Ostia Antica, Italy – never heard of it? That would be almost every single response I would get if I mentioned this ancient city near Rome. However, my history, researcher, traveling friend Dana knew all about it. Her love of history and culture is actually a little bit more intense than mine. O.k., never mind, we are about the same. When I told her I would be visiting Rome, she knew I would love the opportunity to visit this old town by the sea. Ostia Antica all but disappeared around the 16th century and today is an incredibly well- preserved archeological site and art museum. CHECK dates… for sure ~
Jon, my husband, loves history too, almost as much as I do, but I can tell he kinda glazes over after a few hours of ruins and facts. Being married for almost 25 years though, you tend to develop a love in making the other persons “bucket list” happen. Jon is thoughtful this way. He knew after a few days of traffic, lots of crowds and lines, (not my thing), I was ready for some space out in the country on the outskirts of Rome. I was SO incredibly happy to have a “go-to” place and bonus, Rick Steve’s likes it and has a walking tour on his App for this awesome town. Of course, when Jon suggested we hop the train and go, I jumped at the opportunity.
Take the Train
It is so incredibly easy to take the train around Rome, I’m not quite sure why people would want to drive. Seriously, our taxis were so easy to use and relatively inexpensive, and they weren’t half as scary as they make them out to be in the movies. The TRAIN, well, it was €2.10 round trip per person to Ostia Antica for our day trip!! I typed that right, not even joking.
We caught the train from Rome Termini to Basilica San Paolo then Ostia Antica. It was such a quick ride I barely felt like we left the city. But there were were. Here’s the GoogleMaps link.
Once we found our way to the “new” town area, thanks Rick, and then made our way to the old fortress and castle area we found a few restaurants tucked away down narrow alleys near the Castell Guilio. It was about lunch time and thanks to my FourSquare App we found a 4* trattoria, Sora Margherita al Borghetta . Cute, adorable and welcoming we decided to try it out. I was super glad they were able to fit us in…everyone else had reservations. It was a Sunday near Rome, silly me, I knew better. Luckily, they sat us at a little table and were very hospitable.
The menu was particularly yummy and dishes ranged between €8-10 per piatta (plate.) Again, so happy we chose the local small “carafe/pitcher” of wine, it was perfect with our meal and about €6. Since our menu was hand-written, I knew this was a good sign and most of the meals were probably as close to authentic Roman and homemade as I could find. I was right! Known for their “meatballs” in this area, I just had to try them. I am after all in Rome, eat like the Romans do ~ That’s a good meatball!
These meatballs did not taste like any I’ve ever tasted before in my life, they were obviously marinating in tomato sauce and wine for some time. Melt in my mouth and right onto my hips. I didn’t care! I was sort of bummed I ordered the small plate.
Jon had the veal piccata with lemon and parsley sauce! Sorry, if you are reading this on an empty stomach. Equally as delicious and incredible.
The Fortress and Castell Guilio
After lunch, Jon and I decided to check out the castle and fortress Guilio. It wasn’t quite open yet, but the staff took pity on us and let us through. Although very little was described in English, I had Rick’s App and it walked us through a little bit. Some of the information was incomplete and I just tried my best on “Wikipedia-ing” it as much as I could and translating the Italian.
HISTORY of CASTELL
The town of Ostia Antica today is very much a small town filled with gorgeous old Italian buildings, I plan to return some day and see this “new” town to explore that became the new center for the area.
