Lazio – a walk through Ostia Antica

Ostia was Rome’s port in ancient times. Unfortunately the harbour silted up due to its proximity to the mouth of the Tiber just to the north, so eventually the site had to be abandoned. Due to the silting, Ostia Antica is now three kilometres inland and Ostia Lido, the modern beach area, is now the coast.

I visited Ostia Lido back in 2013 (post here). This post is about my visit to Ostia Antica in 2018. My map of the town is here.

The centre of town is quite pretty and peaceful. For lunch I had a decent Insalata Mista with tuna for €8.50 sitting outside at L’Alimentari at 6 Piazza Umberto I. There are a couple more places along the road.

After work I went to see the sights. First you come to the Castle of Pope Julius II, built by the pope in the late 15th century but abandoned after a flood in 1587. There are guided tours but I kept walking to the Parco Archeologico over the road.

The standard entrance fee €12 but I got in by purchasing the Roma Pass for €28. I bought the pass thinking that I would be able to get in free to several other tourist sites but it turned out that it often just got you a discount. I’m not convinced that it’s worth buying one unless you really are going to spend your whole weekend sightseeing.

It’s a huge site, rivalling Pompei, (video here) so you’ll need a couple of hours at least to walk the length and back again, and the paths are quite rough, so comfortable clothing, good shoes and a bottle of water on a hot day are recommended.

The ruins you can see are from the 3rd century BC but the oldest remains date to the 4th century BC. Having been to all three, I would say that Ostia is of lesser artistic value in comparison to Pompei and Herculaneum, but there are still some interesting things to see.

The mosaics and frescoes are particularly famous. Particularly striking is the one in the Terme di Nettuno depicting Neptune on a chariot pulled by sea horses and surrounded by tritons (mermen), nereids (sea nymphs), animals and sea monsters. Video here. There are many other mosaics on the site, most are unexcavated and crumbling underfoot which seems unfortunate. There are so many though that they can’t all be cared for.

The amphitheatre is in good condition. Video here.

Statues dot the site but you can bet your bottom dollar most of them were positioned artificially by the park’s designers, which as a former archaeologist myself, I find a bit annoying. Still it makes for a more interesting walk. There is a museum as well but I didn’t have time to go.

Please click on this gallery to enlarge the photos.

Although a major site, perhaps bigger than Pompeii (new discoveries were made in 2014), you’ll probably be by yourself most of the time as most tourists have enough to see in Rome. So, a nice place for a peaceful walk.

And that’s it for Rome, off to the Lazio countryside next…


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