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Rome day trip: Ostia Antica, Italy’s best-kept secret

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Ancient ruins in Ostia Antica. Photo by Claire Chaffey.
Ancient ruins in Ostia Antica. Photo by Claire Chaffey.

Ostia Antica, one of Italy’s most interesting and best-preserved archaeological sites, is also one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Well, that’s certainly the impression one gets when arriving there, due to the distinctly unusual tranquility of the place, and the conspicuous lack of tour groups, roving guides, and buses.

Considering that Ostia Antica is only a 30-minute train ride from the center of Rome, it is truly worth a visit!

History

Highlights of the former port’s long and colorful history include its establishment by a legendary Roman King sometime around the 7th century B.C (though no-one really knows for sure), frequent raids by arson-loving, river-hopping pirates, being overtaken by numerous Roman emperors who tarted the place up in accordance with current architectural trends, being the place where Santa Monica–the patron saint of married women–died in a local pub, slowly evolving into a country retreat for idle Roman aristocrats, and eventually falling into abandonment and decay somewhere around the 9th century A.D. (Whew!)

Mosaics in the Roman baths.

Mosaics in the Roman baths.

Ostia Antica today

Today, Ostia Antica is a sprawling stretch of painstakingly restored ruins which, despite their age, successfully retain the essence of the city’s former complexity and grandeur.

The best thing about Ostia Antica is the fact that, apart from practically having the place to yourself, you can wander around the ruins and easily imagine what it was like to have lived in a thriving and cosmopolitan city like Ostia. You can imagine buying your fruit and vegetables at one of the many shop fronts which line the main thoroughfare. Or, marvel at the almost flawlessly preserved mosaics which formed the hot and steamy Roman baths. Why not have a go at worshiping the sun god in one of the spectacular pagan temples? (Or you could imagine what it was like trying to get a little privacy with twenty other people with you in one of the many communal latrines….)

The Castle of Julius II

Your tour guide awaits...

Your tour guide awaits…

Once you have spent a couple of hours walking amongst and climbing over the ruins, it is worth going to have a peek at Castle of Julius II, located just across the road. The castle is situated in the gorgeous little Piazza della Rocca, in which Ostia’s inhabitants go about their daily business and several plump and friendly local cats will happily escort you around.

Getting there and getting in

Take the metro to “Piramide Station” on Line B. From there, get on the city urban line towards “Lido di Ostia.” Get off at “Ostia Antica,” cross the footbridge and follow the signs. Trains leave every half hour and the fare is covered by a €1 metro ticket.

Entry fee is €6.50 for adults over 25. Those between 18 – 25 get in for half price. If you’re under 18 or over 65, you don’t have to pay at all! Open between 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM. Closed Mondays.

Cheapo tip: The eateries in Ostia Antica aren’t fabulous, unless you are willing to pay a little more than you probably want to. So, if possible, pack your lunch!

About the author

About the author: Claire is a freelance journalist currently eating and drinking her way through Rome following a stint as a reporter in West Africa. Claire’s work has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, TNT Magazine, Way2Go Magazine and the Ghanaian Times.

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6 Responses to “Rome day trip: Ostia Antica, Italy’s best-kept secret”

Jet Set Life says:

You have captured the beauty of the place very well. Thanks a lot for this very informative post. I’d be passing this along to my readers.

Mary says:

Hi Claire, I was happy to see in your article on Ostia Antica a photo of one of my cats – Kiko – the tourist guide awaiting visitors and your sweet remark about plump friendly local cats happy to escort people. I was especially happy to see Kiko because he had to be euthanised in June while I was at a wedding in the States because he collapsed with kidney failure which I had been treating for the last 4 years. I am right now in Southern AFrica with much access to Internet and I googled Piazza della Rocca where I live and was happy and sad to see Kiko. I am glad that you took that lovely picture of him. Thanks. Mary

John Senette says:

Some websites say that Ostia is closed on Mondays; others that it is open seven days a week. Does it close on Mondays?

Louise says:

Am thinking of staying in Ostia, but wanted to visit Rome a couple of days. How does one get to Rome and how long is the ride? Thanks.

Colette says:

Thank you Claire for a perfectly brief article with all pertinent data and info on how to get to Ostia Antica. I had tried to find out about the rail access, to no avail, until reading your wonderful article. Thanks, too, for your tip on bringing lunch, and the pic of a cat just tops off a great desire to see Ostia again. Happy travels!

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