Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica | Rome's Ancient Harbor City

Ostia Antica is an expansive archaeological site located 30 kilometres from Rome, offering a vivid glimpse into ancient Roman life. Walking through the well-preserved Roman ruins, you'll find the grand theatre, which seated 3,000 people, and the bustling Decumanus Maximus, lined with ancient shops, taverns, and public baths. The intricate mosaics at the Baths of Neptune are stunning. 


The Ostia Synagogue, the oldest in Europe, highlights the city’s diverse population. Significant structures like the Capitolium temple and the extensive Thermae Gavii Maximi baths showcase impressive Roman architecture. The Forum served as the heart of civic life, while the numerous Mithraea were dedicated to the god Mithras. Ostia Antica was a major port city, evident in its ancient warehouses and apartment blocks that housed a bustling population. This site uniquely preserves the commercial, religious, and residential facets of a thriving Roman city.

Things to See in Ostia Antica

The House of Diana

The House of Diana in Ostia Antica is a significant attraction, showcasing the multi-storied residential architecture of ancient Rome. Built around 150 AD, this insula, or apartment building, is named after a fresco of the goddess Diana found within. The ground floor housed various shops, which is evident from the wide entrances that are still visible.


As you ascend, you find the first floor reserved for shopkeepers and their families, while the upper floors contained smaller, more modest apartments. The intricate mosaic floors and frescoed walls depict complex geometric patterns, flora, Medusa heads, fish, and birds. Exploring the House of Diana offers insight into the daily lives and urban living conditions of middle-class Romans.

The Thermopolium

The Thermopolium in Ostia Antica is an ancient Roman café that highlights the social and culinary habits of the time. This establishment served hot food and drinks to locals and travellers. You can see the well-preserved L-shaped counter with large embedded jars called dolia, used to store food and wine. The walls are adorned with frescoes depicting Bacchus, the god of wine, and Mercury, the god of commerce. These images ensured the establishment's prosperity. Menu items included eggs, olives, lentils, and meat, often seasoned with garum, a fermented fish sauce. The Thermopolium offers a fascinating glimpse into Roman dining culture.

The Bakery of Silvano

The Bakery of Silvano in Ostia Antica provides a detailed look at ancient Roman baking techniques. This bakery, built around 120 AD, features large lava-stone millstones used to grind grain into flour. The millstones consist of a cone-shaped base (meta) and a moveable top (Catullus), operated by slaves or mules. The bakery also includes a kneading area and large ovens where dough was baked into bread. The walls are adorned with mosaics depicting various stages of bread production. The Bakery of Silvano supplied the local population and exported bread to Rome, highlighting its significant role in the ancient economy.

The Theatre

The Theatre in Ancient Ostia is an impressive structure built during the reign of Augustus in the late 1st century BC. Expanded in the 2nd century AD, it could accommodate up to 4,000 spectators. The semi-circular seating arrangement and well-preserved stage area reflect the grandeur of Roman entertainment architecture. The lowest rows, made of marble, were reserved for high-status individuals. Behind the stage, the scaenae frons, or decorative backdrop, featured three marble theatrical masks. Today, the theatre is still used for cultural events, allowing you to experience the vibrant atmosphere of ancient performances.

The Piazza of the Corporations

The Piazza of the Corporations in Ostia Antica was the city's bustling commercial centre. This large square, situated behind the theatre, was surrounded by offices of various trade guilds. Each office was decorated with mosaics depicting their trade, such as grain importers, shipbuilders, and rope-makers. Statues of prominent citizens and corporation leaders adorned the square. In the centre, a 1st-century AD temple likely dedicated to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, underscored the importance of grain trade. The Piazza of the Corporations provides a vivid insight into ancient Ostia's economic life and commercial activities.

The Capitolium

The Capitolium in Ostia Antica Park is a grand temple dedicated to the Capitoline triad: Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. Constructed in 120 AD, it stands on a high podium with a monumental staircase. The temple's brick exterior was once covered in marble, with six large columns gracing the entrance. Inside, the cult statues of the gods were displayed, and the altar at the base of the steps was used for sacrifices. The Capitolium served as the religious and political heart of Ostia. Exploring this site gives you a sense of the city's architectural grandeur and religious significance.

History of Ostia Antica

Ancient Ostia was founded in the 7th century BCE by Rome's fourth king, Ancus Marcius. It started as a small settlement used primarily for salt production but quickly grew due to its strategic location at the mouth of the Tiber River. This made it a crucial naval base during the Punic Wars. The construction of a fort in the mid-4th century BCE further emphasised its importance in protecting Rome’s coastline. As Rome expanded, Ancient Ostia became the main port, facilitating trade and supplying grain to the capital. It thrived as a commercial hub, with warehouses, shops, and temples emerging to support its bustling population.


The city's prosperity peaked in the 2nd century CE, boasting a population of around 50,000. Ostia's decline began in the 3rd century due to economic troubles and increasing pirate attacks. The construction of the new port, Portus, by Emperor Claudius also shifted maritime activities away from Ostia. Over time, the city faced further decline from barbarian invasions and malaria outbreaks. By the 9th century, it was largely abandoned. Excavations in the 19th and 20th centuries have uncovered a well-preserved city, offering a fascinating glimpse into the daily life and architecture of ancient Rome. Today, Ostia Antica stands as a testament to Rome’s rich historical tapestry.

