The harbour city of ancient Rome, Ostia Antica is possibly one of the most overlooked archaeological sites in Italy. Well, that’s great news for history buffs visiting Rome
, and for anyone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Ostia Antica is a treasure chest of well-preserved Roman structures and buildings, which include temples, markets, bath houses, a large theatre and intricate mosaics. Oh, and beautifully intact public latrines, too. In fact, you can easily spend a whole day walking around the excavations, and, depending on the time of year, you won’t find crowds queuing at the entrance or clogging up the paths.
Without more ado, here’s a quick and simple guide to planning your trip to Ostia Antica.
How to get there
Ostia Antica is just a 30-minute train ride from Rome. Train tickets cost €1.50 and expire after 100 minutes, so it’s really not worth renting a car for the day.
There’s a train station just next to Ostia Antica, and getting there is pretty simple. First, get on metro line B and stop at Piramide. Walk out of the station and head to Porta San Paolo station, which is next door. Get on the Lido train to Ostia, using the same ticket, and stop at Ostia Antica. Don’t stop at Ostia Lido Nord or Ostia Lido Centro unless you want to get to the beach.
Once you get off at the Ostia Antica stop, you’ll need to cross to the other side of the station. Walk over the bridge (you’ll see a sign pointing to the ruins) and you’re there!
Word of advice: Ignore a brown sign which says ‘Passaggio al mare’ (or something similar) as you come out of the train station. It leads to a walking trail along a park and through a forest, and ends at the sea front. It’s a very long walk to the beach, so if you’re planning to head there for lunch after visiting Ostia Antica you’re better off getting the train.
What not to miss
The great thing about Ostia Antica is that you can explore it at your own pace, without a guide or map. However, the area is huge and you might not get to see everything if you’re only there for a half day.
Here are some outstanding structures and other gems that you should look for when visiting the site.
Love exploring historic sites with knowledgeable guides? You can book a day trip to Ostia Antica
by train and explore the site on a small group tour. If you’re visiting Rome in summer, you might want to choose a tour that takes you to Ostia Antica in an air-conditioned coach.
Love exploring historic sites with knowledgeable guides? You can book a day trip to Ostia Antica by train and explore the site on a small group tour. If you’re visiting Rome in summer, you might want to choose a tour that takes you to Ostia Antica in an air-conditioned coach
1. The Mosaics
Ostia Antica is famous for its impressive black and white mosaics, especially those found in the bath of Neptune. Don’t worry if some of the mosaics are undergoing restoration; keep walking and you’re bound to come across more of this beautiful work of art.
2. The Theatre
You can’t miss the theatre – besides being on the main path from the entrance, it also towers majestically over the rest of the ruins. Erected at the end of the 1st century BC, the theatre was originally built to accommodate 2,500 people but was later extended for an audience of 4,000. The theatre is still used for cultural performances.
3. Horrea Epagathiana
This well-preserved Roman warehouse is a remnant of everyday life during the Roman Empire, when Ostia Antica used to be a hub of commerce and trade. Niches that once held statues of deities decorate the courtyard. The black and white mosaic in the courtyard is particularly notable for its depiction of a tiger at the east end of the building and a panther on the opposite side.
4. Theatrical Masks
These detailed marble masks found on the stage of the theatre were once part of the building’s architectural decoration.
Another imposing building, the Capitolium is a temple dedicated to the main Roman deities, known as the Capitoline triad (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). You can still see the large niches on the side walls where the statues would have been placed.
6. The Castle of Julius
Situated across the road from Ostia Antica, the Castle of Julius II, named after the Pope who commissioned the construction of the fortress, is another site worth a visit. The castle is currently closed for renovation works, but you can go for a wee wander around this old part of town. The houses are gorgeous, and you can stop for a coffee in one of the cafes nestled in the cobbled alleys.
Where to eat
If you’re visiting Rome on a budget, take a packed lunch to Ostia Antica. The onsite canteen is a bit on the pricey side, but the food is quite decent.
Alternatively, you can eat at one of the restaurants and cafes in town – there are some nice ones in the medieval part of Ostia, next to the castle.
Visiting hours & fees
The archaeological site is open from 8.30am until late afternoon (closing times vary according to the season). The standard entrance fee is EUR 8 (or EUR 4 for EU citizens between 18-25), and you can book your ticket online. Entrance is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Recommended Rome Guidebook
My husband and I explored Rome with Lonely Planet Rome
, which contains a lot of information about the city’s history and the significance of its various historic sites. We found out about Ostia Antica thanks to the guide, and would have happily checked out some of the other suggested day trips if we had more time.
The guidebook also helped us explore Rome’s less touristy areas and introduced us to some amazing restaurants.
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