Monday, 29 July 2013

Ostia Antica - the harbour city of ancient Rome

If during a visit to Rome you wish to escape the city bustle for a day, a magnificently preserved old city awaits not far away. It is located just next to the today's seaside destination town of Ostia. It is located 30 kilometres south-west from Rome.

It is interesting that a port town is not located by the sea. Ostia once definitely was a seaport, but due to silting and a changed course of the river Tiber it now lies 3 kilometres away from the sea.

Ostia got its name from its position at the mouth (ostium) of the river Tiber. This was perfect for various trading activities but not so much from the defensive point of view.

The city was founded in 7th century BC but the oldest preserved buildings currently visible are from the 3rd century BC. The downfall of once thriving harbour city started with recurring pirate sackings. After a naval battle between Christian and Saracens in 9th century AD the remaining inhabitants finally had enough of it and moved to a nearby city of Gregoriopolis.

The place is massive - it stretches for well over a kilometre in length! One should definitely keep that in mind while setting the viewing pace. It took us a whole afternoon to more-or-less walk through it. Whenever we ventured into one of many side streets there was an interesting surprise waiting for us just around the corner.

Among the highlights of this site are many ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics - all of them nicely preserved. The sheer size of the place was a definite highlight for me. Apart from that the state of buildings and mosaics is truly amazing.

Apart from beautiful mosaics there are also many buildings one should definitely not miss. These are my personal favourites in no particular order:

  • The Amphitheatre of Ostia Antica definitely deserves your attention. It is a perfect spot for a midday snack (on a cloudy day).
  • Just next to the theatre there is also an ancient market full of beautiful mosaics with representations of various vendors through their goods and trades.
  • I loved perfectly preserved public latrines, organized for collective use as a series of marble seats that also served as an important social moment apart from their obvious use. They were connected to a practical sewage system, spread all over the city.
  • Multiple public baths with beautiful mosaics and remains of ingenious central heating systems are something not to be missed.
  • I also really liked a nicely preserved bar on Via Casa di Diana (yes, there are streets in Ostia Antica). The inn called the Insula of the Thermopolium gives you a perfect idea of such a place back in those days. Shelves for food and drinks for sale can still be seen. It is not all that much different from modern bars.

How to get there? You can easily reach Ostia Antica from Rome by train. Take the city Metro (Line B) to the Piramide station. When you get to the station use the stairs/escalators at the north end of the tracks. Once you reach the top, head left until you reach a different set of tracks of the ROMA-LIDO (beach) train. Your metro pass can be used on this train and it will take you directly to the Ostia Antica station. The trains leave about every 15 minutes during peak season. You can buy your return ticket either at the beginning of your trip or use a ticket machine on Ostia train station before your trip back.

Really cheap and easy! Well worth the effort - especially since you can combine a visit to Ostia Antica with some beach time on the nearby Ostia Lido.


Irene Sletvik 30 July 2013 at 16:53  

I looks interesting to travel to Rome. And this harbour would be interesting too. I hope one day to travel here :)

Travel-PB 30 July 2013 at 17:15  

Thanks Irene. I hope you make it one day. :)

Gita 31 July 2013 at 16:40  

I was visiting Rome this spring and this post would come in pretty handy back then. Well - I'll visit the harbour next time, I'll return to this magnificent city for sure :).
Great blog!


Travel-PB 31 July 2013 at 21:08  

Thanks, you are too kind. I'm sure you'll be going back. After all it is just around the corner.

I was also there for the first time this April. As I found out the cheapest way for getting there is by train - it was only €25 one way from Gorizia. A bargain if you ask me! I hope we both make it back soon, snce it is such a great city.

Jim 1 August 2013 at 18:32  

What an awesome day trip from Rome! It looks way less crowded and just interesting as some of the ruins in Rome. I'll definitely keep this place in mind if I ever head that way.

Travel-PB 2 August 2013 at 08:54  

Thanks for visiting. Ostia Antica definitely deserves a visit.

Tina 6 August 2013 at 07:03  

We heard about Ostia Antica from a local guide in Rome, as well as reading about it in a Rick Steves guidebook. Ostia Antica seemed like just the kind of place we would love as it is loaded with history, and we weren't disappointed.

aguafuegoytierra 7 August 2013 at 16:23  

Is an amazing place, when I grow up I want to be like you. How amazing photos!!

Travel-PB 7 August 2013 at 20:12  

Thanks for your kind words. Ostia Antica really is amazing. Nevertheless, I am sure you can do better than me. ;)

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