Ostia Antica Roman Archaeological Site Italy Europe

Ostia Antica Roman Archaeological Site Italy Europe

Ostia Antica is a huge archaeological site on the coast just outside of Rome, and it is home to the ruins of one of the best-preserved ancient Roman cities in the world. On par with the ancient Roman archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Ostia gives present-day visitors a taste of daily life in a busy, trade-oriented Roman city that was occupied over 2000 years ago. A day trip to Ostia Antica is highly recommended if you have a week or more in Rome, and if you’re a history / archaeology / Classics enthusiast, it is an absolute must-see!

Ostia Antica Archaeological Site Italy Europe
Ostia Antica Archaeological Site Italy Europe

Planning Your Day Trip to Ostia Antica

It takes approximately 45 minutes to reach Ostia Antica from Rome’s city centre, whether you drive or take a train there. You can take the train from Termini, Rome’s central station, to the train station at Ostia Antica, with a train change along the way (take Metro Line B towards Laurentina, get off at Piramide, and then change to the Roma-Lido suburban line, which will take you to Ostia Antica). A daily regional ticket, which costs about €9, will cover your journey there and back.

Entrance tickets (2016) for Ostia Antica Archaeological Site are €8 per adult, and €4 for a reduced ticket (available for EU citizens between 18-24). Entrance is free for children under 18, and for disabled persons.

The site is closed on Mondays, and during the summer, it is open daily (excluding Mondays) from 8:30 am until 6:15 pm. It’s recommended to arrive as the site opens, and to have a lunch break during the hottest time of the day (between 12 pm and 2 pm) before continuing with your explorations.

The site has very little shade, so come prepared with plenty of liquids, sun protection, and a good idea of the highlights you’d like to see first, in case the heat prevents you from seeing the whole site in one day.

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A bit of information about the archaeological site

So, what can you expect to see on a visit to Ostia Antica? The site today is around 3km from the sea due to geographical changes over the years, but in its glory days, Ostia was a fully functioning fluvial port situated at the mouth of the river Tiber. You can smell the sea from the archeological site, which gives you a bit of a sense of ancient Roman life in close proximity to the sea.

With the ruins spread out across 80 – 90 acres of land, it’s essential to prioritize which buildings and sights you’d like to visit first! Below you’ll find a list of some of Ostia’s sightseeing highlights.

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Ostia’s Famous Mosaics

Ancient Ostia’s most beautiful and fascinating offering has to be its well-preserved floor mosaics. You can see many mosaics depicting the various gods worshipped by the Romans, such as Neptune in a chariot drawn by seahorses, and a particularly interesting series of
mosaics situated outside shops in the Piazzale delle Corporazioni (the Square of the Corporations). These shop-front mosaics consist of decorative, symbolic images depicting the trade of each of the offices. You’ll see ears of wheat in front of the grain merchants, stylized ships for the shipwrights, and so on. Considering that Ostia was the place where trade between many different countries happened, having pictures instead of Latin shop names makes perfect sense!

The mosaics are all visible in summer, unless they are being restored, but in winter many of them are covered to protect them from the elements. The site also closes earlier in winter, so
be aware of the opening hours to avoid disappointment.

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Architecture and Roman Building Expertise at Ostia Antica

• Necropolis – you can see the “city of the dead” situated outside of Ostia’s walls, complete with niched tombs for cremated remains and monumental private tombs built by the wealthy.

• Insulae – Ostia’s apartment blocks! One surprisingly modern feature of life in Ostia was the multistoried brick-faced apartment blocks that still stand today. Fire brigades worked at fire prevention, and landlords collected rent daily or weekly from the poorest
inhabitants, or monthly / yearly from the more affluent tenants. Life was quite comfortable for those who earned an average wage.

• There are several public baths and lavatories in Ostia, and their scale and architecture are quite impressive. Be sure to check out the Baths of Neptune, which have beautiful mosaics on the floors.

• Ostia’s theatre is another must-see (and it’s hard to miss!). There are curious theatre mask sculptures on display outside the theatre area, and several temples nearby.

• House of the Millstones – an example of Ostia’s industrial importance, these mills still  have huge millstones that were used 2000 years ago!

• Shops of the Fishmongers – complete with marble counters and charming mosaics of fish. Many of the floors are still intact, and you can walk “into” the shops to get a feel of daily life, as if you were shopping for food and groceries in ancient Ostia.

The Museum at the Ostia Antica Archaeological Site

Ostia Antica has a small museum that houses several sculptures and art objects that were found at the archaeological site. A fantastic piece kept in the museum is the marble sculpture found under the Baths of Mithras, which depicts the god Mithras slaughtering a bull. Other sculptures on display include some of Roman emperors, and there are also several sarcophagi.

Overall, a day trip to Ostia Antica is a very rewarding and interesting activity for any visitor to Rome. It helps you to visualize how daily life in ancient Rome must have been, on a smaller and more intimate scale. It is definitely worth taking a day out of your itinerary. A good guide book and sturdy walking shoes are essential!

  • Carmen is a Capetonian travel blogger and photographer who is currently seeking wanderlust and whimsy in Europe. Visit her blog at: An Incurable Case of Wanderlust https://anincurablecaseofwanderlust.com/