Ostia Antica

Rough Guide to Rome, 8th edition

THE REMAINS of Rome’s old port, Ostia, make up “one of the finest ancient Roman sites you’ll find,” says the 8th edition of the Rough Guide to Rome, “on a par with anything you’ll see in Rome itself.” Moreover, a half-day visit to Ostia Antica (so-called to avoid confusing it with the beach resort of Lido di Ostia) can be done from Rome for the price of a metro ticket.

“Up until the 1970s,” says the guidebook, “the site was only open one day a week and few people realized how well the port had been preserved [but] more and more of the port has been unearthed and nowadays it’s much easier to conjure the look and feel of a Roman town [in Ostia] than from any amount of pottering around the Forum—or even Pompeii.”

Two reasons Ostia survived so well are that changes to the coastline over the years pushed it inland, and the Emperor Constantine (ruled A.D. 306-337) developed a new port nearby. (Nothing of it remains.) The guidebook notes that Ostia is spread out. Be prepared to walk, and carry water. Among the site’s highlights:

Via della Fontana, “a wonderfully preserved street…gives a good idea of a typical Roman urban layout”

Piazzale delle Corporaziona, the town’s commercial centre, “where the remains of shops and trading offices still fringe the central square. These represented commercial enterprises from all over the ancient world.”

House of Diana, “probably the best-preserved private house in Ostia”

• “the delightful Thermopolium,” an ancient café “complete with seats outside, a high counter…and even wall paintings of parts of the menu”