Sadly, the plans for the park were never realized and in the 20th century, with uncontrolled traffic and the turmoil of the World War years, there was a danger that this precious section of the Appian Way would be destroyed. The neighborhood has been vandalized and riddled with criminal activity. Finally in 1988, largely thanks to decades of protests, the area was officially designated a park.
“I remember coming here when I was little,” Eleonora Fanelli, Roman archaeologist and tour guide told me. “I couldn’t believe it was in my town, a place out of a fairy tale where I could imagine a prince on horseback galloping down the path.” Now Fanelli loves to bring visitors here. “Even if it is raining, they want to go out and walk the road, walk on the stones that have traces of chariot wheels, from 312 BC!” She likes to tell the story of the Roman censor, Appius Claudius Caecus, who almost bankrupted the Roman treasury to build this road. Legend has it that even though he went blind, he still maintained quality control by walking barefoot on the road to make sure the stones were properly laid. The Appian Way eventually extended 563 km south to Brindisi on the Adriatic coast, and was key to the creation of the Roman Empire.
Magnanimi has lived in the park for two decades and praises Quilici’s leadership. “Since he started in 2017 he has made the park so much better for Romans and for tourists. New things have opened, such as the 2nd century AD thermal baths of Capo di Bove, where there are beautiful mosaics and a garden. There is also a new ItinerAppia app, where visitors can scan a QR code and learn more about each monument.
“I feel so lucky to live here and to welcome travelers to discover Rome, La Grande Bellezza, for real! “said Magnanimi.” Here they can go back thousands of years to these stones and know how good it is. “
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