Last week I posted a ton of photos from Ostia Antica in my “Objet d’art” post, which you hopefully appreciated for Ostia’s loveliness. But I didn’t say much about the place. So if your curiosity was piqued last week, here you can get the full story:
Back in the days of yore Ostia was Rome’s port city. Over time the mouth of the Tevere (or Tiber, whichever you prefer) has silted up and so Ostia is no longer quite as close to the sea. Now you might be thinking, “but what about those stinky beaches I’ve heard about near Rome, Ostia Lido or something?” Yes, that’s Ostia too, but the archaeological site is Ostia Antica. And it is AWESOME.
I would argue: better than Pompeii. While Pompeii has Vesuvius, and all the drama about the eruption, Ostia is cheap. To get there, you just have to take the Roma-Ostia train from the Piramide metro station and it costs the same as a regular ride on the metro or bus. And it only takes about 30 mins. Even if you’re on the fast train down to Naples, factoring in the slow and gross Circumvesuviana train (the train that actually takes you to Pompeii), Ostia wins both in terms of cash moneys and time, neither of which I am in particularly grand supply.
And honestly, though Pompeii has more extant frescoes, Ostia is amazing because it’s a bit overgrown and wild and you can wander everywhere around the site, making you feel a bit like Indiana Jones. And honestly, for me, feeling like Indiana Jones is the best, best reason to go to an archaeological site!
There aren’t too many people at Ostia, and I am not joking when I said you could wander all over the site and feel like you’re discovering new things. There was a bit where I was meandering in a back corner, through 18-inch tall grass and I hadn’t seen another person in about thirty minutes. It’s magical.
Ostia was a city, with as many as 75,000 residents at one point, so you could spend all day wandering in and out of buildings and into nooks and crannies. I didn’t think about that when I was there, and having wandered for hours and hours I was surprised by how exhausted I was. But it is big! And like so many places in Rome (and Italy in general) it makes me wonder if this is what they’ve already found of Ostia Antica– so much stuff, so many buildings– how much was lost and how much is still in the ground???