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There are so many things to do and see in Rome, that you could easily spend two weeks without getting out of the city. However, should you want to take a day trip from Rome, consider visiting Ostia Antica. There are many good reasons why Ostia Antica is the perfect destination for a full day trip from Rome. You can use a regular Rome public transportation card which is valid on all local buses, subway trains, trams, and light rail trains.
Read this article to find out a few good reasons to visit Ostia Antica, when to go and how to get there from Rome. Ostia Antica is the place to visit near Rome, if you want to enjoy your time without the crowds. This came as a surprise to me, taking into consideration the beauty of the place.
What Is Ostia Antica & Is It Worth Visiting?
Today, Ostia Antica is one of the largest archeological parks in Italy. I haven’t seen Pompeii, so I don’t know how the two compare, but I was impressed with the ruins of this ancient town. Anyway, being much closer to Rome than Pompeii, Ostia Antica might be easier to fit into a busy tourist schedule. Not only is Ostia Antica worth visiting, but you should schedule at least three or four hours to walk through the archeological park.
Regardless of your intention to visit other archeological sites in Italy, I think you should put Ostia Antica on your to do list. Unlike other ruins in Rome, these ones aren’t altered by later constructions. You can see the layout of the ancient port of Rome, with houses, temples and public buildings, with roads and the central focus point of the town, the amphitheater which is now one of the best concert venues in Lazio.
Originally, in the fourth century BC, Ostia Antica was a fortified citadel that enabled Romans to control access to Rome by water. Built right by the mouth of the Tiber, this castrum was named Ostia (in Latin, Ostia means mouth or opening).
The small settlement grew over five centuries to become a flourishing city. Its main road, the Decuman (Decumanus), was two km long and about nine meters wide. The ancient basalt paving slabs are still here! You’ll step right on them, so be careful when you choose your shoes to wear at Ostia Antica.
After the third century AD, the crisis and the recession slowly determined people to move out from the city. Many of them moved to Gregoriopolis, a medieval village nearby.
Today’s archeological site covers about 34 hectares, accounting for two thirds of the original city of Ostia (with its extensions).
How To Get To Ostia Antica from Rome
To get to Ostia Antica by public transport, you need to take the train from the Piramide station. If you are in the center of Rome, take the Metro B to Laurentina and get off at the Piramide station (the fourth stop from Termini, also called Porta San Paolo). Metro line B is the one that also goes to the Colosseum. The total travel time depends on where you stay in Rome. Fortunately, I stayed in Gianicolense, which is only a few tram stations away from Piramide.
From Piramide, there’s a train going every 15 minutes in the direction of Lido. You need to ride six stations, until Ostia Antica (this is also the name of the station). The ride takes about 30 minutes and you can use your Roma Pass, a regular bus, train or Metro ticket, or a city public transportation pass. I had a weekly pass which I picked up at a kiosk in the Termini train station, just as I arrived from the airport. I paid 24 Euros for my 7-day pass, which I thought to be an excellent deal. If you don’t want a Rome public transport pass, you may as well purchase and use a regular ticket. You won’t have an allocated seat, but there will be very few people on the train, so you’ll surely find a seat.
Here’s Porta San Paolo, just by the train station:
Here’s the Piramide (The Pyramid of Cestius, which can be visited, but was closed during week in Rome):
This is the Ostia train station:
To drive to Ostia Antica from Rome, get on the ring road (Grande Raccordo Anulare, or G.R.A.). Next, take Exit no 28 to get on Via Ostiense or Via del Mare (both roads lead to Ostia).
To drive to Ostia Antica from Fiumicino Airport, follow along Viale dell’Aeroporto di Fiumicino until you arrive to the crossing with Via del Mare. Next, take Via del Mare straight to Ostia Antica.
The Best Time To Visit Ostia Antica
The best time to get to Ostia Antica is between 8:30 and 9am. The site opens at 8:30 am. If you get there earlier, you can have your breakfast at the coffee shop by the train station. I had a coffee and a croissant to keep me going for a couple of hours. Here’s the official website of Ostia Antica – check it out before you go, to ensure that the schedule hasn’t changed.
Beware: Ostia Antica is closed on Mondays. on December 25th, and on May 1st.
