The Roman ruins of Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient port, are easily accessible as a day trip from Rome and make a good alternative to going to Pompeii. Ostia Antica’s ruins, while extensive, are smaller and more easily navigated than those at Pompeii and much easier (and less costly) to get to from Rome. At Ostia Antica you’ll get a good look at what a typical working-class Roman town was like. You’ll see houses, shops, ovens, a bakery, wells, fountains, and even toilets. You’ll also see remains of the town’s forum, temples, a theater, and bathes.
Getting There: Take Metro Line B to the Piramide stop, then go outside to the Porto San Paolo station to take the Ostia-Lido train toward the Lido, getting off at Ostia Antica. Your metro ticket is good for this local train also, making transportation pretty inexpensive.
On the way to the excavations, you’ll pass the pretty medieval village of Ostia. It’s worth taking a little time to walk around the village before or after your visit to the ruins, and if you’re there on a Sunday or Thursday morning, you can even tour the small Castle of Julius II. There are places to eat in the village, too – I had a good, inexpensive lunch at Ristorante Cipriani.
Continue on to the ticket office where you can also buy a useful map of the site. Just inside near the entrance are restrooms, a bookshop with souvenirs, picnic area, and a bar selling sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. If you didn’t bring water, you might want to pick up a bottle before you start through the site.
The ancient city, in use from about the 4th century BC through the 5th century AD, was laid out along one main street, Decumanus Maximus. Walking along this street you’ll see the main commercial buildings including stores and markets, workshops, public buildings, warehouses, and the theater that once held 3,000 to 4,000 spectators, built between 19 and 12 BC. On some of the side streets you’ll see the residential areas with remains of houses, a few with mosaic floors or frescoes on the walls.
Continue to the forum, the center of political, commercial, and religious activity in Roman towns. Around the forum you’ll see the large public bathes, a marketplace including the fish shops, a temple, and a Christian basilica.
There’s a small necropolis off to the side near the entrance. There’s also an archaeological museum that you can visit before or after you see the ruins. with statues, busts of Roman emperors and sarcophagi.
When to Go: Ostia Antica is closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25. The site opens at 8:30 and stays open all day through at least 16:30 with longer hours in summer (the ticket office closes 1 hour before closing). Check the web site for current hours and ticket prices. The museum opens at 9:30. Plan to spend at least 2 to 3 hours to visit the site and museum.
Tips: In summer it can be very hot so it’s best to go in the morning (in summer you might also want to go to the beach in the afternoon by taking the train one stop further to Ostia Lido).
For a guided tour with transportation, book an Ancient Ostia half-day trip from Rome with pick up and drop off at your Rome hotel and a tour of Ostia Antica in English.