Ostia Antica, Imperial Rome’s bustling seaport where the Tiber River once ran into the Mediterranean Sea, is a short metro ride from Rome but feels a world away. It is an ideal place to get lost in the Roman world without all the modern intrusions.
Mosaics: One of the most striking features of Ostica Antica is its wealth of mosaics. From the epic depiction of Neptune on the floor of the public bath house to the more modest mosaics announcing local businesses (taverns, bakeries, etc.), the mosaics give a glimpse into what life was like for the Romans of Ostia.
Sculptures and Frescoes: While only a fraction of the original public and private art has survived, what remains still impresses. Contemporary artists have also been commissioned to recreate some of the marble sculptures that have been lost to time.
Buildings: One of our favorite parts of our trip to Ostia was wandering around the ruins. Some sections like the necropolis form a maze of dead-ends (pun intended), while others like the theater dramatic vistas (ditto) of the former glory of the city. The Younger Fives especially enjoyed scrambling up the buildings for better views and exploring dark corridors in an attempt to find treasures from the past.
Fives’ Facts About Ostia Antica:
* Rome’s Ancient Seaport: Originally established as a settlement to take advantage of the nearby salt marshes, Ostia Antica grew to become Rome’s principal port. Its location was ideal for moving goods from the sea up the Tiber River to Rome. It flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries C.E., reaching well over 50,000 inhabitants. Eventually in the second half of the 3rd century the city began to decline. However, no modern city was ever built atop the ancient one, so there is really an unobstructed view into the past.
* Operating Hours and Fees: The ruins open every day at 8:30 a.m. and close at 4:30 p.m. in the low season and 6:30 p.m. in the high season (final admission is an hour before closing). The site is closed on Mondays and on December 25th and January 1st. Admission is 11 Euros for adults; children under 18 are free.
* Getting There: Ostia Antica is easily accessible by Metro and local train from downtown Rome (about 40 minutes). Take the “B” line to Piramide, which connects with Porto San Paolo regional rail station. Take any train on the Roma-Lido line (they all terminate at this station), and get off at the Ostia Antica stop. From the station, it is an easy and well-marked 10 minute walk to the ruins. Just take the pedestrian walkway over the highway and follow the signs from there.
* Spend the Day: The archaeological site covers a lot of ground, so set aside several hours. We spent over 5 hours at the site and still didn’t fully explore everything. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy among the ruins or grab a bite to eat at the on-site cafe. There are water fountains on premise and bathrooms at the entrance and also at the cafe.
* Learn More: We followed up our visit to Ostia with this informative, eight-part series on the ancient city.