. The burial arcades are almost 20km long. Entry is €6 and includes a guided tour in several languages.
- Domine Quo Vadis. This is not the real name of the church on the corner by the main entrance to San Callisto but it is universally known by this name. By legend it is located on the spot where Saint Peter had a vision of the risen Christ while fleeing persecution in Rome. According to the tradition, Peter asked Jesus, Domine, quo vadis? “Lord, where are you going?” The current church is from 1637. Inside is a copy of a stone said to contain the imprints of the feet of Jesus; the original is maintained in San Sebastiano, further along the Appian Way
Someone is watching you in the garden near the entrance to the Catacomb of St. Domitilla.
- The Catacombs of San Domitilla, via delle Sette Chiese 280 (continue on the 218 from the entrance to San Callisto. Get off at the junction with via delle Sette Chiese and walk northwest for 200m.). 9.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 17.00. Closed on Tuesdays and in January.. The Catacombs of Domitilla are considered to be the best preserved of all Roman catacombs. They are the only ones still to contain bones. Domitilla also has a subterranean basilica, much of which was reconstructed in 1870.
- Fosse Ardeatine, (218 bus takes you to the entrance. 300m east of catacombs of San Domitilla). This was the site of the slaughter in 1944 of 335 Italians, including many Jews from the ghetto, in retaliation for a Partisan attack on German troops in Rome. The caves where the massacre took place are now a National Monument and Memorial Cemetery and can be visited daily.
- Basilica and catacombs of San Sebastiano, (Bus 118 to the entrance. Bus 218 to Fosse Ardeatina then turn left along Via delle Sette Chiese for 400m.). 9.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 17.00. Closed Sundays and 15 Nov. to 15 Dec.. The basilica was originally constructed in the 4th century and dedicated to San Sebastian, a martyr of the 3rd century. Sebastian's remains were transferred to St. Peter's in 826, prior to a Saracen assault when the church was destroyed. The current church was largely constructed in the 17th-century. Until the Great Jubilee in 2000 this was one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, i.e. the churches that all Roman Catholic pilgrims were expected to visit. However, at that time it was replaced by the Sanctuary of Divino Amore (see below). Entrance to the catacombs, which are smaller than the others in the area, is to the right of the church entrance. The area where you buy tickets and wait for tours has a good display of sarcophagi from the catacombs. You can rent a bicycle at the catacombs for further exploration of the Appian Way. €6.00 for the catacombs.
- Jewish Catacombs, Via Appia Pignatelli 4. These are underneath a property known as Vigna Randanini. The catacombs are much smaller than the Christian catacombs and much less easy to visit. Groups are limited to twelve people at any one time and you need to take your own lighting! Contact details are available from the Catacombs Society.Tours are also organized by “Tour in Rome” . At Euros 229 for up to six people for a one and a half hour tour this is clearly a tour for the specialist.
- Caffarella Park, (There are many entrances. After the Quo Vadis church take the narrow road that leads off the Appian Way to the left. After the San Sebastian catacombs take the Vicolo della Basillica opposite, turn right into Via Appia Pignatelli and then first left at Vicolo S. Urbano. Avoiding the Appian Way altogether take the Metro Line A to Colli Albani. The park is 500m SW of the station.), . Caffarella Park covers an area of 339ha and is part of the larger Appia Antica park. It contains both a working farm and numerous Roman ruins, some quite well preserved and is a great place for a stroll or cycle away from Rome’s traffic.
The entrance towers to the Circus of Maxentius
- Circus of Maxentius, Via Appia Antica 153 (118 bus to San Sebastiano then 200m further along the Appian Way, on the left), ☎ 067850350. This well-preserved Roman circus was built at the beginning of the fourth century. It was part of an imperial villa built by Maxentius and the complex also contains the Mausoleum of his son, Romolo. (Only the circus can presently be visited). €5.00.
The tomb of Cecilia Metella.
- Tomb of Cecilia Metella, Via Appia Antica 161 (imposing monument just after the Circus of Maxentius), . from 09.00. Variable closing depending on time of year. The mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, who died in 69 BC, is the best preserved monument on the Appian Way and dominates the surroundings. In the Middle Ages it was transformed into a fortress and battlements were added. At that time there was considerable competition for ownership because of its strategic location. A €6 ticket gives admission to the tomb, to Villa dei Quintili and to the Baths of Caracalla.
