EU funds sought for Appian Way tourism in Puglia

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Beyond its beaches and food, Puglia is a particular draw for those interested in studying the history of the world. The history of Puglia dates to antiquity and the region played an especially important role in the Roman Empire.

One day, while I was driving around the Brindisi area in Puglia, I turned onto another road and saw a sign ‒ Via Appia. It struck me that I was driving on a portion of the Appian Way, one of the oldest roads in the world.

The Encyclopædia Britannica describes the Appian Way as “one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic.” The Appian Way, begun in 312 BC, linked Rome to the ancient Adriatic Sea port of Brundisium (today’s Brindisi). Britannica continues, “The Appian Way was celebrated by Horace and Statius, who called it ‘longarum regina viarum,’ or ‘queen of long-distance roads,’ the main highway to the seaports of southeastern Italy, and thus to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.”

Pugliapromozione, the Region of Puglia’s official tourism agency, reports that an “elegant Roman column, one of the most important symbols in the Salentinian city, dominates the port of Brindisi from its height of 19 meters, at the top of a long staircase. The column is one of the two Roman columns built during the 2nd century, used as lighthouse and probably to indicate the place in which the old Appian Way ended.” The second column toppled over in 1528 and was moved to Sant’Oronzo square in Lecce. The agency says, “According to the most likely hypothesis, this monument was built in 110 AC by the imperator Trajan, to indicate the detour of the Appian Way from Benevento to Canosa, Ruvo and Egnazia, ending in Brindisi.”

Now, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini says he hopes to be able to allocate funding from the European Union (EU) toward a project to boost tourism for hikers along the Appian Way.

“We are working on a big project for the Appian Way walk,” Franceschini said at a presentation about the project and reported by ANSA, the Italian news agency. “The Appian Way unites areas where foreign tourists don’t arrive, it revalues the South and recovers a unique archaeological heritage.”

Franceschini plans to meet on Oct. 14 with the presidents of the four regions the Appian Way passes through ‒ Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Puglia ‒ to coordinate the project, ANSA reported. “If we succeed in this,” he said, “we will also bring the EU resources.”

If the project succeeds, it can help Puglia, and Southern Italy as a whole, restore and preserve a priceless historical and archaeological resource, as well as provide new opportunities for tourism in less-traveled areas.

As travel writer and tour operator Rick Steves writes, “The wonder of its day, the Appian Way was called the ‘Queen of Roads.’ Twenty-nine such highways fanned out from Rome, but this one was the first and remains a legend. For a time-warp road trip that will take you back 2,000 years, hit the highway.”

Click here for more information about the Appian Way project.

Photo Copyright © Vito Arcomano/Fototeca ENIT

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