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Ancient Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) within the territory of Ariccia


Ancient Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) within the territory of Ariccia


Ancient Aricia, a pre-Roman city famous for hosting the sanctuary of Diana one of the three most important places of worship in the Latin League, probably developed its acropolis where now the current Historic Centre is, as suggested by the recent discovery of the remains of a temple in Saint Nicholas Square. It was a culturally and technologically advanced city: the emissary of Lake Nemi in today's Via della Polveriera (4th century BCE), a construction which in some parts could still stand and operate today, is testimony of that.

The construction of the Appian Way in 312 BCE (probably over an older road) in the valley of Aricia and precisely at the foot of the ancient settlement known as Vallericcia, boosted the economy of the area. Located at the sxiteenth mile of the Regina Viarum (the Queen of Roads), the Appian Way, Aricia became the first resting station.

Following the opening of the first tavern (later commonly called Osteriaccia, “Bad Tavern”), more "tabernae" were built in Vallericcia, as well as warehouses, temples, public buildings and markets, all organized in a forum. The Aricino Forum was located just outside the Roman Gate, probably around the so-called Orto di Mezzo (Middle Garden). The Basto del Diavolo (Devil’s packsaddle) which stands at the crossroads between the Appian Way and Via di Vallericcia, is supposed to be the ancient gateway to the forum.

The most important archaeological findings, next to the numerous tombs and the remains of walls and thermal baths, are the ruins of the Cella (inner chamber) of a temple, probably dedicated to Diana Aricina, and the Substructure of the Appian Way.

Historian F. Castagnoli mentions the Ariccian temple of Diana as one of the only nine cases known in Italy of a temple without an opisthodomos (the rear room of the building) and a rear colonnade; instead, it is characterized by a lateral extension of the back wall of the cell with two wings narrowed and reduced to a narrow porch.

The Substructure is undoubtedly the most spectacular testimony of Roman Aricia that we can still admire today. It was known for being one of the most daring engineering achievements of the Appian Way. It is a viaduct built at the end of the second century BCE, during the Consulate of the Gracchi brothers, and it allowed the crossing of the valley southeast of Ariccia overcoming the steep climb towards Colle Pardo. It is over 230 metres long and 13 metres high, shaped according to a large inclined plane and it was built with a core of Roman cement covered with opus quadratrum of peperino stone.

Remains of many patrician villas scattered in the surrounding area of Ariccia speak to the great urban development that the area underwent, a process that went on in imperial times too, as demonstrated by the Villa of the Emperor Vitellius in Muracce.

Throughout the decades, many artefacts have been found in the Forum and in other places of archeological interest, and they can be seen now on display in Italian and international museums. However, no systematic excavation has ever been conducted. Fortunately, the area called Orto di Mezzo (Middle garden) has remained intact through the centuries and it is still devoted to agricultural use.

Due to the lack of proper excavation and to the fact that Ariccia is located in a valley and that it has been subject for almost two thousand years, after the fall of the Roman Empire, to alluvial deposits and progressive burial, an entire city is supposedly still preserved underground, about three metres below modern Ariccia.

In 1992, during the excavation work along the Appian Way for the placement of sewer pipes, it was possible to verify – as historian E. Lucidi already suggested in 1923 – that the whole stretch between the convent of the Star in Albano and the southeastern end of the "Orto di Mezzo” passing through the extreme slopes of Chigi Park, has been lowered. Photographic surveys carried out at the Urban Gate, the “Basto del Diavolo”, document the extent of the burial.

Prepared by

Museo Senza Frontiere, Saverio Capozzi, sulla base di materiale fornito da:
arch. Francesco Petrucci, dott. Alberto Silvestri, dott.ssa Maria Cristina Vincenti;
© Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF).

Sull’Appia Antica tra Albano e Ariccia (Portale Vigna Mattei) © Palazzo Chigi Ariccia

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