Your Must Know Guide to Ostia Antica

Just 15 miles southwest of Rome, a stone s throw from the clear blue waters of the Tyrrenhian sea, slumbers one of the best preserved of ancient Roman towns. 

Though on par with Herculanum and Pompeii in terms of archeological significance, Ostia Antica is often overlooked by foreign tourists. 

Serenity prevails in this splendid archeological jewel. Full of Pine trees, overgrown with grass, this peaceful haven seems worlds away from the frantic day to day life of downtown Rome. 


On my first visit to Ostia Antica in the early 70s with a group of Mormon missionaries, we soon tired of observing the ruins and opted to channel our adolescent energy into an old fashioned game of hide and seek, for which the Ostian ruins were ideally suited. 

I ve been back to Ostia Antica several times and each time have enjoyed the experience more. It s a peaceful place where you can wander freely and ponder what life was like in ancient Rome. 


Ostia was founded in 623 B.C. where the Tiber pored into the sea as one of the first colonies of ancient Rome by Ancius Marcius (Anco Marzio), the fourth king of Rome. In ancient times the Etruscans, called Tyrrhennians by the Greeks, settled on Italy s western coast north of modern Rome in the area known today as Tuscany. 

Thus, the Mediterranean that washes Italy s western shores came to be known as the Sea of the Tyrrhennians. 

With its prime location at the mouth of the Tiber, Ostia Antica developed into the port for Rome. Goods brought in by ship were unloaded here and either stored in warehouses or loaded into smaller ships for the trip upriver to Rome. 

Many stores sprang up and Ostia became popular among Romans as a place to shop. Wealthy merchants and tradesmen built lavish homes along Ostia s broad streets. In its heyday Ostia was home to some 60,000 inhabitants. 

Ostian ruins include a large Jewish synagogue and the the remains of temples dedicated to the Persian god Itra, and the Egyptian god Iside. These diverse cultural relics provide evidence of the very heterogenous makeup of the city. 

After the fall of Rome, malaria spreading mosquitos infested the wetlands nearby. Ostia was abandoned and eventually buried beneath mud and sand as the Tiber shifted its course. 


You can gain more insight into the city of Rome from Ostia than you can from Pompeii. says Dr Darius Arya, executive director of the American Institute for Roman Culture. 

An excursion to Ostia presents a remarkably full view of the development and identity of the ancient Roman city, both historically and architecturally. Coming to Ostia Antica is like seeing a great work of art, emphasizes Dr. Arya, like the Sistine Chapel, where you can just keep going back again and again and again. There s just so much of interest here. 


Gates open Tuesday through Sunday around 9am and close about one hour before sunset. The site is closed on Monday. Admission runs about $5 for the site and museum. Allow yourself a relaxing 2 3 hours in this charming site. 

Via dei Romagnoli 717, Ostia Antica, Italy. PHONE: 06/56358099. The Website offers information in Italian only: 


In a side street in the small medieval village near the excavations you will find Cipriani, described by its fans as an atmospheric trattoria, with wooden beamed ceilings and frescoed walls, specializing in typical Roman cuisine. Via del Forno 11, Ostia Antica, Italy. PHONE: 06/56359560. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Wed. Its website offers information in Italian and in English: 


By Boat: Two boat companies operate regular services to Ostia Antica. Both leave from Ponte Marconi (Marconi Bridge) in Rome. The trip down the Tiber takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. 

1) Battelli di Roma (PHONE: 06/6789361, Departures: Friday, Saturday, Sunday at 9:15, return trip from Ostia Antica: 1:30. Tickets: EUR10. 

2) Battelli Invincibili 1 and Love Boat (PHONE: 06/56304094, Daily departures at 10 AM. Tickets: EUR12 (reservations are essential). 

By Car: Follow Via del Mare southwest, which leads directly from Rome to Ostia (a 30 to 40 minute trip). It s best to avoid weekends in summer when Romans head for the beach and traffic can be heavy. 

By Train: Regular train service links the Ostia Antica station with Rome s Piramide Metro line B station, near Porta San Paolo. Exit the Metro and go to the adjacent station called Ostia Lido. The ride takes about 35 minutes. Trains depart every half hour throughout the day. 


Before or after exploring Ostia Antica s ruins, take a few minutes to stroll around the quaint medieval village and visit the Castello della Rovere. 

This castle, which is easily spotted as you come off the footbridge from the train station, was built by Pope Julius II when he was the cardinal bishop of Ostia in 1483. 

Inside are badly faded frescoes, believed to be by Michelangelo s pupil Baldassare Peruzzi.