It’s been recent news that new archaeological diggings have found evidence that the ancient city of Ostia Antica was bigger than previously thought, almost double the size we know and can visit today, and much bigger even than Pompeii, the city near Naples tragically destroyed and buried by lava and ashes of the volcano Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Either by metro from Ostiense train station or via a boat ride along the mighty Tiber river, one great day trip from Rome is to this ancient city next to Rome that has always played a great role within the empire.
The name Ostia (Ostium in Latin) means “mouth”, in this case of the Tiber, and the reason is because it was located right where the river flew into the Tyrrhenian Sea, which was much closer than it is today, before the massive flood of 1575 caused a mutation in the watercourse.
Initially built as a military settlement with defense purposes, Ostia was later turned into a pivotal commercial and trading hub thanks to its proximity to the port. By the 2nd century, it had become a rich city with villas and residential areas where the wealthy would either live or spend their holidays, along with taverns, shops, bakeries and the mandatory temples, political arena, amphitheater for public games and the absolutely necessary thermal baths for everybody’s favorite leisure activity.
With barbarians’ attacks on Rome and its aqueducts, also Ostia began to decline, to be gradually abandoned. Today we can wander its streets and feel as if some toga-clad senator is on his way to the baths or if sandalled workers are ready to chill out and get wasted at the nearest tavern.
Walking around houses and insulae (ancient blocks of flats), you will have an accurate glimpse on how was life some 2000 years ago, admiring the buildings, the temples, the political area and the gorgeous mosaics used to decorate. In a nutshell, you will sense ancient times’ daily routine.
If you decide to go by metro, you can take it at Ostiense train station (Porta San Paolo the name of the metro) and also other stations of metro line B, Basilica San Paolo and Eur Magliana. On the other hand, if you’d rather go via the river, boat trips are from September 1st to October 31st and from April 7th to June 30th, leave at 9.45am from Ponte Marconi (Marconi Bridge) near metro station Basilica San Paolo, and include the guide on the boat and the tour guide in Ostia, usually an archaeologist. Even if you go by boat, you will have to come back to Rome by train/metro from the station called Ostia Antica, and you’ll reach the city in about half an hour.
For historical research and info visit http://www.ostia-antica.org, for practical information on opening times and tours, check out the official site of Rome Council’s cultural department http://www.ostiaantica.beniculturali.it/en, while for information on the boat tours, visit http://thegrandtoureurope.com/guided-tours-rome/guided-tours-ancient-ostia-rome/.