Project Description

The Ancient City of Ostia Antica

With the splendid ruins of Ostia Antica, an entire ancient Roman city, just a 20-minute train-ride away, why do a rushed day-trip to Pompeii?

Unlike its Neapolitan counterparts (i.e. Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Oplonti–to name a few), Ostia did not perish overnight in the destructive wake of a volcano.  Ostia simply followed Rome in its downward economic trajectory in the 400s A.D.  After hundreds of years of prosperity as a naval base and then a harbor, the port town situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Tiber River eventually lost its importance and slowly silted in.  But Ostia’s vacation-town and working-class spirit is unbroken!  After excavations in the early 1900s, Ostia still feels like a living, thriving city, with its warehouses, theaters, baths, apartment buildings, temples, villas, restaurants, bars and cafes.

What You’ll Discover As You Stroll Into Town

We walk into town on the Via Ostiense, the same road that ancient travelers, businessmen, vacationers and residents would have used when coming directly from Rome.  We’ll poke our heads into the tombs that line the ancient highway — when we’re not avoiding speeding horse-drawn wagons heaped with goods, heading to the markets in Rome!

Getting out of the ancient traffic and into a public piazza, we’ll head down the Decumanus, the city’s main drag.  We’ll bump into ancient drunken sailors on shore leave, peek into a temple or two, and stop in at several eateries.  At one highbrow cafe, we’ll find senators and magistrates attending business lunches.  At a greasy spoon, locals consume their fried chickpea patties while gulping down local white wine.  Ancient vacationers play dice, while the waitress brings them another plate full of green olives.  The photo shows a road lined with buildings, one of which was a hotel, the other a cafe.

A road and apartment buildings in the ancient city of Ostia Antica

The Ostia Antica Adventure Continues As We Explore The Ancient City

At a well-preserved public bath (or spa), we’ll discuss ancient hygiene and Romans’ propensity as plumbers.  Nearby, a forica or public restroom has survived nearly intact.  It and its continuous marble seat can be seen in the photo.  Our walk will also take us through residential districts.  We peek into well-built tenements for dockworkers and sailors, and visit high-end homes, which were well-appointed with frescoes and marble “wallpaper.”  But how could we skip the theater, where we’ll talk about Roman entertainment.  In a second photo, the seats of Ostia’s theater are seen yawning over its stage.

a semi-intact public toilet in the ancient city of Ostia Antica
the theater in the ancient city of ostia antica

Note: due to its size, Ostia is a long half-day or full-day excursion.  If visitors want to stop for lunch, there is a well-stocked cafeteria conveniently located in the middle of the archeological area.  Those who prefer a picnic are encourage to pack one.

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