Catacombs & Old Appian Way
The historical centre of Rome is defined by the imposing Walls built by Emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century AD. The Aurelian walls are 19 km long and still perfectly preserved having been functional for the city defense ‘till Rome became the Capital of Italy in 1870.
There are several gates in the wall. The most importants correspond to the main roads that leave the city. The Appian Gate, called also San Sebastian Gate, is the most monumental one, declaring the relevance of the Ancient Appian Way leading South. Besides being the first it was considered to be the queen amidst all the other roads built in the ancient times.
We’ll pass through the Appian gate to reach the catacombs located on the Appian way. These were the early Christian cemeteries excavated in the volcanic tufa stone to house the members of the Christian community from the 2nd to the 5th century AD.
We’ll walk along the Appian way to explore the best preserved ancient circus in Rome, located in Emperor Maxentius’s villa. Chariot races were the favorite entertainment of the Romans together with gladiatorial fights, and Maxentius circus offers the possibility to realize the peculiarity of these dangerous games and the actual size and building characteristic of the circuses. Associated with the circus there was the funerary monument of Maxentius’s son Romolus.
Further along there’s one of the symbols of the Appian way: the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, located in a dominating and prominent position with the aim of rendering perpetual glory to her family. Due to it’s location it became the Caetani fortress (the famous pope Bonface VIII) in the Middle Ages as a way to control and tax the visitors to Rome.
Time permitting we can visit a new archeological site: villa Capo di Bove, the remains of a villa’s thermal establishment dating back to 18 hundreds years ago. This site has been recently open to the public and it’s a good example of the constant work of research still going on in the eternal city.