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davidx Ostia Antica - A travel report by David
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Ostia Antica,  Italy - flag Italy
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davidx's travel reports

Remains of Rome’s port – Ostia Antica

  14 votes
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This wasn’t on my initial itinerary but it was easy to get to and from – well it should have been! I’m so very glad I went. It far outstripped my expectations.


By the baths
By the baths
Unlike many places that were Roman cities, Ostia Antica, having gradually faded into non-existence after the fall of Rome, was not reused by later generations. Hence we find something practically unique, very substantial remains of what was an ordinary working town, not a place of luxury such as the towns wrecked by Vesuvius. Since Roman times the Tiber has changed its course substantially and the coast is further away so that its status as a port is less obvious than one might hope. However it’s left as a very substantial area, obviously losing the upper levels of many of its buildings but with an almost incredible amount still to be seen. I arrived at about a quarter to three, fearing that it might already be closed like the necropolises at Cerveteri and Tarquinia, which confine their opening hours to a long morning during the winter season. Actually the ‘Scavi’ [excavations] at Ostia Antica are open until 1700 but, so large is the site, they start blowing whistles with high volume from about 1620. Anyway the light is failing fast by then. There were [I don’t know why] no audios to help here and I was quite happy to award myself a last day prize and pay for an hour of guided tour. My guide was really well informed – only one question stumped her [see accommodation] – and interesting. I think she appreciated my asking a number of questions and showing real interest. Anyway I think the extra knowledge I gained was well worth the price – although single travellers pay only a little less than a couple would. I saw nowhere near the whole area and I should be happy to go again. However one thing I should do differently. They won’t keep luggage at reception so I had to keep my pack on – lucky I was travelling light.

Favourite spots:
Ostia Antica travelogue picture
Of the areas that I saw, by far the best was the public entertainment area – the baths, the gymnasium and the theatre. The baths were free to all who would use them and their use was encouraged because a premium was set on health. My guide was at pains to explain the systems by which the water was brought and heated and the system for sewage disposal. It was also the area for some splendid mosaics and theatrical masks. Another thing of interest was to see what was a hotel for sailors and workers and the working class housing areas, which have more left than anywhere else I have been. They were whistling by the time I reached the Capitolia building. I’m putting a picture so you can get an idea of its size but my hour’s guide had elapsed by then so I have little idea about what it was for. However I was impressed that my guide didn’t try to get me running like a hare to get a brief glance of everything but enabled me to learn a lot about a particular area.

What's really great:
The castle in fading light
The castle in fading light
As you leave the station, you follow the small road straight ahead to reach a sort of open area, where you turn left for the Roman site. If, instead, you turn right at the road immediately before this, you will come shortly to a fine castle in an area of its own with two gates. It was almost dark by the time I arrived there and I had to leave early next day for the airport, so I wasn’t able to see it better – but I should have liked to!

Sights:
No time for other sights but a saga on leaving. Both my guide at the site and the B&B man had assured me I could get a bus to the airport from Lido Centrale station, two on from Ostia Antica and that it ran ‘about every 20 minutes.’ To Lido Centrale I went and, sure enough, there were bus stops outside, one being Cotral, who run the bus. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that a bus runs to one of Italy’s principal airports. However the station ticket office confirmed that it did run. After about 40 minutes I asked when it would run – ‘every 20 minutes.’ In the next ten or so three buses arrived to drop off only and the last said that the airport bus would arrive ‘within twenty minutes.’ Perhaps it’s arrived by now. I wouldn’t know. In the end I bottled out and took a private taxi!

Accommodations:
Capitolia
Capitolia
Thereby hangs a tale. The proprietors were away so there was no breakfast and prices were down by €5 a head to compensate. Their son was looking after things. He admitted having prepared the information for the website [see travel tip] and having forgotten to include the address. The name was simply ‘B&B agli scavi’ [at the excavation site] so I imagined it as the only one very close, that anybody was likely to know. I started to feel doubt when it was the one question my guide couldn’t answer! Nor could reception.
In failing light I set out to find it and was lucky [?] enough to get detailed instructions in a sort of Fritalian that combined ‘a la droit’ with ‘alla sinistra.’ However they were easy to follow – but there was a snag – the phone number wasn’t the same as that I was carrying, copied from the website. However I found a much needed pharmacist in the process and asked there. Easy – near the castle gate. [continued under night life.]

Nightlife:
Theatre
Theatre
[continued from accommodation]
Fortunately I didn’t realise at that time that there were two rows of houses inside the castle area or I should have wasted even more time not finding the B&B. In short, it wasn’t there. By now I’d decided on a last attempt to find the place where I’d booked or else just try anywhere. By this time I was getting very tired indeed. I followed directions from a man in a car, hwo knew of one – but not whether it was the right one. His directions couldn’t have been simpler – even my Italian could cope – but on neither of the houses possible was there any sign that it was a B&B. They’d had their chance. –I approached a man to ask if he knew anywhere I could stay and started to recount what had happened. He crossed the road to ask at a sort of gym place. They thought of the bright idea of using the phone numbers I had copied.
[concluded in last section.]


Hangouts:
Theatrical masks
Theatrical masks
Although I spent less time here than in any of the other places reported on my recent break, it’s the one place where I really was aware of places where people were hanging out. In the castle area males of many different ages were involved with kicking balls and groups of both sexes were taking interest in each other in the path to the ‘scavi.’


Restaurants:
Outside the restaurant
Outside the restaurant
OK – so it’s a bit on the daft side but I don’t know the name of the place where I ate but, as it was cheap [fixed price menu including wine at €20] as well as being delicious, I’ll tell you how to find it. It was the man attending to the B&B who directed me to it. Going the way I described to the castle [above] take the first entrance to the castle complex and turn left inside. You will see a place to eat but that’s not it [although I hear it’s OK]. Go past it and near the second entrance to the complex you will find a bank. The place you want is right by the bank.

Other recommendations:
Detail - 'egg and dart' motif.
Detail - 'egg and dart' motif.
[continued from nightlife]
Landline – no! Cell-phone – conversation – ‘B&B closed’ – me about to erupt – ‘but in one hour’ – pause – ‘owner come here, You sit.’ I did so and they gave me some good reviving spirituous liquid and a mug of hot chocolate. As far as I know they were not Samaritans – but, if they were, they were certainly good ones.
What’s more the son of proprietors, alerted at work by his mother after the cell-phone call, arrived shortly after I had finished drinking these. He took me to a house across the road – my last instructions had been spot on. Once found, my B&B was very good – a room in a block of single-storied rooms with a comfortable bed, good shower and adjustable heat. If you use it you will have the advantage of being able to find it – if you read my travel tip. Seriously – it would be good for going to Rome by day and quite a bit cheaper than anything equivalent in the city.

Published on Sunday December 24th, 2006


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Sat, Jan 13 2007 - 05:59 PM rating by mrscanada

As always I love your reports and your pictures.

Wed, Jan 10 2007 - 03:33 PM rating by mistybleu

I'm so glad you finally made it, what a palaver.

Nice work

Mon, Jan 01 2007 - 12:12 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Erudite, useful and wonderful report, as usual in you.

Thu, Dec 28 2006 - 08:17 PM rating by eirekay

David, what a great report on a place I had never heqrd of! These look like wonderful, well preserved but not well traveled ruins!

Tue, Dec 26 2006 - 09:06 AM rating by marianne

Very interesting description, certainly worth a visit

Sun, Dec 24 2006 - 06:21 PM rating by horourke

wonderful blow by blow report of a very satisfying visit

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