Rome's Caffarella Park: Overlooked By Tourists, But A Local Favorite

When you think of Rome, one might envision narrow cobblestone streets with clothesline-draped alleyways, enormous ancient Roman structures like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and spacious piazzas lined with tables of people eating delicious pasta and pizza. Rarely does one imagine large green spaces filled with locals going about their daily life. But why is this the case in Rome when so many other European cities are known for such spaces and are even popular tourist spots, like the Parc du Champ-de-Mars in Paris or the Englischer Garten in Munich? Well, to be frank, there are just so many amazing things to see that often the best parts of this ancient and wonderful city get overlooked. However, if you have some extra time you won't regret taking a day to do as the Romans do on their weekends off and head to Rome's Caffarella Park.

Parco della Caffarella — as the Italians call it — is a sprawling green space smack in the middle of the southern end of the city and more than double the size of the Villa Borghese park on the north side of the city. Bordering each side of the park is the newer Via Latina roadway and the Via Appia Antica (or the Appian Way). Here you'll find a number of ancient sites not often talked about in guidebooks and blogs while surrounded by beautiful nature not often seen in Rome's bustling urban center.

What you'll find in Parco della Caffarella

Parco della Caffarella is so expansive in size (almost 470 acres) that it actually goes by a number of names. However, the most common name, Parco della Caffarella, comes from the Caffarelli family who owned a large estate in the area. Throughout the park, you will find ancient structures, old farmhouses, stone mills and rolling green fields, small pockets of nature reserves, and the Almone River, a one-time tributary of the Tiber that was revered and used by ancient Roman cults for their rituals.

The Appian Way is an especially important part of the park. This is an ancient road that begins at the walls of the city at the Arch of Drusus (Arco di Druso) and ends nearly 400 miles south of Rome in Brindisi. The roadway was highly regarded as an engineering and logistical marvel as it connected the center of Rome to the empire's seaports along the Italian coastline. If you were to walk along the stretch of road inside the park heading away from the city you will pass by important sites like the Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, the Roman Cistern at the Circus of Maxentius, Villa di Massenzio, and the Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella. You should also be sure to walk along the trails in the center of the park and see the Nymphaeum of Egeria — a memorial site built by Herodes Atticus for his late wife, Annia Regilla.

Best ways to explore Parco della Caffarella

If you want to explore the Appia Antica side of the park, take bus 118 (for Appia/Villa Dei Quintili) from the city center and get off at Appia Antica/Travicella. From here you can walk along the Appia Antica but you'll be able to see more if you rent a bike. You can find bike rentals nearby the park or join a tour group with an expert guide who can tell you more about the history of the sites you'll see along the way. For an even more unique way to see this ancient piece of nature in Rome, you can also go by horseback!

If you want to enter from the Via Latina side and walk throughout the heart of the park, you can take Metro A to Colli Albani and walk southwest toward the park. This is the side most locals will enter from and where you'll find a little of everything — families with strollers, runners and hikers, mountain bikers, drum and dancing circles, and yoga and Pilates classes. If you head to Casale Della Vaccareccia, an old farmhouse in the center of the park, you will be able to wander along the multiple trails that lead toward the center. Here you'll feel like you've stepped into remote farmland as you hear the herds of sheep bleating. You may even be able to buy some snacks and sheep cheese (yes, made in-house) for a little picnic in the park!