After 4 visits to Rome, Italy, there was still one thing on my list I wanted to do in Rome: take a bike tour of the Appian Way! The Appian Way in Rome is the ancient road in the south of the city. Once the entrance road to the center of the Roman Empire, now a lush green area far away from the traffic and tourists of Rome. An Appian Way Bike Tour is the perfect way to explore the area and I wanted to cross if off my list.
Disclaimer: I joined a bike tour of the Appian Way by TopBike Rental & Tours in Rome. I paid for my day tour of the Via Appia in full myself. This post is not sponsored and I’m not affiliated with them, but I do highly recommend their Appian Way bike tour.
What is the Appian Way Rome?
The Appian Way (Or Via Appia) was first used as a military road to the south. First constructions began under the Roman Censor Appius Claudiaus Caecus (hence the name) around 312 BCE. The road was used to transport troops and army material from Rome to the front and helped the Romans win many battles in the south. This opened up new opportunities to extend the road.
The Appian Way was extended to Brindisi where one could set sail for Albania. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the road fell into decay and it wasn’t until 1784 that the Via Appia was restored; making this the New Appian Way. The Appian Way Antica (the old one) is no longer in use as such.
How to explore the Appian Way?
Pieces of the old Appian Way can be found around the old Roman Empire, but the longest stretch is found just outside the walls of Rome. You can visit it for free and walk on a road that was built 2,300 years ago! The first stretch can be accessed by cars and busses too, but the road is car-free on Sunday’s making it for a perfect city escape on the weekend.
I visited the Appian Way on a Monday. We did see some traffic on the road but it was marginal. You can explore the first miles (with the most exciting ruins) on foot. Or you can rent a bike and explore on your own. The road is pretty straight forward and you can always turn around and head back from where you came.
I preferred the guided Appian Way Bike Tour as we had a very knowledgeable guide with us. Not only did he safely maneuver us through the heavy traffic of Rome, but he also shared an abundance of facts and stories about the Romans and the road. It was by far one of the best days I ever had in Rome (mind you, I visited 4 times already and spend in total over 25 days in Rome). Read below what the Appian Way Bike Tour from Rome is like!
Appian Way Bike Tour
I booked the night before by e-mail and received an address where we’d start the tour. Our departure point was not far from the Colosseum which was just a short metro ride away for me. I paid for the tour (€79 per person) and got a ticket. I went into the basement which was lined from left to right with bikes. E-Bikes, normal bikes, fat bikes, mountain bikes, race bikes, you name it: they got it.
I met our tour guide and together we picked a bike with the right height ratio for me. I got a comfortable new saddle and choose a nice white helmet for the day. We received a rain poncho as rain was in the forecast and excitedly we gathered on the streets for a nice group photo.
More Roman history in Ostia Antica near Rome
E-Bike or Mountain Bike for your Bike Tour?
I did a bike tour in Rome before. Read all about my experiences on the panoramic bike tour in Rome here. It was a fun filled day but cycling up all the hills of Rome was hard! I struggled and suffered quite a bit. It was an absolute no-brainer this time to choose for an E-Bike to take on the Appian Way bike tour.
The Appian Way bike tour can be done on a normal mountain bike too. So if you’re way fitter than me and have experience with bike rides, then you can have a normal bike.
I was all but too happy with my E-Bike. It was the first time I rode an E-Bike and I wanted to take it home with me. The Bike is charged by an electric battery and you still need to pedal yourself to keep it in motion. It is not an automatic bike, but with each stride, the electric motor just gives you an extra push. This gives you more speed and saves your energy. You move further and faster with less energy. This way, I was able to enjoy the bike tour of the Via Appia and still keep up with the group.
Safety first on your Via Appia Bike Tour
I did contemplate a little to just hire a bike and go see the Via Appia for myself. In the end, I decided to join the tour as I’d liked the extra details the guide could provide and it would be much safer to navigate Rome by bike.
Cycling in Rome is not dangerous if you know what you’re doing. We each received a well-fitted bike at the shop. We first tested the brakes and wheels. In the Netherlands, we always cycle everywhere but nobody wears a helmet. Not even children. However, when you join a bike tour in Rome, the helmet is mandatory for insurance purposes.
We followed all the instructions of our tour guide to a T. He told us when to cross the road, he stopped the traffic for us to cross as a group. He signaled when to stay on the right or on the left and he instructed when to give extra power or shift gear to keep the group together.
Traffic around Rome can be quite heavy and we had to cross a few major traffic junctions. But thanks to our guide, we patiently waited for the right moment to cross and made it out in one piece. It sounds very simple but he had a hard job keeping all of us in line and together AND managing the traffic and keeping up with the group.
What to Bring for your Appian Way Bike Tour?
