Less than thirty kilometers from the center of Rome, there is an enchanted place, full of history and charm. I’m talking about the Archaeological Park of Ostia Antica, a mix of treasures, tradition and truly fascinating culture, which I rediscovered on a sunny Sunday morning.
I wanted to get away from the chaos of Rome and the frenetic pace of this city that is so beautiful, but often noisy and stressful. I thought of spending a sunny Sunday morning walking in one of the city’s many parks, then I remembered this archaeological site which is just 25 kilometers from Rome. Why not? Ostia Anticacan be reached conveniently by car, or by public transport, the nearest stop is the one called Ostia Antica.
I knew the place as a child, but coming back as an adult is really a wonderful discovery. It’s like a miniature Pompeii, and the site is a rare testimony of the culture of ancient Rome. A real archaeological city, complete with avenues and little streets in which to walk, among the remains of Roman buildings, enchantingmosaics, impressive sculptures and the calm of the surrounding park.
My Tour: What to see in Ostia Antica
Everything emanates grandeur and magnificence; while walking inside the archaeological site it is clearly visible how great the Roman Empire was and how important this city must have been in ancient times.
Its name, Ostium, means “mouth of the river” and it was right here that the Tiber River ended his course, flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ostia, in fact, has very ancient origins. It is said that it was founded by Anco Marzio, one of the sevenkings of Rome. Whether the founding of the city is based on truth or legend, the fact remains that for ancient Rome, this city was an important point for guaranteeing the protection of the nearby territories as well as the coastal area and its maritime activities. Moreover, for Rome, Ostia Antica represented a strategic point for the saltworks located at the mouth of the Tiber River, near which the first inhabited settlements were established.
When visiting the archaeological park, you can choose from five different routes to follow; this aspect struck me in a positive way, because, each time I go back, I can always follow a different route and appreciate something new.
Even today the excavations are truly portentous. They began in 1800, commissioned by Pope Pius VII, and continued gradually in the following century also by Pius IX, in such a way as to revive Ostia Antica from the dust and earth. Visiting the site nowadays, we must keep in mind that what we observe now is very different from how it was in Roman times, as the course of the Tiber River has deviated and the coast line is also different.
In the archaeological park there are three things that cannot be missed: the park, the village and the castle. The actual archaeological park is among the best known in Italy and also one of the largest in the country, second only to Pompeii. From the remains emerges the old citadel, which although fortuitous in the Augustan period, it was later abandoned in the third century because the Tiber River was no longer navigabile. I also recommend a visit to the village, which dates back to 830 AD, from the era of Gregory IV. Here we find the church and the castle of Julius II, which was subsequently used as the residence of the workers who worked in the salt flats.
The castle of Ostia Antica is also very beautiful, where many festivities and events are hosted, especially in the summer months. The Roman theater also deserves to be mentioned. Even today it is an impressive structure, which testifies to the importance it once had in antiquity, when, for example, during the fourth century it was used for water shows.
If you are afraid of growing tired of all the mythology, archeology and history, keep in mind that inside the archaeological park there is a refreshment area, which includes a cafeteria, bookshop and a beautiful museum, with precious antique sculptures and artefacts on display.
To fully enjoy the site, you can opt to participate in guided tours of the archaeological park of Ostia Antica.