Although it’s now officially October, and it’s technically been fall (or autumn, as the Brits like to remind us), for a few weeks now, every time I step outside, I’m pretty sure it’s still summer. But, it’s that glorious part of summer when you can be out doors at all hours, dressed pretty much any which way you like, and not succumb to the stifling stickiness that marked the better part of June and August (July, notably, was actually not too bad).
So, in honor of these final days of basking in sunshine before the cold and clouds descend (I assume, I’ve never actually been in Italy in the fall before – for all I know it pretty much just stays like this all year round?), I think it’s high time for one last bike ride on the Appian Way. A staple of springtime Saturdays, and quite popular among the parade of visitors that trooped out here in May, an afternoon on the Appian Way is the best way to enjoy a gorgeous weekend day. Alas, by mid-June the thought of the Mediterranean sun pounding on the exposed surface area of my back (I’ve got Tour de France style biking posture, kids), was too much to handle, and I was forced to settle for whiling away my Saturdays with day trips, beach trips and a ton of fried fish. But with this amazing weather and the promise of fall close at hand, I’m ready to head back out there in search of the perfect solution to that ever-elusive combination of exercise, picnicking and old stuff.
The journey officially begins at the intersection of Via Cecilia Metella and Via Appia Antica, reachable by the 660 bus (which also graces a few Metro A stops with its presence). However, before boarding this bus, you must make a very important decision – where to acquire picnic fixings. Personally, if it’s a Saturday morning I’m partial to Trionfale Market, what with its abundant stalls and proximity to both my house and the Metro. I’m also a huge fan of the Circo Massimo Farmer’s Market (also open Sundays!), and from there you can catch the 118 out to Appia Pignatelli (the stop is about 400 metres from the 660 stop, so just as accessible). Either way, fill up your backpack with fruits, veggies, one of those cheeses that gets better the longer it sits out (pecorino always seems to work well…) and a water bottle or two, and catch your bus!
Upon descending from the bus, you will find a bar on the corner with a smattering of tables out front, and a rather spacious back garden. Enter the garden through the gate and encounter a bustling bike rental business. For 3.50 an hour, the bikes are yours and the roadway of Ancient Rome is laid out before you! Guide your bike out onto the cobbled road and get your cycling legs back. No worries if you haven’t engaged in this activity in a long time – it will come right back to you, just like riding a bike! And then, just like that, you’re off! Gliding down an ancient road lined with villas and funerary monuments. A ways down the road you’ll encounter the Villa dei Quintili – a second century villa built by the Quintili family, and eventually confiscated by Emperor Commodus after having its rightful owners killed. Wouldn’t be an imperial real estate story without a little bloodshed! For 6 euro, you can wander around the excavated property, admiring the well-preserved mosaics and marble floors of the baths. Or you can sit in the field and make daisy chains and eat your picnic lunch. I’ll leave it up to you to decide…
What: Bike riding and picnicking along one of Rome’s oldest roads
Where: Via Appia Antica – The Appian Way. It goes all the way to Brindisi, so probably best to just stick to the first 1% of it or so…
How: The 118 and 660 stop very close to the bike rental. The catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastian are a little closer into the city on a less bike-friendly portion of the road, but a combo trip is totally doable. Just avoid Sundays, when the catacombs are closed.
When: Any beautiful day! Some parts of the Appian Way are technically closed to cars on Sundays, but that’s never seemed to stop them, so just head on out there when you want and watch out for the cars!
How much: For 20 EUR you could cover transportation costs, a few hours on the bike, a nice picnic, and admission to the Villa.