- The Original Surface. The lava flow from ancient volcanic eruptions in the Castelli Romani reached approximately to where Cecilia Metella is. The rock was used to construct the Appian Way. A few steps after Cecilia Metella the original stones have been exposed for about 30m. There are further lengthy stretches of exposed stone about 500m further on. In parts of the later stretch you can see grooves made by Roman carts.
Excavations at "Capo di Bove"
- Capo di Bove, Via Appia Antica 222 (on the right hand side of the Appian Way, about 300m further along from Cecilia Metella), ☎ 067806686. 10-16. On Sundays 10-18. This is a recently opened archaeological site displaying the thermal baths of the villa of the wealthy Herod Atticus. Also in the complex is a restored villa, until recently a private residence, that has an exterior completely covered with pieces from Roman ruins, including pipes used in the baths. There are some very helpful staff to show you around, although they only speak Italian. Almost opposite the entrance to the baths is a ruined tower known as the Torre di Capo di Bove. Free.
As of September 2010, the Appian Way is blocked 200m after Capo di Bove as a result of work to relay the cobble stones. It is not possible for cars to pass. Pedestrians and cyclists can, with a little determination, find a route around the blockage.
- Casal Rotondo and further. This is the biggest mausoleum on the Appian Way, at about the sixth mile. It now incorporates a small private villa. It is not known for whom it was built. Immediately after this you can take a left into Via di Casal Rotondo. A short walk down the hill will bring you out at Capannelle, Rome's horse racing course. From there you can take a bus to Metro line A, and back to Rome. For the really fit you can carry on a further three miles or more. At the 8th mile are some ruins originally thought to be part of a Temple of Hercules built by the Emperor Domitian, but now considered to have been more likely a place of rest, or even a factory. Shortly after that is a strange building known as the Priest's Cap because of the shape of its roof. From here it is a short walk to Ciampino Airport from where you can make your way back to the center.
- Villa dei Quintili, Via Appia Nuova, 1092 (difficult to reach by public transport), ☎ 06 39967700, . from 09.00 to 19.00 or sunset, whichever is earlier. Closed Mondays. The web site states that an entrance on the Appian Way is open on Saturdays and Sundays but this is not reliable. This impressive villa was recently excavated and restored. It covers 23 hectares. It is accessed from the Via Appia Nuova but parts can be seen from the Appian Way at around the 5th mile. The villa was built by Maximus and Condinus Quintilii. The emperor Commudus liked it so much that he put the brothers to death in 182 A.D. and took it for himself. A museum has friezes and sculptures from the villa. The nypheum, the tepidarium and the baths may also be visited. A €6 ticket gives admission to the villa, to Cecilia Metella and to the Baths of Caracalla.
Jogging along the aqueducts.
- Parco degli Acquedotti (Aqueduct Park), between Via Appia Nuova and Via Tuscolana (Metro Line A station Giulio Agricola and a 500m walk to the west, but best approached by car from the Via Appia side via the Viale Appio Claudio.). Open all the time. This pleasant park contains very well-preserved ruins of two Roman aqueducts. Gets crowded on Sundays but almost empty the rest of the week. Good place for joggers.
- Abbey of the three fountains (Abazzia delle tre fontane), Via Laurentina, . A truly quiet oasis close to the hustle and bustle of EUR. There are three churches in this complex and the doors are open all day, unlike city churches. The monks produce a range of products such as liqueurs, chocolate and honey, as well as a cure for the illnesses Romans suffer when the Scirocco wind blows in from the Sahara. These are on sale at a shop at the Abbey.
- L. Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography, Viale Lincoln 1, EUR (Tu-Su 9-14), ☎ +39 06 549 521. An ethnographic collection of around 60,000 pieces from European indigenous cultures. Documents evolution from the Palaeolithic age to the Iron Age. €4.
Model of Ancient Rome, showing the Colosseum and the Forums.
- Museo della Civilta Romana (Museum of Rome's Civilization), Piazza G. Agnelli (close to the Pigorini museum) (Metro Line B to EUR Fermi). 09.00 to 14.00, Tuesdays to Fridays, and 09.00 to 19.00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Perhaps most famous for a large model of imperial Rome, (see for a photo of the model) but has a large display of various aspects of ancient Rome, using plaster casts, models and reconstructions of works found in museums throughout the world.
