Misleading travel advice from AI can be found everywhere. Be critical of repeated details.

Just because you saw it on the internet, in lots of places, even sources you thought were reputable, doesn’t mean it is true. How can all the articles be wrong? I am not talking about opinion or conspiracy just a simple travel detail.

I found myself in Rome recently. I wanted to walk the Via Appia known in English as the Appian Way, a 2000 year old road that is still in use for pedestrians and traffic. I was going to go to the most touristed section close to Rome. I took to the internet to research the best time and day to go. Many blogs and articles led me to conclude that Sunday was the best day to go? Why? Because that day the Appian way is closed to traffic and becomes a large pedestrian street!.

Great! I would like to stroll this ancient path without dodging traffic. I verified on many sites and articles claiming to be recent. From well known sites to blogs proclaiming recent personal experience. I went by public bus the following Sunday to walk this ancient marvel.

Except it wasn’t closed to traffic on Sunday! There were still cars speeding by as pedestrians walked perilously between the lanes and walls. There was one road closed on Sunday. The road to the largest catacombs, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, which is always closed to traffic. Yup the regular pedestrian path missing the most perilous section of traffic on the Appian way was closed on Sunday. Meaning you had to walk in more traffic on Sunday than any other day if starting at the San Sebastian gate.

I asked the woman at the visitors center renting bicycles about the road being closed on Sunday. She had never heard this. “No it is not closed on Sundays”.

How could everything be wrong? The information was picked up from one outdated or erroneous post and then it spread. If details were fact checked they were fact checked against other blogs and articles written with this information. Many or all of these articles were written by machines and only edited by people who have not experienced the Appian Way on Sunday. Was it once closed on Sunday? Are any of the personal blogs legit but just outdated? I couldn’t tell. These sites had reposted to appear recent in search without fact checking if the information is still correct. It is also good to know that chat GPT was last updated September 2021. So it cannot give information more recent than that date when writing articles.

I visited on Sunday January 22nd 2023. Note the Catacombs of St. Sebastian were open on Sunday so we did get to see a catacomb. Just past San Sebastian’s Catacombs the road becomes much more narrow and quieter and is closed to car traffic always. Well mostly. People live along this stretch so there will always be some local traffic along this famous path walked by Caesars and Saints.

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