Neither, instead we opted to stay closer to Rome and make our way to Ostia or Porta Romana, the ancient trade center and seaport. The tour we booked was a good idea – the reviews were excellent, but when it came down to “it” we could have easily organized this side trip ourselves!
We made our way to Rome Pyramid station and Via Ostienze on Metro line B. From there we took the regional train to Ostia Antica, all for 1.50 Euro, a real bargain compared to North American public transit prices. A short walk under ancient shade trees led to the ticket booth. Admission was 10 Euros per person.
We followed the Via Ostiensis, THE main road to Ostia from Rome since its inception. The large basalt boulders pave the original street. Historical date confirms signs that a settlement was already in existence as early as the seventh century BC.The sub-urban stretch of Via Ostiensis continues to be lined with Umbrella Pine trees planted during the third century BC, providing shade and protection for travelers, soldiers and merchants of ancient times. We welcomed the shade during another hot, late summer day.
The partially preserved and restored brick walls are part of Porta Roma’s Necropolis established and used by the wealthy class from the fourth century BC to the fourth century AD as well as store areas for early businesses. The Necropolis occupied only the southern side of the street, the north side was reserved for harbor activities.
The image above is an overgrown ruin of the Necropolis, the city of the dead. It was customary to build such a place to keep the souls outside of a city and provide a place for the souls to rest. The oldest tombs date back to the second century BC.
The Capitolium, the main temple is reasonably well preserved. Imagine this building over looking the cit: It was erected at the axis where Cardo Maximus (main road running north and south) and Via Laurentina (west to east, also the extension of Via Ostiensis) intersect.
The tour took us through baths, bakery, apartment blocks, villas, an establishment that is titled the first fast food restaurant and the onsite museum. Four hours passed quickly and soon the guide presented us with the option to return to Rome with her, catch a train to the beach or remain in Ostia. Our decision was easy – we stayed on as the guide was rushed in her tour, and we lagged behind with taking photos and reading the information provided on plaques.
Another four full hours passed in record time despite the heat. We explored the older section of Ostia and discovered the original location of the late Hellenistic statue of Cupid and Psyche embracing. An image of the heads adorns the entry ticket and the statue can be found in the museum on display. Navigating the streets between well preserved buildings and temples, and very few tourists, I discovered the House of Cupid and Psyche. The room where the statue was found originally was richly decorated with polychrome marble walls and a mosaic floor that resembles a traditional quilt. The pedestal raises the statue high enough to admire it all around.
This was a very short account of yesterday’s exploration of Ostia. In retrospect I would not book a tour again. One leader to 22 participants, some with mobility issues, is just not sufficient. The guide freely shared that she was on a tight schedule to meet another group at Hadrian’s Villa in the early afternoon… Ostia is easy to reach by public transit. Leaving early in the day ensures less crowded conditions on the train. Delaying the trip back into Rome, especially on a Sunday afternoon, is also a good idea. Make your way to the beach, find a restaurant for dinner and a glass of wine and catch a later train to the Metro. This will leave you in a more relaxed state to tackle your sightseeing schedule on the following day!