- Rome's Planetarium, (Same entrance as the Museo della Civilta Romana), . Tue-Fri 09.00-14.00: Sat-Sun 09.00-19.00. Regular shows plus an excellent astronomical museum.
St Paul's area
- San Paolo fuori le Mura, Via Ostiense 186. Also known as St Paul Outside the Walls. This is on the outskirts of Rome in an otherwise drab modern neighborhood. The enormous basilica is a faithful reconstruction, finished in 1854, of the ancient basilica which burned down in 1823. Parts of the original interior were rescued from the fire and have been extensively restored. Visiting in the afternoon may avoid the tourist coaches. Don't miss the medieval cloister, which survived the fire.
- Santa Passera, Via Santa Passera 1. This church can be a interesting deviation if you are passing through its neighbourhood. It is believed to be the grave of the Saints Ciro and Giovanni, killed during the time of the Emperor Diocletian. The original name was Abba Cyrus and through Appaciro and then Appacero it finally became Pacera, very close to today's Passera. The building is on top of a 3rd century building still visible in the lower floor and in the underground. The main part of the building dates back to the IX century as do the frescoes on the higher floor. Some of the frescoes have recently been restored. Downstairs there is a small quadrangular room and the underground, where the remains of the two Saints are supposed to be. There are still visible III century traces of Roman frescoes; in front of the stair you can enjoy a small bird, the Justice, and an athlete while in the vault some eight apex stars. Bus 128,780,781,775 (first stop in Via della Magliana). (41.858598,12.460197)
- Centrale Montemartini Museum, Via Ostiense 106 (on the right-hand side of Via Ostiense before you reach St. Paul's. Metro Line B Garbatella station. Buses 23, 271, 769, 770), ☎ 060608 (Centralised phone for all of Rome's museums) ([email protected]), . Tues-Sun. 09.00-19.00. This museum provides an interesting juxtaposition between the buildings and equipment of Rome's first electricity generating plant and the exhibits, which are mainly from excavations of Roman sites. A combined ticket with the museums on the Capitoline Hill provides big reductions. €4.50 plus extra fees for special exhibits.
- Sanctuary of Divino Amore., (on Via Ardeatina outside the GRA ring road. 218 Bus, approximately every half hour. Alternatively, every Saturday night, from Easter until the end of October, a night Pilgrimage on foot sets out at midnight from Piazza di Porta Capena, Rome, and reaches the Sanctuary at 5 o'clock on Sunday morning.), . This is an important place of pilgrimage for Catholics because of the supposedly miraculous powers of an image of the Virgin Mary. The first miracle was in 1740 when a traveller being attacked by a pack of dogs called out to the Virgin’s image for rescue and the dogs calmed down. More recently, the image was moved to Rome in the Second World War and is credited with saving the city from destruction, as a result of which Romans vowed to construct this new sanctuary.
Casal Rotondo on the Appian Way
- Bike. Rent a bike and explore the many remains of the Appian Way park area.
- Al peperoncino, Via Ostiense, 369, ☎ +39 06 54 10 192. Very close to the Basilica di San Paolo fuori le mura and the Metro B San Paolo Basilica station, this pizzeria has a good Roman style pizza (the thin one) and also a good choice of fried vegetables and appetizers. Price is low to mid-range, food quality and service are medium.
- Antico Ristoro, Via Appia Antica 172 (almost opposite Cecilia Metella), ☎ 06/7857918, . 10.00 - 02.00. Slightly overpriced but good restaurant in the centre of the main attractions of the Appian Way. Shares the same grounds as a garden center. Euro 45-50 for three-course meal.
- Cecilia Metella, Via Appia Antica 125 (entrance opposite the basilica and catacombs of St. Sebastian), ☎ 065136743, . Closed on Mondays. Well-known restaurant on a hill overlooking the Appian Way. €40+.
- FelFel, Viale dei Consoli 106, Cinecittà, ☎ 3290989802, . East Mediterranean tastes and spices, CousCous, Shawarma, Kebab, Baklava.
