This is, literally, a road trip. We will follow the course of the two Roman roads which connected Rome to Constantinople, passing on our way through five countries, Italy, Albania, F.Y.R.O.M., Greece and Turkey. The Via Appia ran from Rome to Brundisium (Brindisi), where the ancient traveller would take a boat to Dyrrhachium (Durres, Albania) and continue his journey on the Via Egnatia through Albania, Macedonia and Thrace to Constantinople.
Of course, either half of this itinerary could be done on its own as a shorter trip.
Day 1 Arrive in Rome.
Day 2 Walk out of Rome on the Via Appia Antica. Continue by car to Cori and the gardens at Ninfa. Stay in the Monastery at Fossanova.
Day 3 Drive across the Pontine marshes to Terracina and visit the Temple of Jupiter Anxur. Walk along a rural stretch of the ancient road before continuing via the Roman town of Minturnae and the amphitheatre at Capua Vetere to Benevento where we will spend the night.
Day 4 Spend the morning in Benevento and visit the church of Santa Sophia, then head west to the picturesque ruined town of Aeclanum for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon drive to the hilltop town of Melfi and see the excellent museum in the Norman castle, stopping briefly on the way to vist the ‘Mouth of Hell’. The evening will find us in Venosa, home town of the Roman poet Horace.
Day 5 Drive through the wheat fields of Basilicata to the Gravina in Puglia to see the rock-hewn churches. In the afternoon visit the Norman cathedrals of Bitonto and Ruvo and spend the evening in the seaside town of Trani.
Day 6 Pick up the route of the Via Appia Traiana which follows the coast south. Visit the ruins of the Roman port town of Gnathia and then on to Brindisi, where we will visit the museum before taking the overnight boat to Durres.
Day 7 Arrive in Durres, ancient Dyrrhachium, and see the Roman forum and amphitheatre, before driving south to Apollonia, the Greek colony where Octavian (Augustus) was educated. In the afternoon continue driving east and spend the night at the beautiful lakeside town of Ohrid.
Day 8 Spend the day relaxing in Ohrid and visiting its churches. Stay a second night in Ohrid.
Day 9 Head southeast, stopping in Bitola to visit the Roman town of Heraklea. Spend the afternoon at the tomb of Philip of Macedon at Vergina and reach Thessaloniki in the evening.
Day 10 Spend the day exploring the Roman and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki.
Day 11 Drive east, stopping in Kavala to walk a stretch of the old Via Egnatia and to visit the site of Philippi. Stay in Kavala.
Day 12 Drive through Greek and Turkish Thrace. Stop in Büyükçekmece to admire bridge built by the Ottoman architect Sinan which carries the Via Egnatia over the river. Arrive in Istanbul in the evening.
Day 13 Wash off the dust of the journey at one of Istanbul’s many hammams. Enjoy some leisurely site-seeing, including a visit to Agia Sophia and the Archaeological Museum.
Day 14 Return to London