One of the central ancient ruins in Rome stands tall and beautiful in the Jewish quarter. Together with the other ancient sites, Portico di Ottavia is an essential vestige of Roman times. Located in the Jewish Quarter, it’s connected to the nearby Theater of Marcello, part of the same archaeological site.
You are not going to struggle to find Portico di Ottavia because it stands tall and majestic in an area, or better, in between two areas that always attract crowds and tours. However, probably because of this, it’s often neglected and mainly used as a passageway from one neighborhood to the next.
Portico di Ottavia is clearly a Roman ruin but it lies in the heart of a modern neighborhood. This might be confusing and lead you to walk by without paying too much attention. With our simple guide, we want to tell you not to go straight to the next landmark and stop for a moment to observe and enjoy these beautiful vestiges of Augustan times.
You won’t even need to stretch your trip to include Portico di Ottavia in your itinerary. Whether you are staying in Rome for two days or an entire week, you are likely to walk past these beautiful ancient ruins, so all you need to do is to stop and carve half an hour of your time.
Don’t miss our guide to what to do in Rome in a week.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why visit Porticus of Octavia
- 2 History of Portico di Ottavia in Rome
- 3 Architecture of the Porticus of Octavia
- 4 Practical info for visiting Portico di Ottavia in Rome’s Jewish Quarter
- 5 What to do near Portico di Ottavia
- 6 Where to eat near Portico di Ottavia
Why visit Porticus of Octavia
- Ancient ruins. If you are visiting Rome to have a glimpse of the ancient city, Portico di Ottavia is one of the buildings scattered around modern neighborhoods that much reveal about imperial times. It will contribute to showing you a more complete picture of what life back then was like, what was the idea of grandeur and prestige, and how Romans wanted to decorate and embellish their city.
- Layers of history. From the 2nd century BC to medieval times to modern days, visiting the small site of the Porticus of Octavia, you will step into several layers of history. Without descending underground, you will be able to see centuries of the local past by walking on the same modern street level.
- Easy to reach. Portico di Ottavia is located in the Jewish Ghetto and connected to the Theater of Marcello through a ramp, so it’s easy to reach from the city center, from Trastevere, from the Tiber Island, and also from the Circus Maximus and Capitoline Hill.
- Free. It’s free to access and includes both sights of Portico di Ottavia and the Theater of Marcello, part of the same archaeological site.
History of Portico di Ottavia in Rome
Porticus of Octavia was erected in Augustan times on the site of a more ancient portico built 146 BC by Roman statesman and general Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus after his victory in Greece.
We can still see today that it was an imposing four-sided portico, the only one still existing among those around the Circus Flaminius built by Gaius Flaminius in 221 BC to serve as the area for the citizens to hold their public meetings as well as a starting point for the official parades.
The most ancient portico from the 2nd century BC incorporated also the Temple of Juno Regina ordered in 179 BC by consul Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and the Temple of Jupiter Stator, the first in Rome ever made fully in marble by a Greek architect.
Emperor Augustus ordered a whole remodeling of the sumptuous portico that took place between 27 BC and 23 BC. He decided to devote and name the renewed building after his sister Octavia.
The Portico of Octavia was restored a few times after several fires that hit the city of Rome, including the one in 80 AD and the one in 203 AD that was probably carried out after the fire that took place under the rule of emperor Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, in 191 AD.
In the 8th century, part of the ancient building was occupied by the construction of the church of Sant’Angelo in Peschiera and a fish market.
Apart from the 8th-century church of Sant’Angelo, another building worth seeing is the medieval house known under many names such as Torre dei Grassi, Particappa Tower, or Soricara Tower after the families that owned it at some point, the Grassi that bought it from the Orsini clan in 1369 and the Particappa family that bought it in the 14th century until it became part of the Ospedale della Consolazione hospital in the 15th century.
Architecture of the Porticus of Octavia
The vestiges that we see today of the Portico di Ottavia in Rome’s Jewish Quarter belong to this latest renovation under Commodus, such as the propylaea at the entrance and the ruins of the portico on the right towards the southern end.
The digs in this part of the Portico di Ottavia brought to light the ancient floor and the low podium the structure was built on and along which was a colonnade. The portico was 119 meters large and 132 meters deep and had a double colonnade of 300 pillars embellished with Corinthian-style capitals.
The portico built under the rule of Augustus included also the apse-shaped structure Curia Octaviae where the Senate would arrange its meetings, and two libraries, one Greek and one Latin. Inside, this majestic building looked like an open-air museum with the ancient masterpiece known as Turma Alexandri consisting of 24 equestrian statues of Alexander the Great and his horsemen.
