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 exploring the ruins of Ostia Antica and the old town.
Here’s a guide to visiting Ostia Antica from Rome.
How to get to Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is just a 30-minute train ride from Rome. 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. From there, 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!
Tip: 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.
Things to see in Ostia Antica
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 not-to-miss attractions in Ostia Antica:
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.
You can also go for a wee wander around this old part of town. The houses here are gorgeous, and you can stop for a coffee in one of the cafes nestled in the cobbled alleys.
Where to eat
There is canteen and cafe at Ostia Antica, and while it is a bit on the pricey side, 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.
Tip: Want to visit Ostia Antica with a guide? Check out this half day tour of Ostia Antica from Rome (by train).
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