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What was once one of the biggest and most important ancient ports of Rome, Ostia Antica is one of the best examples of Roman ruins or scavi outside of Pompeii. This vast archaeological site sits just 30 km west of Rome and is one of the top day trips from Rome. Easily accessible by public transport, visiting Ostia Antica from Rome has never been so easy, yet you’ll often find no more than a handful of tourists there.
Over the past 10 years, I have visited Rome over 20 times. But it wasn’t until 2018 that I discovered or had even heard of the Roman ruins of Ostia Antica. Sat just 30 minutes west of Rome close to the seaside town of Ostia, this archaeological gem is not only one of the best Roman ruins in Italy outside of Naples, but it is one of the most fascinating, giving a real insight to how Roman’s lived 2000 years ago and how important Ostia was to the growth, sustainability and daily life of Rome.
When I visited in June 2018, I found to my surprise only a handful of tourists there. I spent an entire day wandering around the ruins of Ostia in amazement and awe. How is it that Pompeii is crowded with hundreds of people every day and this historic wonder lies just a metro ride away from Rome and there be just a single school group and a few tourists on one of the sunniest and warmest days in Rome in June?! I still find it hard to believe 2 years later that few tourists make the short journey to visit this amazing site and what I consider the most underrated and underappreciated sight I have yet to visit in all of Italy. If you happen to stumble across this post, I hope that you find the below guide useful in planning your trip to Ostia Antica and that you enjoy your day exploring the Roman ruins and this ancient Roman port!
Brief history of Ostia Antica
As the main harbor city of ancient Rome, Ostia Antica was once a thriving seaport home to over 60,000 people. The name Ostia derives from the ancient city’s position at the mouth of the Tiber River. Ostia in Latin – ostium – means river mouth in English.
Founded around 620 BC, Ostia was one of the very first Roman colonies to be built on the banks of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Situated next to salt flats, Ostia supplied large quantities of salt to the Roman Republic, a precious commodity in ancient Roman times, used to preserve meat.
Around 400 BC, Rome took over Ostia and formed a naval base there and by 150 BC Rome pretty much ruled and controlled most of the Mediterranean and Ostia became is main commercial port. At its peak, Ostia was vital to the Roman Empire. Most of Rome’s imports, meat and goods came through Ostia and was transported into the city by horse and cart.
Overtime, Rome began to depend on other ports around the Mediterranean, and Ostia lost is status. It became the epicenter of Malaria causing inhabitants to flee for their lives and with the fall of Rome, the port town of Ostia was abandoned and forgotten about. Eventually, the harbor silted up and it was thanks to the large amount of mud which eventually buried Ostia that many of its buildings and mosaics were protected from the ravages of time.
How to get to Ostia Antica from Rome
Getting to Ostia Antica from Rome is very easy by public transport. To visit Ostia Antica from Rome, you need to take a ride on the metro and then a short train ride.
Taking the train from Rome to Ostia Antica
You will most probably start at Roma Termini Train Station where you’ll find the Red and Blue Metro lines.
You will want to go down into the metro and take the Blue B Line traveling in the direction of LAURENTINA and ride to the PIRAMIDE station. When you reach the Piramide train station, step off the train and look to your left. Follow the signs to Lido (beach) — go up the escalator, turn left, and go down the steps to reach the Roma-Lido train line. Then wait for the next train departing in the direction of Lido. Trains leave every 15 minutes and they stop at Ostia Antica along the way (7 Stops).
When you get to Ostia Antica, exit the train station and walk directly ahead to the blue pedestrian bridge. Cross over the bridge and walk straight down the street and then walk through a small parking lot. You’ll eventually reach a larger parking lot where you’ll see the entrance to the site and the ticket office to your left.
What public transport train tickets will I need to travel to Ostia Antica?
If you have purchased a Roma Pass then your travel to and from Ostia Antica is included. You will just need to tap the pass on the metro ticket gates to validate your journey.
If you need to purchase a public transport ticket to get to Ostia, I suggest purchasing a standard single ticket for €1.50 for a one-way journey or a 24-hour pass for €7 which will cover your return journey as well as any other transport you may choose to use that day (for example to return to your hotel or visit other sites).
Ostia Antica Opening Hours and Admission Fees
Tickets can be purchased on the spot at the archaeological site from the Ticket Office. You can also purchase tickets in advance online here however they do charge a €1 admin fee.
Roma Pass holders can enter for free using one of their included museum passes. If you have a 48 hour Roma card then you have 1 free entrance included. For 72-hour cardholders you have 2 free entrances included.
OSTIA ANTICA OPENING HOURS 2020
Open: Tuesday to Sunday
Closed: Every Mondays, 1st January, 1st May, 25th December
- 8.30AM – 4.30PM (25th October – 28th (or 29th) February, last entrance at 3.30PM)
- 8.30AM – 5.15PM (1st March – 31st March, last entrance at 4.15PM)
- 8.30AM – 7.00PM (1st April – 30th September, last entrance at 6.00PM)
- 8.30AM – 6.30PM (1st October – 24th October, last entrance at 5.30PM)
The Ticket Office and the Museum close one hour before the site’s closing time. For an up to date schedule of opening times you can check the official website here.
Is Ostia Antica worth visiting?
, In my opinion, the scavi ruins of Ostia Antica is one of the top day trips from Rome.
It is a cheap, educational and fascinating day out and a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Rome. If you haven’t made it to Pompeii but are visiting Rome, Ostia Antica is a must-do day trip! The crowds of tourists have yet to discover Ostia Antica so you’ll often find you’re walking down an ancient cobbled street all by yourself.