The complex consisted of two propylaea, walls finely decorated and coated with marble that opened through large arcades. The two facades featured four large pillars each. Of the external facade, today we can see only two of the four pillars because the other two were replaced with a large arch of Sant’Angelo church. Of the pillars of the internal facade, there are three still standing, while inside Sant’Angelo church are still visible one of the back columns and part of the tympanum.
On top of the external facade is the epistyle with the inscription of the restoration made in Severian time and the tympanum. Among the parts still visible of the ancient building are included parts of the roof with marble tiles and carvings, two side arches with beautiful marble shelves, and remains of the marble coating.
Practical info for visiting Portico di Ottavia in Rome’s Jewish Quarter
- Address: Via del Portico d’Ottavia 29.
- How to reach Portico di Ottavia: On foot from Trastevere, Capitoline Hill, the Circus Maximus, Marcello Theater, and Largo Argentina. By bus n. 23, 30, 44, 51, 63, 81, 83, 85, 87, 118, 160, 170, 280, 628. By tram n. 8.
- Entrance fee: Free.
- Opening hours: In summer 9 am-7 pm, in winter 9 am-6 pm.
- Disable access: There are paved boardwalks and ramps accessible to wheelchairs, also motorized wheelchairs, and mobility-impaired visitors.
- Accessibility rules: Portico di Ottavia is accessible to visitors on foot, bikers must push their bikes by hand, and dogs must be kept on a leash. In the archaeological area of Portico di Ottavia and Theater of Marcello, visitors must NOT eat, drink, play music, leave trash or dog waste, picnic, or trespass the fence. Entrance is strictly forbidden to all motorized vehicles including motorbikes, scooters, segway, monowheels, push scooters, mopeds, and hoverboards.
What to do near Portico di Ottavia
Connected to the Porticus of Octavia is Marcello Theater, one of the monumental ancient buildings of Rome and part of the same archaeological site. Built by emperor Augustus in 17 BC and named after his nephew who had died in Baiae near Naples in 27 BC.
Erected in Campo Marzio, in the southern end of the 9th Augustan region, the Theater of Marcello was located in an area of the old Circus Flaminius, the area devoted to the citizens to meet and take part in the city’s administrative and judiciary gatherings.
The Theater of Marcello is only visible from the outside and is not open to visitors.
Rome’s Jewish Quarter
Portico di Ottavia is actually one of the highlights of the Roman Jewish Ghetto. Among the other sights to see here are the Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, the brass cobblestones in memory of the raid during the Holocaust, and Piazza Mattei where is the famous Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain), one of Rome’s famous fountains, built by Giacomo della Porta.
Isola Tiberina is a manmade island in the center of the city rich in history and culture. Its origins are surrounded by countless myths but throughout the centuries, it’s a fact that it has played a crucial role in Rome’s history.
During the terrible plague that happened in the 17th century in the area, Tiber Island served as the place to isolate and treat those who contracted the disease.
Rome’s oldest bridge
Really a stone’s throw from the Portico di Ottavia, connecting the neighborhood to Tiber Island is Pons Fabricius, Rome’s oldest bridge still standing and preserving the original structure and architecture.
A passageway still in use today and one of the most famous bridges in Rome, it’s a piece of history you shouldn’t miss when exploring the city.
Where to eat near Portico di Ottavia
Luckily for you, you are in one of the best areas in Rome when it comes to food. In the Jewish neighborhood, in fact, you can grab a table at any of the local restaurants and enjoy delicious Kosher dishes. If you are not in the area for lunch, step into Tiber island for more traditional fares. Here are some of the restaurants you can eat at near Portico di Ottavia.
- Nonna Betta (Via del Portico d’Ottavia 16). Serves delicious dishes of the Kosher tradition.
- Sora Lella (Via di Ponte Quattro Capi 16). Serves Roman traditional foods, Sora Lella is located on Tiber island right after the Pons Fabricius bridge.
- Open Baladin (Via degli Specchi 6). Beer and restaurant with a large selection of artisan bottled and draft beers.
- Da Enzo al 29 (Via dei Vascellari 29). One of the best restaurants in Trastevere, Da Enzo al 29 serves traditional Roman dishes and is easy to reach by crossing Tiber Island and the two bridges Fabricius and Cestio.
- Supplizio (Via dei Banchi Vecchi 143). One of the most famous street food places in Rome near Campo de’ Fiori to grab a light meal on the go.
Not in the area for lunch? Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Rome.