Tips to Visit Ostia Antia

  • Wear comfortable shoes with thick soles to navigate the uneven terrain and cobblestone roads.
  • In summer, wear light clothing, sunscreen, a large hat, and sunglasses to protect from the sun.
  • Carry a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated, as there are places to refill on-site.
  • Allocate at least 3-4 hours to explore the extensive archaeological site and see all major attractions.
  • Consider bringing a packed lunch, as the on-site cafeteria can be crowded and expensive.
  • Opt for a guided tour to gain a deeper understanding of the site's history and significance.
  • Visit during weekdays or winter mornings to avoid crowds and have a more enjoyable experience.
  • The site is easily accessible by train; take the Roma-Lido line from Piramide station to Ostia Antica station.
  • Do not forget your camera and a small tripod to capture stunning photos of the ancient ruins at Ostia Antica Park

Know Before You Go Ostia Antica

Essential Information
How to Reach

Location: Ostia Antica is located around 30 kilometres southwest of Rome. Its location is: Viale dei Romagnoli, 717, 00119 Roma RM, Italy.


Timings

Ostia Antica remains open from Tuesdays to Sundays. It is closed on Mondays, December 25th and January 1st

08:30 a.m. to 04:30 p.m. (October 25th to February 28th or 29th)

08:30 a.m. to 05:15 p.m. (March 1st to March 31st)

08:30 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. (April 1st to September 30th)

08:30 a.m. to 06:30 p.m. (October 1st to October 24th)


Best time to visit: You can visit Ostia Antica all year round. However, the ideal time is during spring and autumn. From March to May, the weather is mild, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C, and the surroundings bloom with vibrant flowers. Autumn, from September to November, offers warm, sunny days and fewer tourists, making exploration more enjoyable. Weekdays, especially Tuesday to Thursday, are the best days to visit, avoiding weekend crowds. For the best experience, visit early in the morning, around 08:30 a.m. to 09:00 a.m., to enjoy the serene atmosphere and beautiful morning light for photography.

By Bus: Take bus number 306 from Roma Tiburtina bus station in central Rome. The journey takes approximately 1 to 1.5 hours, covering 29.9 kilometres. Get off at the Ostia Antica bus stop, which is conveniently located near the archaeological site. From the bus stop, it is 350 metres or a 5 to 10-minute walk to the site's entrance.


By Car: From central Rome, drive on the A24 highway towards Fiumicino. Continue on the A24 for approximately 25.3 kilometres until you reach the exit for Ostia Antica. Follow the signs to the archaeological site, which is located just off the highway. Parking is available near the site, but spaces can fill up quickly.


By Metro and Train: Take metro line B from any station in central Rome and get off at Piramide station. From there, walk to the Roma Porta San Paolo train station. Board the Roma-Lido commuter train towards Ostia Antica. From the station, it is a 5 to 10-minute walk to the entrance of the archaeological site (350 metres).

By Tram

Take tram number 3 from the Roma Termini tram station in central Rome. The journey takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes, covering 27.1 kilometres. Get off at the Ostia Antica tram stop, which is located near the archaeological site. From here, you can reach the site in under 10 minutes.

FAQs

What is Ostia Antica?

Ostia Antica is an ancient Roman port city located at the mouth of the Tiber River, near modern Rome. Once Rome’s main port, it played a crucial role in trade and commerce. Today, it is a major archaeological park, offering insights into Roman urbanism and daily life through its well-preserved ruins and excavations.

Why was Ostia Famous?

Ancient Ostia was famous for being Rome's main port, handling vast amounts of goods and supplies for the Roman Empire. It was a thriving commercial centre with over 50,000 inhabitants. The well-preserved ruins, including food stalls, bakeries, and public toilets, offer a unique glimpse into the daily lives of ordinary Romans, making it a significant archaeological site.

What is the history of Ostia Antica?

Ostia Antica was founded by Ancus Marcius in the 7th century BC. Initially a military camp, it played a crucial role in Rome's defence and resupply during wars. The city flourished under the Roman Empire, becoming a major port and commercial hub. In the 1st century AD, Emperor Claudius built a new harbour, Portus, leading to Ostia's decline. By the 5th century AD, threats from barbarian invasions and silt from the Tiber River caused its abandonment. Rediscovered in the 19th century, extensive excavations under Mussolini revealed well-preserved ruins, making it a significant archaeological site today.

What are the opening hours of Ostia Antica?

Ostia Antica is open from Tuesday to Sunday, closing on Mondays, December 25th, and January 1st. From October 25th to February 28th/29th, hours are 08:30 a.m. to 04:30 p.m. From March 1st to March 31st, it is open from 08:30 a.m. to 05:15 p.m. From April 1st to September 30th, hours are 08:30 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. Finally, from October 1st to October 24th, it is open from 08:30 a.m. to 06:30 p.m.

What is the best time to visit Ostia Antica?

You can visit Ostia Antica all year round. However, the ideal time is during spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. Weekdays, especially Tuesday to Thursday, are less crowded. Visiting early in the morning around 08:30 a.m. also ensures a peaceful experience with beautiful morning light.

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