Ostia Antica VS Pompeii? Which is better?
While the story of Ostia Antica isn’t as dramatic as Pompeii, Ostia Antica shows a more in-depth and real side to the everyday life of the Romans. The mosaics alone are worth the trip!
Ostia Antica also has far fewer crowds than Pompeii and is a short 30 minutes from the city. To travel from Rome to Pompeii is an almost 3 hour journey time.
What is there to see and do at Ostia Antica?
The archaeological site sprawls over almost 10,000 acres so there is plenty to keep you busy for an entire day. Excavations of the ruins began in the late 19th Century and most of the ruins have been uncovered for you to see including some incredible mosaics, temples, public baths, latrines, and stores, giving you a true insight to everyday life as a Roman.
Since there is so much to see, I have listed below a few of the top highlights of Ostia Antica that you should definitely seek out during your visit. The city is laid out following one long main street called Decumanus Maximus. Use this as your main artery for navigation during your visit. On the map below, you’ll see the entrance to the site on the right and the main street running through the middle. I’ll list the sights worth seeing in order, from the right entrance to the left.
You can purchase the same map of Ostia Antica on arrival at the Ticket Office. I found it extremely useful during my visit to identify which ruin was what. There are also very good signs in English explaining each ruin in detail as you walk around.
The Necropolis is one of the first sights you will come across on your left as you enter the archaeological ruins. The Romans believed that the dead should be buried outside of the city walls. This was to avoid any contamination or disease spreading inside the city. It also forced anyone who was passing through the gates to and from the city to acknowledge the ancestors. Both burials and cremations were practiced in Roman times and you’ll find a mixture of open tombs and sarcophagi which has some scriptures inscribed on them. It is said whoever disturbs the tombs will be cursed.
Baths of Neptune
Roman bathhouses used to be the epicenter of all social interactions within the city. Covered in marble, beautiful statues, fountains and mosaics, they were a place not only for bathing but for exercising and socializing. Climb up the steps to the viewpoint over the well-preserved mosaics of the Baths of Neptune, where you’ll see Neptune himself riding four horses through the waves.
Teatro of Ostia
The grand theatre of Ostia is a sight you can’t miss. Built in the 1st Century BC, it could hold up to 4000 people. Most of the theatre’s structure remains visible, and you can climb to the top level (where women would have typically sat thanks to the gender division rules of Ancient Rome) to get a good overview. Musicians typically performed in the ground floor semi-circle, while actors would have used the wooden stage.
Plaza of the Guilds
The large square located behind the theatre is the grand square of the guilds. This was once the heart of Rome’s import and export industry. It is here that merchants from foreign lands would gather to sell anything from grain and shipping services to elephants and giraffes. The most notable detail of the Square of Guilds is the intricate black and white mosaics that lie in front and inside of each shop. These mosaics indicated the professional associations of each vendor. It is important to note that these shops did not have any merchandise in them (they were too small). Instead, they functioned more as offices where people could meet and create deals.
The Grand Horrea
The Grand Horrea was built to store grain. The storage capacity of the ground floor alone was said to 5 to 6000 metric tons of grain. It has been estimated that 150,000 tons of grain were needed each year to feed the Roman people. If that’s correct, this granary held only 4% of the grain needed to feed Rome.
The Mill of Silvanus
Dating back to 120 AD, the Mill of Silvanus is a great example of a Roman bakery. You can still see the lava millstones and the well-preserved bread ovens.
Via Casa di Diana
There are a few important sites grouped together which include the House of Diana, the Thermopolium and the House of the Paintings. The House of Diana is a great example of how the lower middle class lived while the Thermopolium is one of the best sights in Ostia. Here you get a real vision of what a bar used to look like in the Roman times, complete with an intact bar, a menu on the wall, shelves and wall paintings.
The Capitolium and Forum
The next collection of ruins are all linked to the Forum that dates back to the era of Hadrian. It was the religious and administrative center of the city and was also a location for the locals to come together for a chat, a prayer, a debate or even a bath. In fact, the Forum is the heart of every Roman city and you can’t miss visiting Ostia’s. At its heart of the large Capitolium, Ostia’s largest temple.
Another favorite sight of mine and almost immediately recognizable is the Fishmongers. It is marked by a marble table, a fish basin at the rear and a mosaic fish on the floor.
Probably the most famous ruin and one that almost anyone can recognize are the Latrines or what we call the toilets. These toilets were public toilets open to anyone. The running water underneath would wash away any waste and there would often be a communal sponge that was used to clean themselves. Gross right?!
Ostia Antica tips for visiting and common FAQS
Ostia Antica is a very big archaeological site and you can easily spend the entire day there. Below are some top tips for visiting the Ostia Antica scavi ruins including important things to bring with you as well as some answers to common questions about visiting Ostia Antica.
The scavi ruins have many loose cobblestones and rocks and the site is extremely dusty so suitable shoes for walking are highly recommended. A sun hat is also recommended. When I visited in June it was 30 degrees and in certain areas, there is very little shade. A water bottle will be useful as water in the restaurant is very overpriced. And an obvious one, bring your camera!
There is a restaurant there located next to the museum. I found the food and water to be very overpriced for what was being served, so if you’re traveling as a family, a packed lunch maybe a better option. At the time of visiting, it was possible to sit amongst the ruins to eat my packed lunch. That is a pretty incredible experience in itself!
Ostia Antica is located just 5 km from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. You can easily take a taxi there from the airport which will cost you approx. €30-40 or $35-45 one way.
As of March 2020, there are no facilities to store your luggage at Ostia Antica. It would be best to store your luggage at your hotel or at the main Termini rail station.