An alternative to the Via Appia was built by Emperor Trajan in 109 AD as part of a building spree after his defeat of Dacia (modern Romania) replenished the coffers and ushered in an era of relative peace. A roman coin was issued commemorating the Traiana.
Strabo notes that the new coastal road was a day's travel shorter between Benevento and Brindisi. It wasn't actually shorter in distance, but the geography is mainly flat once the road makes it into Puglia and it was much easier going, thus faster.
Like following the Via Francigena, the towns and sites along the Via Traiana make up an interesting travel itinerary for the tourist with a car. But first, take a look at the map to see the routes of the Via Appia and Via Traiana.
Benevento (ancient Beneventum, or, even earlier: Maleventum) is the point where the Via Traiana forks from the Appian Way. According to Martha Bakerjian of Martha's Italy "The town is in a beautiful setting in the hills. It's a pleasant town to visit, a good break from the heavily touristed areas near Naples and the Amalfi Coast and a chance to experience the feel of a southern Italian town. There's a wide pedestrian street with cafes where you can sit outside and enjoy a leisurely drink. Several Roman monuments, churches, and interesting sights are scattered around the town. Benevento has a good theater and cultural events are held throughout the year."
Where to stay: Benevento Hotels
Troia is known to wine lovers as the town that gave its name to a wine grape called Nero di Troia, although the main DOC is Castel del Monte. Troia's Duomo, Cathedral of Beata Maria Vergine Assunta in Cielo, is a fine Romanesque church in the Apulian style; it's Treasury houses 2000 square meters of religious art. The Diocesan Museum on Via Ospedale 2 is housed in Saint Benedict's monastery and tells the story of religious life from the 15th to 18th century. Troia's Facebook page lists some shops and restaurants that might be of value to traveler making a stop in town. In summer, Troiana Summer features open air concerts and performances.
Canosa di Puglia is located along the Ofanto River, where you'll find one of the Roman bridges that allowed the Via Traiana to cross as well as the Arco Traiano and the site of the Mausoleum of Bagnoli. Romans found refuge here after the defeat at the Battle of Cannae. Canosa is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Italy, so the archaeological and historical museums hold a treasure trove of information for the history buff. There is a castle, a hypogeum and catacombs to visit. The impressive ruins of the Basilica of San Leucio started as a pagan temple likely to have been dedicated to Minerva which was transformed into a Christian basilica between the 4th and 5th centuries BC.
User-Rated Hotels in Canosa di Puglia.
Bitonto is a city surrounded by olive groves, 11 km west of Bari. The Romanesque cathedral is built over a paleochristian church which you can visit. The ambo, or pulpit and lectern, is a masterpiece of stonecarving made in 1229 (shown on the right). A good virtual tour of the city of Bitonto is found here. Museums to visit include: Galleria Nazionale, Galleria di Arte Contemporanea, Teatro Traetta, and the Museo Archeologico.
If you are looking for a fantastic, historic place to stay on your Via Traiana itinerary, there's no more evocative place I know of than the Palazzo Antica Via Appia Bed and Breakfast on Via Porta Robustina, 34, inside the old Palazzo Santoro, built into the medieval walls and restored expertly in 2009. The B&B celebrates musicians like Tommaso Traetta, who was born in Bitonto in 1727.
That's one of the common rooms of the Palazzo Antica Via Appia pictured on the lower left.
On the little extension that starts at Bitonto and avoids the coast you'll find a very interesting city with 6th century walls called Conversano, ancient Norba. It has a castle and many interesting religious buildings and institutions. It's a small town but big in handball and the raising of Lipizzaner horses.
Bari: See the Bari Travel Guide.
Egnazia, a fine archaeological site (see the link for more detail) is located on a fine stretch of beach with a golf course: San Domenico Golf, an 18 hole course bordering the Adriatic just north of the town of Savelletri, where there are plenty of places to stay.
Brindisi is where the Via Appia and the Via Traiani end. Today it's the place where folks take ferries to Greece. For ancient pilgrims in the age of the crusaders it was the gateway to the Orient, a port for boats that sailed to the Holy Land.
Brindisi started off as a Greek settlement; after the Punic wars it became a center for Roman naval power and trade.
If you prefer to stay in the Puglia countryside, you may wish to stay in a Vacation Rental in Puglia instead of a hotel, especially if you are traveling with children or with a group of friends or relatives.
For more information on the region of Puglia, see our Puglia Maps and Travel Guide, which has a province map and an interactive map marked with interesting destinations in Puglia.
Weather and historic climate, see Lecce Weather.