We love history and yes, we’re a bit obsessed about the story of Spartacus and his army . Watched all the Spartacus and Gladiator movies. The Starz show was one of our favorite shows.
If you’re looking to take a DIY tour of where Spartacus once walked you’ll need to go off the beaten path.
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So, before our trip to Italy I decided to do my research on Spartacus. I purchased and read two books: The Spartacus War as well as Spartacus and the Slave Wars. I did a lot of reading, so when we visited we could try and walk in his footsteps so to speak.
It is quite impressive how far Spartacus and his army walked in Italy. We didn’t have time to go everywhere, but we did manage to see some cool areas and best of all spent under $50 (mostly transportation costs) to go off the beaten path.
Walking in the footsteps of Spartacus
We didn’t go everywhere Spartacus went, however we did get to the following places:
- Visit Santa Maria Capua Vetere to see the second oldest ampitheatre
- Visit the Gladiator Museum
- Archaeological Museum & Mitreo
- Hike Mount Vesuvius
- Take a walk on Appian Way
How to (Kind of) Walk in Spartacus’ Footsteps
Santa Maria Capua Vetere
If you’ve watched any of the movies or read books about Spartacus you’ve likely heard they spent a lot of time in Capua. This can be a little confusing when deciding the train to catch because there is modern day Capua and then there is also Santa Maria Capua Vetere . You’ll want the latter.
Santa Maria Capua Vetere was built on the ruins of ancient Capua. These are two different towns. Kind of confusing, but keep that in mind when booking a train.
You can take the local train from Napoli Centrali to St. Maria Capua Vetere. The trains usually leave mid-morning and return in the afternoon or early evening. The train ride was 45 minutes from Napoli. The amphitheatre is closed on Mondays, so don’t visit on a Monday.
How to Get from the Train Station to the Amphitheatre
The amphitheatre is about a 20 to 30 minute walk from the train station. Map out where you are going before you begin because if you get lost you will not find many signs. The only person we came across that spoke a little English was the lady we purchased tickets from at the amphitheatre.
From the train station we looked ahead and walked straight. We made a right at the first road. We followed this road to a piazza and then made a left. Just a short walk from here and you will see the amphitheatre to your right.
After you purchase your tickets in the cafe you can continue walking down the path to the small Gladiator Museum. When we visited the cost to enter was 2.50 euro. This fee includes the mitreo and the museum, so don’t throw away your ticket.
Visit the Ampitheatre
You are walking in the footsteps of Spartacus and other gladiators when you enter the amphitheatre. The exterior is not as well preserved as the Colosseum in Rome.
Walking up to the stadium was like finding a hidden historical treasure. We were the only people there and the silence was almost deafening. Having the whole place to ourselves was relaxing compared to the Colosseum and made the experience even more special. Entering through the main entrance, we made our way down the narrow steps to the lower level.
The stairs led us to the lower level where the gladiators waited to enter the amphitheatre. Corridors lead you through the cavea.
Wild animals and actors also waited in the lower level. Walking underground one can imagine what is must have been like to sit in wait beneath the thousands of people above.
The seating area of the amphitheatre is not as well preserved as the Colosseum in Rome. Grass and weeds have grown over, but you still have a good idea the view spectators had.
After exploring the inside, we walked around the entire grounds to see the ruins from different views.
Walking back towards the train station the same way we came we used our tickets for entrance to the Archaeological Museum. The museum is about a block from the piazza.
Archaeological Museum & Mitreo
After you visit the museum ask the curator to see the Mitreo. They need to get a key. From the museum you will walk to the right at the next narrow street and then turn right again. The Mitreo is a place of worship for the Persian God, Mitra and dates back to the 2nd century A.D. It is one of the largest examples with painted decorations.
A visit to Santa Maria Capua Vetere was a great day trip from Napoli.
Train cancellations happen. Just something to keep in mind if you visit. We came back to the station early and we’re glad we did because they cancelled the last train out of town that afternoon. Thankfully we caught the last one of the day.
Hike Mount Vesuvius Where Spartacus Once Took Refuge
For our next Spartacus inspired adventure we decided to hike Mount Vesuvius. Spartacus and his men took refuge in Mount Vesuvius. It was also the site of the first battle for the Third Servile War with Spartacus and his men against the Roman army in 73 BC.
Years later Mount Vesuvius erupted destroying the city of Pompeii in AD 79.
Today, Mount Vesuvius is about 4,300 feet tall and the landscape has drastically changed. To hike Mt. Vesuvius we caught a bus near the entrance of Pompeii. The bus ride to the mountain is about an hour one-way from Pompeii.
The bus from Pompeii will drop you off at the base of the mountain. It is about a 10 minute walk from the trail. We were told if you take the city bus it is an additional 20 minute up hill walk. The ride is not particularly exciting, but you can get a good view of Mount Vesuvius before you arrive.
There were porta potties and a small gift shop at the drop – off. The driver will let you know when your bus is leaving, so judge your hike time accordingly. If you miss your bus you’ll need to walk 20 minutes down a winding road to catch the city bus.
When you think you’ve reached the top, a sign will remind you that you haven’t reached it quite yet. The volcano is active and the smell of sulfur permeates the hike. Even in October it was pretty warm here.
When you reach the top there is another souvenir shop. You can also order a glass of wine and take in the incredible view of Napoli and the coast. Pretty cool to drink wine at the top of Mount Vesuvius. Just remember you can’t miss your bus and it takes a little longer to walk down when you’re tipsy.
If you are fan of Spartacus you will know that thousands of Spartacus’ men were crucified along the infamous Appian Way that connected ancient Capua to Rome.
Appian Way is Rome’s oldest road. If it had been built in modern times this was their freeway. Hanging Spartacus’ men on crosses was a very public death and most likely an effective deterrent should anyone else think about rebelling.
In 71 BC more than 6,000 died on a stretch of 130 miles.
This is how we (kind of) walked in Spartacus’ footsteps. It was an amazing journey.