Ostia Antica

1 July 2017

Never mind the Colosseum, forget Pompei, we found ourselves in the ancient port for Rome during our stop in Ostia. Tucked away at the end of the River Tiber only a 30 minute train ride from Rome and yet seemingly completely off the tourist trail, we had this ancient city almost to ourselves.

The city of Ostia Antica was founded in the 7th century BC although there is evidence of settlement on the site since the 4th century BC. It was the centre of commerce for Rome further up the Tiber and where cargo was offloaded to smaller boats to be taken up the river. Its buildings, excavated from the mid 19th century, are incredibly in tact, giving much more of a feel for what they would have looked like than some of the Roman sites we have seen so far.

The theatre would have held up to 4000 spectators but was a little empty during our visit!

In the Piazzale delle Corporazioni we found the formally colonnaded shops of the merchants. Their mosaicked floors indicating their trade – here shipping and ivory.

It never ceases to amaze that we are able to walk on these ancient floors. The floor of the Baths of Neptune depicts Neptune again pulled by his seahorses like the Trevi fountain in Rome.

The Romans’ love of wine is well known to us by now, by the number of amphoras we have seen on our travels so far. It was therefore no surprise to us to find one of the city’s tavern complete with its street facing bar. Nearby we found a doli, an enormous terracotta jar large enough to hold 40 amphorae of wine. An amphora holds 26 litres – so a lot of wine!

Elsewhere we found doli buried in the ground for storing food and oil, evidence of the city’s Jewish population and the houses of its inhabitants.

And lots of columns!

We were slightly bemused by all the headless statues dotted around the site.

Inside the museum we found the corresponding heads – including a rather hirsute Hadrian, alongside other sculptures – including Cupid and Psyche.

The museum also had a collection of beautiful but slightly macabre stone coffins, carved with incredible reliefs. The cherubs on the tiny child’s coffin were particularly poignant.

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We had somewhat underestimated Ostia Antica and arrived mid afternoon. We could have spent several hours more wandering amongst the bath houses, temples and mansions and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Rome. It really was special to be able to explore it away from all the crowds.

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