Ostia was the harbour for Rome in ancient times. At Ostia Antica there is a large area of well preserved archaeological ruins that can be visited. I didn’t have time but I got a good idea from these videos. The mosaics and frescoes are particularly famous.
Ostia eventually failed as a harbour due to silting at the mouth of the River Tiber just to the north of the town. Due to the silting the Roman area is now 3km inland. The new town is called Ostia Lido and is the nearest beach resort for modern Romans taking their summer holidays.
Nowadays it has a faded seedy charm as many resorts do however it does feel quite edgy in the darker streets away from the central area and a teacher told me not to leave anything of value in a car. Just a few months before I arrived there had been fifty one arrests in the town for Mafia activity so it does seem crime is a bit of a problem here.
The town was greatly expanded in the Fascist period (1922-1943) with buildings constructed in the official Stile Littorio architectural mode, which took in rationalist, constructivist and futurist styles.
Whilst not a fan of the politics I do quite like some of the buildings, like the Palazzo de Poste on the corner of Corso Duca di Genova and Viale Capitan Consalvo.
Built in 1934 it was designed by the futurist Angiolo Mazzoni who also did the original design for Rome Termini Station.
Not sure which architect designed these apartment blocks further along the waterfront but I love the balconies and the porthole windows on the side walls.
I was put up at Hotel Sirenetta at 46 Lungomare Paolo Toscanelli It was fine in a faded, cheap Italian resort hotel kind of way. The staff were nice and the breakfast room has views of the sea and the waterfront.
I wish I had stayed at Hotel Ping Pong further down the lungomare because of its name!
Via Ciolio and its continuation Via dei Miseanti seems to be where most of the action is in the evenings in terms of nice bars and restaurants. I was only here for one night so can only really comment on this place recommended by the receptionist:
Alla Corte dei Borboni (Intermediate B+), 27 Piazza Anco
Located in a beautiful last-centure space this is, as the name suggests, a Neapolitan restaurant, complete with waitresses in Bourbon period costume. It was empty when I arrived but was soon packed out with locals so a reservation or early arrival might be a good idea. I only had some Suppli (deep fried rice ball with ragu and mozzarella), their ‘A Caprese’ pizza margherita with mozzarella di bufala and Pachino cherry tomatoes, and a Gelato al Torroncino, all of which was fine (B+). Total cost €23.50 with a limoncello. Given its popularity I’m sure everything else is good too.
A good cocktail bar, very near Alla Corte dei Borboni, is Insolito at 21 Via della Stazione Vecchia. The make a good Negroni here with quality vermouths such as Carpano Antica Formula and Martini Gold.
There are a few more restaurants on my Google map which were recommendations from various Italian guides but I wasn’t there long enough to try them.
Two tips from my friend Stuart: “Ostia Park Hotel in Ostia Antica has a lovely clean pool, free except for hire of a towel at €6. No other towels allowed! You can get to Ostia Antica from Ostia Lido in about 10 minutes on the No.4 bus, about every 20 minutes”.
In conclusion a brief but interesting stay in an off-season seaside resort. I’m sure it’s all very different in the summer.