I am typically not OVERWHELMED by museums. Travel with Wendy began a few years ago but I’ve been traveling my whole life. My first real trip I remember was to Disney World in Florida and a stop off in D.C. when I was about nine or ten. We walked through every important U.S. monument Washington, D.C. had to offer. Then again at thirteen, our family bravely made a cross-country trip from New York to California for a month (before Chevy Chase’s – VACATION even hit the movie theaters.) From the Badlands of South Dakota to Mount Rushmore to the Grand Canyon – seen it, love them all. Let me just tell you, this girl has been blessed with museums and travel. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
The Ostia Antica Archeological Museum left me speechless and wanting more time to explore and discover. This ancient city is so unassuming as we made our way to the entrance that I questioned myself as to the validity of the directions. On our walk through the park, I saw a historian docent/gardener/caretaker who watched me as I “oohed and aahhhed.” I have worked at living museums before and these wonderful preservers and protectors of history are my people. I glanced at the old man with smiling eyes and I know we have kindred hearts.
I sometimes take it a little too seriously like I did in Greece but most people appreciate my possessiveness and interference when there is disrespectful behavior. Jon sometimes bolts in the other direction if I am causing too much of a scene, HA! But, he is also use to this and doesn’t even try to stop me, he knows where my heart is coming from ~
HISTORY OF OSTIA ANTICA
What I couldn’t believe was we were practically the only people in the park. Granted, it was February and a little cold but not too bad. I couldn’t understand why! The entrance fee was €11/person and included the small art museum that had collections of statues and busts they had found in the dig too. I was so excited. The park was huge and extensive, I had no idea. My imagination went wild, as I walked the streets of this old city and created stories in my mind of fish mongers yelling in the market square making deals with customers or the priests in front of the temples discussing the latest issues of Rome’s politics.
As we continued our walk on the cobblestone streets that were created anywhere from 500-700 B.C. the quietness of this place fueled my imagination with scenes from days gone by. How loud were these streets with chariots and horses, soldiers, children laughing and running, women walking around with baskets heading to the market with their linens and dyes. Ostia Antica was the center for the Roman Empire for dyes, these were dyes used for cloth and stone. Men chattering about daily life or heading to the HUGE BATH AREA for “business” conversations. If I were going to write a movie script about this place it would resemble something like that ~ wouldn’t that be cool?
I learned the disappearance of this gorgeous civilization boiled down to four things, war, disease (the plague) pirates, and the RIVER changed. Say, “WHAT?” Yup, one on the major reasons the city practically vanished and had to move was the river changed course, not because of any man-made attempt to change it, but because of nature. This once flowing river that wrapped around the city was a major “river” highway delivering goods and services coming off the sea (name the sea)for trade, barter or sale creating huge economic wealth for its inhabitants and also for the Roman Empire. I literally stared at these maps for a long time.
The detailed buildings with décor and tile design gave us insight as to what kind of family might have resided within these brick walls, take a look at these!
Designed so LONG ago, yet the engineering incredible and way before layered brick design was common place. We were told the decorated floors and walls helped historians and architects know which class of family lived inside whether it was lower, middle or upper class. More ornate and detailed mosaics were for the upper class, but the poor were not completely without design, they would decorate their walls with paintings, middle class would have tiled and painted walls several stories high and sometimes storefronts would be on the first floor. The wealthy class would have just one level, but the frame of their “houses” looked more like temples and mansions with servants quarters (and several stories high) were in the rear of the property. Like I wrote, the distinction between the classes were incredible. Hope you like the pictures.
Artwork found in the dig, from cookware to art design.
Wonderful day trip
We (I) could have easily spent a longer time in the museum and archeological site but it started to rain. Something I don’t really allow on my rain BIG ADVENTURES – except on travel days. God is good to me like that ~ but this was probably a good thing as it was time to catch the train back to Rome. My heart was filled with so many facts and eagerness to learn more about these people, why and how they lived their day-to-day lives all those years ago.
It is still about people and making connections when I travel but this time I was most inspired by a people who lived long, long ago. History and sociology are amazing to me and I will always probably want to learn how people lived together and created the world they lived in. I guess it is because I am still learning how we do that today.
If you get a chance and love history, art, culture and people, I would highly recommend making Ostia Antica a “day trip” while you are in Rome. Even if you just need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Thanks Dana for the suggestion, I will always be grateful and look forward to learning more on another adventure soon.