This Queen of Roads, "Regina Viarium," was the most important of the extensive network of roads that traversed the Roman Empire, a masterful feat of engineering that made possible Roman control of a vast area by allowing for the efficient transportation of armies and commercial goods. Begun in 312 BC by Appius Claudius, the road was ancient Europe's first major highway. The first part reached as far as Capua near Naples, ultimately being extended in 191 BC to Brindisi
584 km (365 miles) southeast of Rome on the Adriatic Coast. The ancient roadway begins at Porta San Sebastiano, southeast of the Circus Maximus, passing through grassy fields and shady groves and by the villas of movie stars (Marcello Mastroianni and Gina Lollobrigida had homes here). The area of primary interest lies between the second and third milestones and is still paved with the ancient basoli (basalt stones) over which the Romans drove their carriages—look for the wheel ruts. Pick a sunny day for your visit, wear comfortable shoes, and bring a bottle of water. The Appia Antica is best reached with public transportation (there are no sidewalks along the road). For more information, or bike rentals for exploring the Via Appia, visit the Information Point (Via Appia Antica 58/60 P06/5135316 Open in winter from 9:30–4:30 daily, summer 9:30–5 weekdays and 9:30–6 weekends, August 9:30–5 daily, www.parcoappiaantica.it).