If you want to escape the sweltering heat and the maddening crowds of the Eternal City you can visit the magnificent Ostia Antica. Many Road to Italy’s clients go there as part of customized tours of Italy.
Located twenty miles from Rome, two thousand years ago Ostia Antica was a thriving commercial port built on both the sea and the Tiber river, however, over the centuries the shoreline moved more than two miles away. Today the archaeological complex sprawls over 10,000 acres and has some spectacular well-preserved Roman ruins: warehouses, mansions, apartments, bakeries, shops, and baths.
The main street in Ostia, the Decumanus Maximus, continued as the road to Rome. Fading wheel ruts can be still seen in some place on the street paved with basalt blocks. There were about 18 baths in ancient Ostia. The Baths of Neptune is the most famous because of the beautiful black-and-white mosaics of Neptune and his wife Amphitrite. The sea god is depicted riding a chariot and surrounded by sea monsters, dolphins, and Nereids.
The nearby apartment buildings give a fascinating glimpse into daily lives of Ostia’s residents. The smaller dark rooms were for lower classes, while middle-class families lived in the spacious multi-room apartments. They had kitchens with hot running water and slaves doing daily chores for them. Each building had latrines for its tenants and you can admire one of them by the Forum Baths: a large room with twenty holes running along the walls. Try to envision the ancient Romans sitting there, gossiping and discussing politics.
Don’t miss the meticulously restored amphitheatre nearby that was built in 12 BC to hold 3500 spectators. On the main square of Ostia are ruins of a huge temple, Capitolium, dedicated to the Roman deities, the Capitoline triad (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). In the small museum you can see some of the finds from the excavations on the site.
After hours of walking among the ruins, you can chill out at the Ostia beach that is a short drive away. There are many cafés and restaurants where you can refuel before having a refreshing dip in the sea.
Photos by: Dennis Jarvis, Roger Ulrich, Sebastià Giralt.