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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Ostia Antica: Really Old, Really Close

RST is pleased to have as guest blogger Martha Bakerjian. Martha is one of our favorite writers on travelling in Italy.  She's knowledgeable and always has good ideas for places to visit and tips for the savvy traveler.  In this post she guides us to Ostia Antica, a magnificent under-visited archaeological site less than an hour by train from Rome. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter!  Martha has her own blog, Martha's Italy:, and she posts itineraries on Bindu.

An ancient greeting.
While most people know about Pompeii, far fewer visit the ancient Roman port of Ostia Antica, even though it's much easier to get to from Rome. At Ostia Antica you are treated to the evocative remains of a Roman working-class town, abandoned around the 5th century. You'll have the added bonus of walking through a medieval hamlet with a small castle, and, if you're there on a Thursday or Sunday morning, you can go inside the castle on a tour.
Tours of the castle--built in 1483 by the man who would become Pope Julius II--on Thursday and Sunday mornings

If you're in Ostia Antica around lunch time, try one of the local trattorias in the hamlet. After your visit to Ostia Antica, you can even go to the beach, just one stop farther along the train line at Ostia Lido. (The trattorias are much better than the snack bar, and more likely to be open; or buy food for picnicking like a Roman on the ancient grounds.)

To get to Ostia Antica, take Metro Line B to the Piramide stop. To use your same Metro ticket, stay inside the station heading left towards the "Roma Porta San Paolo" station, for the Roma-Lido train line.  (If you have more time and don't mind blowing another Metro ticket, or on your way back, go outside for a look at this well-restored 1924 "Roma-Ostia-Lido" train station.) Take the train towards the Lido (the only direction it goes from there), getting off at Ostia Antica. The trains run about every 15 minutes; less often on the weekends and holidays.  (Note all of these directions and info are at the time of this writing.) From the train station, it's a short walk to the hamlet of Ostia and then just a little farther to the archaeological site.

Ornate sarcophagus

Buy a map of the site at the Ostia Antica ticket office to give you a better idea of what you're seeing. Once inside there are restrooms, a book and souvenir shop, picnic area, and a bar selling sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. Also near the entrance is an archaeological museum with statues, busts of Roman emperors and sarcophagi. Off to one side is a small necropolis.

Toilets.  Not much privacy.
Ostia Antica is more compact than Pompeii but still quite large (Dianne: we once lost the son of friends there for about an hour). You’ll see houses, shops, ovens, a bakery, wells, fountains, and even toilets, as well as the town’s forum, temples, a theater, and baths. 

The ancient city, in use from the 4th century BC through the 5th century AD, had about 50,000 residents at its peak. It was Rome's seaport and, as such, of great importance.

Ostia was laid out along one main street, Decumanus Maximus, and more than one mile of the road has been excavated. Along this street you’ll see stores and markets, workshops, public buildings, warehouses, and a theater, built between 19 and 12 BC. Residential areas are along the side streets.
Ostia's splendid theater/arena
Some house remains have mosaic floors or frescoes on the walls. These mosaic designs have been replicated since Roman times to decorate buildings around the world, including the Fascists' extensive use of them, such as in the flooring outside the railroad train station at Ostiense. Farther along is the forum, the center of life in Roman towns. Around the forum are the large public baths, a marketplace, a temple, and a Christian basilica.
Homes and shops
Plan to spend 2 to 3 hours wandering through the ruins. The site is closed on Mondays. Check current hours and admission price (orari + tariffe) on this web site: Hours change with the time of year and day; the site generally opens at 8:30 a.m. and closes anywhere from 4:30 - 7 p.m. Ticket prices change as well, based on many factors; the current regular price is Euro 10. (Use your "translate" button in Google, for example, if the Italian doesn't make sense to you.)

More about Ostia Antica:

Another view of the theater.


Unknown said...

Nice! Ostia Antica is a great price-performer when it comes to ancient Roman ruins. It is easy to spend a whole day, or even two, if you want to see the entire site and poke into seldom-visited corners. Here's a link to another blog post with other photos.

Anonymous said...

You are soooo good. Love your postings. I have tried to register with you to get your postings but have thus far failed. I'll keep trying though! Jeff

Roman R said...

Thank you for your post. Having seen a documentary a couple of years back about Ostia Antica, I visited the site just a few months ago with my sister who has been to Pompeii. Though OA is smaller, she found it to be more satisfying to visit, as there were much more intact mosaics and antiquities to see insitu than in Pompeii where most of the mosaics and pieces have been relocated for their protection. I imagine just for the sheer amount of tourists that go to Pompeii whereas OA is still relatively unknown (at least for now).

Ostia Antica is so beautiful and very serene because of the garden setting. I would agree with the above commenter that you probably need a lot more time - a day at least. I spent 5 hours there and could have spent even more had we not had to rush the last hour to be back in Rome city centre by a certain time.