In Italy, an ancient Roman road is undergoing a revival. The Via Appia Antica, which once connected Rome to the south eastern city of Brindisi, has been proposed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The bid is part of Italy’s push to promote slow and sustainable tourism.
The Appian Way, as it is known in English, was built by Emperor Trajan to extend an existing Roman road running from Benevento to Brindisi. The ancient highway has been neglected and buried beneath subsequent constructions for decades. Only little sections are still visible, including a stretch preserved beneath a Macdonald’s.
Now, there is an ambitious project to recover the hidden sections and reconnect the historic road. The bid for UNESCO candidacy hopes to further promote and protect the route.
“After the complex and long evaluation process by ICOMOS, it is hoped that the Appia will be recognized in the famous list during the summer 2024 Session (June-July)”, Angela Maria Ferroni of the culture ministry’s UNESCO office said in a statement earlier this month. The candidacy will be presented by 1 February next year.
“The Appian Way is an itinerary to be enhanced and placed at the center of slow tourism to strengthen the offer of new attractions such as sustainable walkways and routes,” said culture minister Dario Franceschini in May, adding that UNESCO status would be key to the road’s heritage protection.
Dating to 312 BC, the Via Appia Antica became one of the most prominent Roman roads, a kind of ancient super highway. It was even dubbed Regina Viarum or “queen of the roads.”
Italy hopes the restoration of the road can put it on a par with other notable walking routes in Europe.
“Regina Viarum unites territories rich in an extraordinary cultural, archaeological and landscape heritage,” said Franceschi, emphasizing that the route had the potential to join the most famous camino routes across the continent.
In a statement, the culture ministry described the road’s “well-preserved infrastructural, archaeological, architectural, funerary and civil testimonies” as representing “cultural heritage of exceptional importance.”