How to spend a Sunday in Rome
April 30, 2020
This is my suggestion for a perfect Sunday in Rome, away from the hustle and bustle. If you’ve already seen the Colosseum and the Vatican, heard the whistles at the Spanish Steps and threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, you might want a break from the crowds and queues.
Sunday in Rome
These are two of my favorite places in Rome:
- Via Appia Antica
- The hippodrome (Ippodromo delle Capanelle)
Via Appia Antica
A bit of history
Via Appia was the first modern road of the world and it was built 2300 years ago! I am always impressed of the engineering capabilities of the ancient Romans. The construction began by order of censor Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 BC. The road had a foundation of heavy stone blocks cemented with lime mortar, a layer of gravel and was paved with blocks of lava stone. The stones were carefully fitted together and made for a smooth travelling surface. Also, the 6 meter wide road was slightly inclined to the edges which facilitated a good drainage.
At first, the road went to Capua, about 200 km to the south. It was later extended another 370 km to the port of Brindisi, on the eastern coast of the peninsula.
There are still parts of the original road, especially close to Rome. Try to make it your Sunday in Rome because there are are traffic restrictions and you will be able to enjoy the walk.
How to get there
From the city center, take the metro line A towards Anagnina and get off at Colli Albani. At the center of the square, you will see the bus station, take bus 660 to Cecilia Metella. More about transport in Rome in my post here.
Cecilia Metella is the last stop and is exactly on Via Appia Antica. Right at the station you will find a cafe where you can have a snack or rent a bike.
What to expect
You can explore Via Appia Antica on a bike, with a tour or even on a horse. I prefer walking at my own pace, stopping for photos and exploring around. Also, I think cycling must be difficult on some parts of the road, due to all the irregular stones. Wear comfortable shoes for the walk here and take some water with you.
From the cafe, go left on Via Appia Antica. After a few hundred meters the scenery will begin to resemble the roman countryside. By the road on both sides you will encounter remains of tombs, towers, temples. Close to the Appia Antica Cafe there is also Capo di Bove Complex where you’ll find a museum and the excavation of the baths of a roman estate. The site is free to visit and you will also find here restrooms and vending machines.
Going on, you will step on the original Via Appia, between the umbrella pine trees and cypresses. Walk for about 2km to take in the scenery.
On the other side from the cafe, there are many attractions to visit: catacombs, the tomb of Cecilia Metella, The Circus of Maxentius and the Mausoleum of Maxentius.
If you want to walk back to the city, expect about 6 km to the Colosseum with a difficult part due to traffic, close to the city. You will pass by the small Quo Vadis Domine church where legend says Peter had a vision of Christ as he was leaving the city. You will enter the city through Porta San Sebastiano which also hosts a museum (Museo delle Mura). From here it’s a pleasant walk by the Terme di Caracalla to the Circus Maximus and the Palatine Hill.
If the walk to the city is not what you’re in for, I suggest the racecourse for the next of your Sunday in Rome.
The racecourse: Ippodromo delle Capannelle
The venue is located just before Ciampino Airport and next to the Aqueduct Park. It has trot and gallop tracks of herb and sand, 4 bleachers, a bar and a restaurant and, of course, the betting agency.
Though I know nothing about horses and I’m not a gambler, I found the racecourse a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It’s not as popular as I expected but there were people of all ages at the hippodrome, admiring the horses, placing bets or spending a fun time with the children.
Getting there (and back)
Transport in Rome is not as smooth as you might hope for Italy’s capital. The metro system covers some of the city but not enough for such a large city with so many places to visit all around. The buses have the weirdest routes and all kinds of detours. Check out my quick guide to find your way around Rome’s public transport system here.
To get to the racecourse from Via Appia Antica, take bus 118 from any of the Appia Antica stops towards Appia/Villa dei Quintili. You can check the route here.
Getting back to the city center, I think the easiest way is to take bus no 520 which comes from Ciampino Airport and get off at the metro junction in Cinecitta. At least the metro keeps moving forward, unlike the alternative, bus 664 for example.
What to expect
On weekends the entrance fee is 3€, on week days the access is free. There are races 5 days a week, less in winter. You can check the races schedule here.
You’ll find program flyers in a few places, take one and sit outside while they present the horses before each race. Pick a favourite and keep your fingers crossed when the race begins.
You can place a bet in the agency below the stands. This part was somewhat confusing for me. There are a lot of monitors displaying races from other venues, rankings and odds. Also, there are a lot of men who seem to know what they are doing there. The minimum bet is 2€.
I also have a hint from my extensive-2 races-experience: the horse that makes the most trouble before the race will probably win it. Watch the horses carefully while their handlers walk with them in the presentation area. Remember the number of the one hardest to keep in line.
Whether you placed a bet or just chose a favorite, take a seat in the bleachers or stand on the grass next to the tracks when the race is about to begin. You won’t see the horses as they start the race, the setting allows you to see the finish of each race. There is a large monitor where you can watch the race from the start.
Close to the finish line.
That’s about it, hope you’ll have a great Sunday in Rome, as I did. I’ll be back soon with other less usual things to do in Rome.