During the first two hours of my visit, I only encountered two or three other people. The crowds started to show up after 11 am. Even so, the park is huge, so you won’t need to put up with the crowds. Just take a smaller path to explore, let them move on, and then get back to the main path that takes you across the park.
To reach the archeological site, you need to cross the metal bridge in front of the railway station. This is a scenic walk, as it takes you along on a path guarded by huge Italian stone pine trees (also known as umbrella pines or parasol pines). These trees look very good in photos, so make sure you look back from time to time to spot some photo opportunities.
Here’s what kind of breakfast you can get at the coffee shop nearby the train station for less than 2 Euro:
How To Buy Tickets for the Archeological Site of Ostia Antica
I bought my ticket at the entrance. There were no other people. However, if you want to avoid lines during the peak season, you can buy your ticket online here. They say you need to print out your ticket and bring it with you. If you can’t do it, you should contact them to ask whether you can show them your ticket on your mobile phone (since they need to scan the barcode on it, they may as well scan the screen of your smartphone).
You can also buy a paper map of the site at the entrance. It costs 2 Euro. I got one, but I didn’t use it too much. However, now I’m happy I have the map, as it helps me remember the different paths you can take inside the park. This is also how I realized that I missed the museum (which only means that I have to get back to Ostia Antica on my next trip to Rome).
Tips for Your Visit (How To Dress, Best Shoes to Wear, etc.)
Comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must! I can’t stress this enough. You’ll walk for a few hours on uneven terrain, so high hills are out of the question. Also, avoid flats, because they aren’t suitable for this type of experience. Shoes with thick soles are the best, as they attenuate the shock of stepping on stones.
If you visit Ostia Antica in summer, it will be hot. Very hot. Wear sheer clothing that covers your shoulders and your legs. Use plenty of sunscreen. Also, wear a large hat to protect you from sunlight.
In the photo below, I’m standing in the kitchen of a taberna (an ancient restaurant). This is one of the few ruins that still have a roof. Everywhere else, you’ll be in full sunlight.
Carry a water bottle with you. There is water on the site, but it’s not a bad idea to bring your own full bottle and then refill it whenever needed.
There’s a nice cafeteria inside the archeological park, so you’ll find coffee, snacks and clean toilets. The cafeteria area and about half of the park are available to wheelchair visitors. Beware, though, you may not be able to get to Ostia by train in a wheelchair,as I don’t see how you can cross that bridge by the railway station.
I haven’t eaten there, so I can’t tell you how it is. However, if you know yourself as a fussy eater, you may want to bring your own sandwiches. There were some tourists eating in the shadow of the stone pines.
Don’t forget to take you photo camera and a small tripod. Here’s my favorite mirrorless camera for travel. I took the photo below with my Sony Alpha 5000. I set the timer to a 10 seconds delay, I made sure the focus was right, and then I put the camera on the small tripod on a wall.
Ostia Antica Photos & Highlights
I fully agree with Rick Steves; Ostia Antica is one of the most underappreciated sights in Italy. It is perhaps the best chance to take a glimpse into the life of ancient Romans. While the Baths of Caracalla are also in pretty good shape (the walls, at least), the Baths of Diocletian require an effort of imagination to visualize them as they once were. At Ostia Antica, you get the gist of the life of Romans between the first and third centuries AD.
The main path, the Decumanus, was the commercial street of the city, where shops, warehouses, and taberns. The theater was also on the Decumanus.
The path from Porta Marina reveals the religious communities and cults. Here you’ll find The Synagogue, The Christian Church, The Mithraea, The Round Temple and the Capitolium. The Campus of the Magna Mater is also on this path.
The Forum and the surrounding area includes political, commercial and religious buildings.
Via della Foce and its surroundings reveal some interior details such as mosaics and paintings.
Porta Marina and the surrounding areas include residential facilities, houses, and the domus.
I’ll label the following photos to show you the major landmarks in Ostia Antica. However, the path you take is less important than the overall feeling this special place will give you. Just focus on finding the best photo opportunities and your mind will slow down. It works better than any meditation session. For half day, I forgot all my links to the outer world. The result was an impressive amount of photos that took me about two days to sort and process.
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