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A day discovering the ancient Via Appia Antica (without cars)

by Lorenzo Zanini

Tomorrow the Via Appia, the road built in 312 BC in order to connect Ancient Rome to Brundisium, will unveil its long history. The celebration of “Appia Day,” now in its second edition, was attended last year by over 50,000 people.

From 8:00 am-6:00 pm in the Ancient Roman section of this street -- otherwise known as “Regina Viarum” (the Queen of Roads) -- between the Cartiera Latina park and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, more than 120 events will be held. The program calls for the special opening of all the monuments in the area, plus biking and archeological tours, historical storytellers, guided hikes, food and wine tastings, and games along the road and photographic exhibitions.

The cars that usually travel parts of the ancient road will not be allowed to enter. Via Appia will be closed to traffic: Only cyclists and pedestrians will be able to get in. Romans and tourists will be able to discover the historic sites as well as learn more about green, sustainable improvements to the area.

The “Appia Day” aims to underscore the importance of protecting an historical area that has already seen many illegal buildings spring all over the place in recent years.

The “first kilometers of the Via Appia continue to be flooded by private traffic,” said Alberto Fiorillo of Legambiente, an environmental organization, during the press conference held at Trajan’s Markets yesterday. “Our dream is to create a single archaeological park, extending from the Trajan’s Column to the so-called Roman Castles outside the city, in the territory corresponding to the Old Latium.”

Today the Appia Antica Regional Park estends for about 3,500 hectares. The area includes 16 km of the Via Appia Antica , the valley of Caffarella (200 hectares), the archaeological area of the Via Latina, the archaeological area of the Aqueducts (240 hectares), Tenuta Tormarancia (220 hectares) and Tenuta Farnesiana (180 hectares).

The problem is that more than 82% of the Park is privately owned, with a strong predominance of medium- to large property belonging to the families of the old aristocracy (38%), small private property (30%) and religious organizations (14%).

The areas of public property (just over 17.5% of the territory) are more or less evenly divided between state assets (including are part of such monumental and villas in the Quintili and the Seven Netherlands or Capo di Bove) and the municipality of Rome (the green areas of Caffarella, Tor Fiscale and Aqueducts, and the Circus of Maxentius), plus is 2% is military property.