17.05.2011 - 17.05.2011 71 °F
Well, it's Tuesday, May 17th. Our last full day in Rome before the cruise begins. We've decided to spend the day at the ruins of Ostia Antica, a little ways north of Rome.
Ostia was originally the seaport servicing Rome, and grew to be a major port. It was situated along the Tiber River, with easy access to the ocean. Unfortunately, malaria, the Tiber changing course, and a series of earthquakes led to the city's decline and abandonment in the third century AD. The ruins date back as early as the 4th century BC, and are remarkably well preserved.
We take a bus from our apartment to the Pyramide Metro station in Trastavere. From there, we board the regional train heading toward the Lido, the beach area north of Rome. It's about a 25 minute train ride to Ostia Antica. We should note that the train fares are free with the Roma Pass card, and entrance to the site is also part of the Roma Pass program (you get either free or discounted admission, depending on what you've already visited.
From the Ostia Antica train station, it's a moderate walk over a pedestrian overpass and down the lane to the site entrance. If you need to use the WC, hold your nose! The bathrooms at the site entrance are simply large porta-potties, in somewhat of a neglected state. You might be better off using the restrooms at the train station.
As you enter the site, you are outside the city walls of Ostia, walking through the ancient Necropolis. The structures all around you are tombs, many with plaques identifying the former occupant ("This is Demetrius. He was a Baker"). Some, like this columbarium, were designed for the interment of cremated remains.
As you walk through the site, you'll often see large carved stone boxes along the sides of the roads. They look like elaborate planters, and some of them are fashioned into benches. Take a closer look, and you'll realize that they are ancient pagan sarcophagi, relocated from the Necropolis.
The site is eerily peaceful. It's not awfully well known, so there aren't busloads of tour groups, although it seems to be popular as a spring field trip for local Italian school groups.
Once you pass through the city gate, you're inside an actual working city. There's the dock district, with warehouses and areas for unloading goods, the administrative center with it's forum, public areas with Roman baths, temples, and taverns. You can easily spend an entire day there, if you have the stamina...I think we covered about four miles walking that day.
Some highlights of the site are the enormous, well preserved amphitheater
The Roman baths, with many of the mosaics still in place after a millennium and a half:
and this well-preserved tavern that still has pictures of food painted on the wall above the serving shelves.
Honestly, I could post a hundred pictures of the site. Many of the buildings still have their upper floors intact, and almost all of them are open for inspection.
It's really an amazing site, and well worth seeing if you can fit a day into your schedule to do it. At the far end of the site is a modern cafeteria and bookshop, with clean, authentic restrooms. I find it surprising that so many people will take an entire day to travel down to Naples to see Pompeii from Rome, when this astounding set of ruins is right in their backyard.
At the end of a very long day, we head back to Rome. We stroll around Campo De' Fiori, prepare dinner at the apartment, and repack our stuff. Tomorrow, we're off to Civitavecchia to start our cruise.