When Europe reopens, consider a Roman road trip inspired by an old guide book. The Vicarello routes describe what we might call the scenic route from Cadiz to Rome. Insights into the Empire’s preeminent architecture can be found along the way, and new digital tools can provide you with key sources.

Tools to travel like a Roman

Use your favorite mapping tool to navigate and let go of the modern highway ORBIS Plan a parallel journey along Roman roads. ORBIS, which means “world” in Latin, is a spatial model of the Roman transit system. Simply enter your start and destination and choose your travel time. You can even compare modes of transport in terms of time and cost in case you’re wondering how your old counterpart on foot or by carriage would have fared. The trick in using ORBIS is knowing what the Romans called the places you wanted to visit and answering that question Pleiades gives answers. Named after the mythical constellation, Pleiades is an online atlas of ancient Mediterranean locations. Just enter the ancient place name in a general search or the modern place name in an advanced search and the resulting entry will show you how the name has changed over time: the city we call Cádiz, for example, the Romans called “Gades”. Pleiades entries also link related resources, such as Topo texttelling you what your favorite Roman author had to say about your travel destination.

Sites visited by the Romans, from Spain to Italy

Cádiz (Gades) is an enchanting place to start a journey. The city founded by the Phoenicians was one of the oldest in the Roman Empire. The multicultural history of the place can be seen personally in Cadiz Museum and from afar across Google arts and culture. Don’t miss the Phoenician gold, the statues of Roman emperors or the ancient graffiti of a lighthouse. Apart from the impressive theater, little remains from antiquity in the city. This was one of the earliest in Roman Spain and had Lucius Cornelius Balbus the Elder. Ä. as their patron who rose to consul during the Roman Republic. Follow his potential path to Rome and witness imperial transformations. Seville (Hispalis) has one of the largest archaeological sites in Spain Museums. In Cordoba (Corduba) the theater is preserved in the archaeological site Museum Cellars, and graves and a temple can still be seen in the cityscape. A little further away is Tarragona (Tarraco), with a circus and an amphitheater overlooking the sea, and another of Spain’s fantastic Museums.

Balbus Theater in Cadiz, Spain

On the other side of the Pyrenees, Nîmes (Nemausus) beckons. Recent cleansing campaigns have restored splendor to the amphitheater and influential temple known as the Maison Carrée. The preserved Roman gates called Porte d’Auguste and Porte de France highlight the boundaries of the ancient city within the modern one. The recently revealed Museum of Romanticism has glass walls, an undulating design intended to resemble a toga, and great views of the amphitheater. Highlights of the collection include rare statues from the period of Gallic rule, as well as spectacular Roman paintings, mosaics, and sculptures recovered from urban construction. Just beyond Nîmes is the stunning aqueduct known as the Pont du Gard. There are also attractions nearby on the Vicarello Route. Arles (Arelate) has an amphitheater, a theater and an excellent museum. Glanum is a mini Pompeii in the foothills of the Alpilles.

Amphitheater in Nimes, France

Beyond the Alps, the Vicarello routes take you through Susa (Segusio), Turin (Augusta Taurinorum) and Bologna (Bononia) before reaching Rimini (Ariminum) on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Excellent signage here highlights the Roman remains, including a gate, fragmentary amphitheater, elegant bridge commissioned by Emperors Augustus and Tiberius, and an arched monument that Augustus was given by the Senate and the Roman People (SPQR) for the Repair of the Via Flaminia was dedicated. Beautiful mosaics can be seen on the recently excavated House of the surgeonwhile other striking finds from the city are on display nearby museum.

SPQR arch for Augustus in Rimini, Italy

Leave Rimini via the Arch to Augustus and leave the Via Flaminia takes you to Rome. Start on Crypt Balbi, Part of a theater complex by Lucius Cornelius Balbus the Younger from Cádiz. Then head to the nearby Pantheon, built by Emperors Trajan and Hadrian (both from Italica, a suburb of Seville). The many adjoining cafes of the Pantheon offer the ideal setting to reminisce. Do you prefer the design of the Pantheon or the Maison Carrée? Was the sea more beautiful in Cadiz or Rimini? Take these pages into account and conclude with a visit to the National Roman Museum of the Palazzo Massimo, where the four silver cups with the engraved Vicarello routes are displayed in the basement. Since gallery openings here and elsewhere are still subject to pandemic logs, be sure to inquire in advance. If you need to plan a return trip, keep in mind that the best way to see the Roman Empire is from the road.

Feature image by Kimberly Cassibry