Rome was the centre of European Antiquity and was viewed by many since then as the centre of political might, immense wealth and military power. It was from here in Ostia, Rome’s very own harbour that Romans set out to conquer much of the Mediterranean world. It was here in Ostia, that goods such as grain and olive oil arrived from the fertile delta of Egypt or wine from all the way from Spain. It was because of the superior position and connectivity of Ostia, that Rome grew into the biggest empire that Europe has ever known.
A little known secret outside of Italy: Ostia is still here, and fortunately, untouched by mass tourism.
Ostia Antica is Rome’s very own Pompeii
Naples has Pompeii, but Rome has Ostia Antica. Only a subway ride away from Rome, you can easily reach Ostia Antica for a visit.
The site of Ostia Antica is almost deserted. It is huge. As in really really big, and much of it is still left un-excavated.
You get to walk and explore it as much as you want, just like in Pompeii. But without the tourists.
Much of the buildings, roads and mosaic are left intact. The more delicate artifacts such as sculptures or sarcophagi are placed in a small museum on the site.
Ostia is seafood paradise
Visitors to Rome often wonder where to get the freshest seafood. The answer is Ostia.
Once you reach Ostia, you know you’ve arrived in seafood paradise.
The first, second and third courses can all be seafood and no one will bat an eyelid. The best pre-dinner aperitif to go with your glass of prosecco is a plate of raw shrimps and oysters!
Rome’s party town
Ostia may be part of ancient and of modern Rome, it certainly does not have the stiff-uppper-lip of Roman elites. Ostia has a relaxed working class charm, that is typical of a fishing community. Food and drinks are very affordable here compared to Rome itself, and people live outside every single night. While the beach is not the prettiest, it is certainly the most accessible to normal Romans.
Public beaches are packed, so you may want to pay to have a deckchair on a private beach.
Ostia is only 15 minutes from the airport
Unbeknownst to many, Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is actually located in Ostia!
But do not take a taxi to go to the airport, because the taxi driver will charge you a fortune for the short trip. Take the bus that is outside of the train station of Ostia. This special airport bus requires a bus ticket that you can buy at the snacks and magazine store in the main hall of the train station. An added advantage of taking the bus to the airport is that it takes you through the sand dunes outside the airport, where un-excavated parts of old Ostia peeks out from time to time.
Ostia is definitely worth a trip, the next time you go to Rome! Don’t just visit as a day trip from Rome, but stay the night here. Experience a very different vibe here, and enjoy the friendliness and charm of this seaside community.