Tales from the Via Appia

The road is long and ever changing, we know not what lies ahead

Yet we go on, steady and strong making light of things left behind instead.

It is only when lost do you discover what has been left behind for you to find,

Daring to go where ever your legs take you, daring to seek knowledge that inspires design


    Ciao! My name is Norman Palacious, I am a senior in the B.E.D program in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. I am currently expanding my horizons in Rome, Italy with a group of my esteemed colleagues. Though my blog post is a little late, I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. Jake Halsne, Jake Woll, Garrett and I recently ventured to the Appian Way (Via Appia) to experience one of Rome’s most important roadways connecting her inner city to Brindisi in southern Italy, which is a coastal city allowing those who wished it to continue their journey on to Greece and vice versa. Little did I know that it would be a road once lined with Roman slaves crucified as a warning to outsiders that would help to forge one of my fondest memories on the trip thus far.

    “Bro, do you know where we are?” I asked. “Yeah, its this way…..uhhh, no this way.” said J.W. This is nothing new for the Jake’s and I, getting lost has always been half the fun. Its not a story until something unexpected happens. We adjusted our course after encountering a map of the Appian way and the park surrounding it. Travelling along the Aurelian Wall towards our destined path, we were met with the gate of St. Sebastian’s imposing facade. Probably the largest well preserved gateway into Rome from her walls, it was constructed in 275 AD. We entered expecting a fee, however today must have been our lucky day because entry was free. After a bit of exploration, we found several old aerial photos of the Via Appia and decided that we needed to get moving as we had much ground to cover.


    However, before We left I stopped at a vending machine to purchase a bottle of water for fifty cents. After receiving the water, the machine refused to give me any change. I looked back for the curator’s assistance but she was no where to be found. I pressed the combination again, out pops another water. i decide, “what the hell”, I type in the combo for a coke, out pops a coke. Without getting too greedy, I quickly vanish with my spoils. Exiting with the coke still in hand, I asked the Jakes where Garrett was. They indicated that he was still inside. I then proceeded to tell them about my luck with the machine. Being the ‘Savages’ I know them to be, they quickly dashed inside to answer the sweet call of opportunity. It was then that we learnt that the machine had failed to give change to several others and had a few extra dollars in credit stored up. To all the people that left their change behind, we salute you.

  Continuing our journey, Garrett soon realized that he had left his water bottle in the gate’s bathroom. Luckily, I had a spare jug handy, though it could not replace his container, he would not have to worry about getting parched later. We approached a church on the curb of a fork in the road with a huge Palazzo or garden ahead of us. Following a few signs we continued on. “Where does that go?” I hear a voice ponder. Looking around, I suddenly saw J.W. scaling the side of a wall with an opening in the side. Moments after Jacob follows him,  ” are you guys serious right now?’ I shout across the street. Watching Garrett prepare to make the climb I decided right there and then, “I better go and keep them out of trouble” 😛

     Over the wall appeared a huge field of green surrounded by stone pine. The grey sky and damp appearance gave me the sensation of being back in Gatwick, London waiting for my connecting flight into Rome. There was a strange calm in that space resembling that of a graveyard.We had entered a most solemn space but the knowledge of whether we were trespassing or not was still very up in the air. We were utterly alone here. In the distance stood a mound resembling a structure that could have been an ancient crypt now gutted and stood only as a marker of a forgotten time. “You coming up Norman?” asked a voice atop the mound. “I’m good, the way gravity set up, I don’t think its a good idea for me to attempt that climb.” we laugh for a moment and embrace the sounds of the wind rolling along the hillside. I get a sketch in, looks terrible. Reminds me why we are asked to truly practice everyday. I look around for my motley crew and catch a glimpse of Garrett scampering across the field and my Jake’s gesturing me to come quickly. “Where do you think this leads?”, J.W. asks. I think to myself,”Doesn’t matter, we have been playing Dora the Explorer all day, no need to back down now because its dark and scary.” We wonder in and discover a crypt with Papal symbols on each of them. With nothing but our cell phones lighting the room we decide to take our leave out of respect for the dead. IMG_5272

   Like a thief in the night, a car shoots past us, slowing down as if confused by our appearance. We decided to make an abrupt and swift exit through the “entrance” we discovered. Continuing our journey, we arrived at the Basilica of Saint Sebastian which seemed to have had just concluded afternoon mass. We took a quick look inside the church as it has become somewhat of a hobby in Rome.


     Breaking for lunch made by our beloved Jacob, we four architects decide that now is not the time to call it quits, we must go where many men and women have gone before. We must continue our journey on the Appian Way. Little did we know, our true journey had just begun.

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