Rome's Top 10 : Ostia Antica (part 1)

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Some 2,000 years ago, ancient Rome’s lively international port city was right on the beach and at the mouth of the Tiber (ostium means “river mouth”). In the ensuing millennia the sea has retreated several kilometres and the river has changed course dramatically. Ostia was founded in the 4th century BC, first as a simple fort, but as Rome grew, the town became ever more important, as the distribution point for imports from around the Mediterranean. Grain was the most vital commodity, to feed Rome’s one million inhabitants, and so huge storage bins (horrea) were built here. Goods were sent up to Rome on river barges. Ostia’s heyday ended in the 4th century AD, and it died completely as an inhabited area about 1,000 years ago.

  • Viale dei Romagnoli 717

  • Metro B, trams 3 and 30, or buses 23, 95, 75, 280 to Piramide, then local train from Porta San Paolo Station to Ostia Antica

  • 06 5635 8099

  • Open Nov–Feb: 8:30am–5pm daily; Mar: 8:30am–6pm daily; Apr–Oct: 8:30am–7:30pm daily, closed 1 Jan, 25 Dec, 1 May

  • Adm €6.00 (reduced €3.00)

  • The port area (Trajan’s Port) can be visited on request

  • 06 6501 0089

Park Guide

Arrival by local train is very easy, and takes about 20 minutes from Porta San Paolo station, next to the Piramide underground stop. The cost of the trip is one regular bus ticket. From the Ostia Antica train station, walk straight out to the footbridge that goes over the highway. Continue straight on past the restaurant until you get to the ticket booth. The park is very extensive and a decent visit will take at least three hours. Wear sturdy shoes, and bring sunscreen and a bottle of water on hot days.

Ostia Antica

There’s a snack bar behind the museum, which is a great place to refuel and refresh on a hot day.

The ruined walls can look confusingly similar, so rent one of the audio guides where you buy your entrance ticket.

Top 10 Features
  1. Decumanus Maximus

    You enter the park by way of the ancient Via Ostiensis. The white marble goddess on the left marks the beginning of city’s main street, the Decumanus Maximus).

  2. Theatre

    The original theatre was twice as tall as it now stands. Behind the stage was a temple, of either Ceres (goddess of grain) or Dionysus (god of theatre). Around the square, mosaics) advertise various import businesses: grain, wild animals, ivory and shipping.

  3. Casa di Diana and Thermopolium

    You can climb up to the top of this insula (apartment block) for a great view. Across the street is the Thermopolium, a tavern with a wall-painting of menu items.

  4. Museum

    Beautifully organized, the displays include precious sculptures, sarcophagi and mosaics found among the ruins. One of the highlights is a marble statue of the god Mithras about to sacrifice the Cosmic Bull.

  5. Forum

    The rectangular heart of officialdom was originally surrounded by columns. In the centre was a shrine to the Imperial Lares (household gods).

  6. Capitolium

    Dominating the city was the monumental temple to the Capitoline Triad – Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Climb the staircase to examine the threshold stone of rare Lucullan marble.

  7. Terme dei Sette Sapienti

    This elaborate bath complex contains a painting of Venus, floor mosaics of hunters and animals and nude athletes and marine scenes.

  8. House of Cupid and Psyche

    The wealthy had villas like this refined example of a 3rd-century AD domus. You can still admire the Doric columns, the fountain (nymphaeum) and the inlaid marble decorations.

  9. Terme di Nettuno

    Built in the 2nd century, this bath complex was enhanced with fine mosaics of sea-gods and sea-monsters, which you can view from a small terrace. You can also go down along to the left to study close-up the baths’ ingenious heating system.

  10. Mithraeum of the Serpents

    This was one of 18 Ostian temples to Mithras. The cult was very popular with Roman soldiers, and flourished especially well in port towns. The frescoes of snakes invoked the earth’s fertility, while the platforms were for lying on during mystic banquets.

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