- Gelato di San Crispino, Via Acaia 56 (fairly easy walk from Porta San Sebastiano), . 11-24 Closed Tuesdays. By common consent one of the best, if not the best, ice cream maker in Rome. From humble beginnings here, San Crispino has expanded and you can now buy special packs at Fiumicino airport to take home with you. Pure ingredients; good selection of fruit sorbets (flavours according to the season) and ice creams.
- Il gelato, Via dell'Aeronautica, 105 (Bus 764 - Metro B Laurentina). Closes around 11PM. Nice place to have some weird flavor of ice cream. You'll choose among maybe 50 different and sometime unusual flavors (such as Gorgonzola or Mortadella). Great variety of chocolates and fruits.
- Le Bistrot , Garbatella - Via delle Sette Chiese 160, 06 512 89 91. Creative French and vegetarian cuisine with a very kind staff and a homey environment. Better to reserve.
- Mama Che Pizza, Via Poggio Ameno 34/38. Worth stopping by if you're close to the EUR and it's cheap. They also own the deli right next to it, where you can also get miniature pizzas and breads.
- Sapore&Arte, Via Efeso 24/26 Metro B San Paolo Basilica, Tel. 06 59 60 03 40 Really good and fresh food, this place is run by young people who make extensive use of fair trade food. They have very good dressed potatoes and salads, bruscetta and sweet cakes. Mid-range at lunch and cheap at dinner. Don't miss it if you visit the nearby Basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura.
- Trattoria Zampagna, Via Ostiense, 179, ☎ 06/5742306. 12:30-15:00, 19:00-23:00. Good Roman fare. One of the owners can speak English so that's helpful. Many interesting varieties of pasta along with traditional main courses such as ox tail. The owner has been known to take the time to introduce each of the dishes on the menu to the guests. 20-25.
- Bibelot Arthè, piazza dell'Alberone 13bis, Via Appia Nuova, ☎ 347 33 18 178. Cozy tea room.They offer free table games and serve excellent milk and fruit shakes as well as tea and coffee blends. Prices are mid-range to expensive, but the place is very nice and well furnished. It's possible you'll find a queue around 11PM. Perfect for couples.
If you plan to spend most of your time exploring the centre of Rome, hotels in this area may limit your options and involve you spending rather a lot of time on public transport.
- Hotel Caravel (Caravel Hotel), Via Cristoforo Colombo 124/c, Roma 00147, ☎ +39 06 5180789, . Cheap hotel: a bit off the beaten track but there are good bus connections. Single room from 50 €.
- Villa EUR, Marcellino Champagnat, 2 (metro: Laurentina), ☎ +39.06.54220627, . Very quiet and stylish in midst of a park. You can reach it from the subway by a 5 min walk. The hotel has a small bar, excellent breakfast and a restaurant. In the vicinity of the hotel you can find an excellent restaurant La Taverna de Porto if you want to go out eating. There is also a tennis court, a gymnasium and even an Aikido Dojo. Double room is 150 Euros including breakfast..
- Hotel EUR American Palace Rome, Via Laurentina, 554, ☎ +39 06 5913 552 (fax: +39 06 5911 740), . This four star hotel has been recently refurbished to offer large and well decorated bedrooms. Around Euros 130 for a double booked by internet. Ignore the ridiculously low prices displayed on the Home Page..
- Hotel Victor, Via Annia Regilla, 60, ☎ 06-71289441, . Inexpensive 3-star hotel in the Quarto Miglio area. Convenient for exploring the Appian archeological zone but infrequent bus services needed to reach downtown. Parking available. Euros 90-125/double.
- Relais Horti Flaviani, Via delle Sette Chiese 290, ☎ 06.45554800, . Upmarket hotel in own gated grounds right next door to San Domitilla catacombs. €200-500 for twin/double.
- Castelli Romani. Continuing southeast from the Appian Way brings you to the Castelli Romani, including the Pope's summer home of Castel Gandolfo and the wine-producing town of Frascati.
- Ostia. Continuing southwest from EUR, Ostia is about 25km from the center of Rome. It's considered the capital's beach and is also well-known for the "Tourist Port" with moorings for boats from 8 to 60 metres in length. Don't miss Ostia Antica, the well-preserved ruins of the Roman port.
- See the Get Out section of Rome for more suggestions.
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