The Top 10 Ancient Roads

Although not many of the famously straight Roman roads still exist, there are many ancient monuments waiting to be explored by car.
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The ancient site of Palmyra, Syria
The ancient site of Palmyra, Syria  (Getty Images)

Damascus—Aleppo, Syria
Damascus’s Via Recta (Straight Street) where St. Paul once walked, retains Roman colonnades and arches. The M1 heads north via the ancient cities of Hama and Homs, before reaching exquisite Aleppo. Tour the seven city gates, and, of course, the Citadel of Aleppo, which is still remarkable despite a turbulent history.
PLANNING: www.syriagate.com

Corinth—Mycenae—Epidavros, Greece
From Corinth, head southwest to reach the remarkable ruins of ancient Corinth, dominated by the Temple of Apollo. Backtrack and continue to Mycenae. Once home to Homer’s King Agamemnon, the city was the setting of many of the great Classical tragedies. About an hour’s drive east is Epidavros, where you’ll see a remarkable ancient theater that has only recently been uncovered.
PLANNING: Bring a good translation of Homer to get in the mood. www.gnto.gr

Pula—Split, Croatia
About six hours north from Pula and its giant colosseum (with room for 20,000 gladiator fans), you enter seaside Dalmatia—“the heart of Croatia.” Outside Split there are two of Dalmatia’s best-preserved archaeological sites, Greek Issa and Roman Salona. At Split’s very center is Diocletian’s palace, built for the third-century Roman emperor.
PLANNING: To see more excavated wonders, visit the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments in Split. www.istria-pula.com

Pompeii—Herculaneum—Paestum, Italy
In A.D. 79, ash from Mount Vesuvius’ eruption turned a city to stone. There is a lot to see at the site, just 40 minutes from Naples, but it’s also worth visiting the archaeological museum in Herculaneum, which stores more fragile artifacts. From here, take the A3 to the coastal ruins at Paestum, where a basilica, forum, and the Temple of Neptune are well preserved.
PLANNING: If you need a snack, close to Paestum is Battipaglia, a region famed for its buffalo mozzarella. www.pompeiistites.org

Agrigento—Selinunte, Italy
Agrigento in Sicily is one of the ancient world’s most beautiful cities and retains much of its old splendor. From east to west along Via Sacra you’ll pass the Temples of Juno, Concordia, and Olympian Zeus. From here, the ocean frames the two-hour drive north along the SS115 to Selinunte’s numerous Greek temples.
PLANNING: www.regione.sicilia.it

Reproduced with permission from Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips, 2010, National Geographic. All rights reserved.

Published: 15 Sep 2010 | Last Updated: 31 Jul 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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