The Via Appia

From Rome to Brindisi, from century to century. A road that traces space and time, that embodies the thoughts, customs and ways of life of peoples throughout history, from the slow death of an empire to the difficult birth of a nation. From the Ancient Romans’ obsession with straight roads to the unabashed abandon of modernity. It’s a story of indifference, malfeasance and moral failure, but it’s also the story of the resilience of this communication route, so like but so unlike all others. For this was, and remains, much more than a road.
Paolo Rumiz writes and lives, lives and writes the discovery – maybe we should say the rediscovery – of the forgotten Via Appia, the road that disappeared under asphalt and construction, under vegetation and the pursuit of “progress”. He stubbornly walks it on foot, and his obstinacy marks the common thread that runs from the first steps – the first pages – on the monumental Roman Appia Antica, to the wild landscapes where the road is lost, thanks to mankind’s fecklessness. He offers us an unbroken chain of warring emotions, all of which make you want to walk it yourself, step by step, never mind the broken, battered feet. You want to be able to lock in to those steps, so charged with history.

Everything happened along the Via Appia, and Rumiz tells its stories. He takes sides, throwing himself without hesitation into the war of hindsight, that which is fought for the value of values. It’s the value of history written on the world, not on the pages of books: like the end of the soldiers of Spartacus, who, as we all remember, was crucified on the Via Appia by the overweening Crassus. But there is no secure historical evidence of this.

Even Rumiz’ journey would stretch the bounds of belief, if his sources were not so solid, so immediate, so convincing. If his days on the trail were “normal”, that means that anybody could do it. The extraordinary rediscovery of the road really happened, and its shameful abandonment really happened too: that’s the keynote of this book, which should find a place on the bookshelves of anyone who loves the hazy outlands of Vivere di Gusto.

The journey has become popular, but as is so often the case, popularity breeds accessibility. Many stretches of this true Via Appia are anything but accessible or comfortable. The plans and drawings in Rumiz’ pages certainly make the going slightly less tough, but you’re still not guaranteed a glass of water on the way. Sans signposts, san memory, sans dignity, the Via Appia is only reborn in the words of a great contemporary storyteller, whose quiet satisfaction at a job well done we can excuse, even applaud.

Publisher: Feltrinelli
Date of release: June 2016
Series: I Narratori
Pages: 384

From a symbolic point of view, it is no exaggeration to say that a road like the Via Appia represented the beginning and the end of a way of understanding art.
[Vittorio Sgarbi]