Ostia is a place that Italians today connect to the sea: beach resorts, night life, fish restaurants, confusion... but it was once quite different.
Ancient Ostia is what remains of the ancient city of Roman origin, once the mouth of the river Tiber (in fact ostium means the mouth of the river). As a result of the river's detritus over more than 2000 years, the coast has moved a few miles away and Ostia Antica is no longer on the sea, but in the hinterland.
Ostia Antica is a place to visit if you are a history lover. Its position made it a port of great importance at the time of the Roman Empire: in fact, it was the port of Rome! It seems that at the time of its maximum splendour, it was home to up to 100,000 inhabitants. Today the archaeological area that can be visited extends over an area of 34 hectares.
Unfortunately, its decline began with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the invasion of the barbarians. In more recent times it was even used as a quarry for the construction of houses in other areas (as happened elsewhere). Did you know that the marble taken from here was used for the Vatican Basilica and the cathedrals of Orvieto and Pisa?
Fortunately, there are still many remains of monuments and buildings today.
A bit like in Pompeii, here too you can discover and admire the houses which once were once shops, taverns and rich Roman domus. There are also granaries, the baths and the places of worship of every religion.
If all this seems too much to see, or you are afraid of getting lost in the Roman ruins, we would like to inform you that there are many companies which organise private tailor-made tours, including a tour of Ostia Antica in 2 hours, ancient Ostia for families, a guided tour of Ostia for small groups, etc.
If you have planned a day trip to Ostia Antica, here's what to see:
The Necropolis of Via Ostiense, with tombs, mausoleums and sarcophagi
The Baths of Neptune, commissioned by the emperor Hadrian, with beautiful mosaics. The most famous, which gave its name to the whole complex, is the mosaic depicting the king of the sea Neptune, with the trident in his hand, on a chariot drawn by 4 sea horses and surrounded by a whole series of marine animals and monsters. There is much more besides, including the mosaics with the athletes in a hall leading to the gym and the mosaic of the Scylla monster with octopus tentacles.
The Roman theatre that dates back to the time of Hadrian could accommodate thousands of spectators. It was decorated with stuccos, decorative architectural elements and marble. You can admire some of the statues found here in the museum.
The Piazzale delle Corporazioni was the business centre, as some of the mosaics that have come down to us (some in bad condition) depict trades, goods and the countries from which the goods came...
The Museo Ostiense houses many of the archaeological finds discovered during the excavations, mostly statues and sarcophagi, as well as over 400 quarry marbles that came from the quarries of the Roman Empire.
The decorated houses are ancient houses with frescoes that can only be visited on Sunday mornings and this must be booked in advance.
The medieval part of Ostia Antica: although less impressive than the Roman side, the fortress and the medieval village are also interesting, as evidence of the secular stratification of this town a few kilometres from Rome. The Castello di Giulio II and the medieval / renaissance village built around it represent an oasis of silence and charm, inside which it is a pleasure to get lost.
The times vary: The archaeological site always opens at 8.30 am but the closing time varies according to the time of year. In the winter months it closes around 4.30 / 5.00 pm whereas in the summer it stays open until 7.00 pm.
Ostia is just a few kilometres away from Rome. You can get there by train in about 1 hour.
It is very close to Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci airport, so much so that many tourists decide to visit it on their day of departure. If you have a car it takes about 15 minutes. Although there is local transport, such as buses and trains, it is preferable to have a vehicle for these journeys.
The Lido di Ostia is a very crowded place in summer. Considered by many as the beach of Rome, it is a seaside resort full of beach resorts, hotels, fish restaurants, discos and clubs... in short, if you are looking for a bit of nightlife you might consider spending an evening here. If you love crystal clear sea, however, we suggest you go a little further south down the coast of Lazio, towards Formia, Sperlonga, Terracina and Gaeta.
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