The morning of our Appian Way bike tour I hesitated to find the proper outfit to wear. I’m not that vain but I did want to wear my dress. In the end, I decided on my leggings and shirt and was very happy I did. Here are some tips on what to bring on your bike tour of the Appian Way in Rome:
- Comfortable clothes. You’ll be riding the bike for quite some hours in the day. Trousers or leggings work perfect (no dresses).
- Bring your sun cream and sunglasses. I didn’t. The day started out cloudy and there was some wind, so I didn’t bother to put on sun lotion. The results: terrible sunburn on parts of my arms that were exposed to the sun.
- Bring an extra bottle of water. It is always good to stay hydrated when exercising (even if it’s on an e-bike). There are plenty of fountains in Rome, so you can fill up your own water bottle.
- Bring your camera (like my Canon G9X– all images are made with this camera). There are plenty of stops along the Appian Way to snap some pictures. Each of our bikes was fitted with a small bag to store your stuff.
Aurelian Walls and the first miles of the Appian Way
We left the bike shop and our guide led us through a maze of back streets and quiet roads. Before we knew it, we were almost outside the city walls of Rome. We left the Aurelian wall behind us where the Appian Way starts and cycled along.
On the way, we saw ancient monuments, old churches, Roman statues and passed through the Aurelian Walls. It was only now we were outside the center of Rome.
We cycled up a small hill and the scene opened up to us. We rode in a single line but when I looked left and right, the tall grass was waving in the wind. The path, lined by cypress trees felt like a scene from the Gladiator movie (you know, where he comes home and sees his house in the distance across fields of waving grass).
We left the traffic and noise of Rome behind us but were only meters away for the ring road! I could not believe this was also Rome. No crowds, no selfie sticks, just the wind through my hair and the sun on my face.
Catacombs of St. Callixtus Rome
We parked at the catacombs of St. Callixtus for a visit. This was included in the tour price. We were guided by a member of the order who explained what the catacombs were designed for and why they were needed. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed so I have no pictures to share.
We descended down into the catacombs and walked through a maze of ancient grave niches. Here we even saw the room were some of the first popes of Rome rested their heads. We explored the rows of niches and small rooms for certain orders. All in all, the tour lasted a good hour and gave a good insight into this important monument for early Christianity in Rome. For more information, check out the website of St. Callixtus Rome.
Via Appia Antica
After the Catacombs, we continued our bike tour and passed the Circus of Maxentius and the tomb of Geta. This was once the gateway tomb for the Via Appia. We continued towards a part of the Via Appia that looked like the ancient road. We passed luxurious villas and navigated the narrow path on the Via Appia Antica. This was my favorite part of the bike tour as the Via Appia looked ancient and was surrounded by lush green trees and we didn’t hear any traffic.
Roman Aqueducts outside Rome
After this part of the Via Appia, we continued into the outskirts of Rome and our guide navigated us through a bunch of roads and green fields. In the end, we ended up at the Roman Aqueducts! I recognized them because you can see them on the bus if you arrive at Rome Ciampino airport. It felt like we were a long way from the center of Rome but actually, it is quite close.
Our guide explained about the building techniques used to erect the aqueducts and the mistakes the Romans had to overcome to direct water to the city. We cycled along them and underneath them.
Cheese and Wine Tasting
Now, we picked up the pace as we rode over small country paths. Green everywhere, open views and the silence of nature. I absolutely loved it. Here and there, we found some ruins sticking their head out from the grass fields but overall, there was nothing or nobody around.
We arrived at a rustic farmhouse where we sat down for some delicious cheese and wine tasting and a rest. I couldn’t believe we had been cycling for almost the whole day!
Rome away from the crowds
What I liked so much about this Appian Way Bike Tour was that I was away from the crowds of Rome for a whole day. And I didn’t have to travel that far. Just a stone’s throw from the center of Rome, the Via Appia was a lush, green and quiet surrounding. I got to see historic and cultural sights while being outdoors and not having to walk! We covered a lot of ground, but I wasn’t exhausted at the end of the day (just a bit tired of all the nice impressions). We saw a lot of unique off the beaten path sights of Rome, without the crowds!
End of the Via Appia Bike Tour
After our Roman delicacy tasting, it was time to head back into the city. Slowly, the traffic around us grew, the green vanished and the concrete was back. We visited the Baths of Caracalla for a quick view and to see where all the water from the aqueducts would go before we arrived back at the bike shop. I was so tired from cycling all day but what a great day! Maybe my best day in Rome ever!
Want to enjoy Rome and the Appian Way by bike too?
For me, this bike tour of the Appian Way was a perfect day. If you’re looking to see new things, enjoy the day outside and explore historic Rome, then this bike tour is perfect for you! You can reserve the same Via Appia bike tour with the same company via GetYourGuide. Check for prices and availability here. Or go on their half day bike tour instead.
Have you ever considered to take a bike tour in Rome? Do you want to explore the Via Appia Antica in Rome? Would you choose for an e-bike or normal bike? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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