Avventure Channel Travel Articles

In the footsteps of the Ancient Romans ... Ostia Antica

Here’s a photograph of a columbarium – a friend asked me “is this where they would store water?” I had to answer him, no it’s where the urns of the ashes of dead Ostians were stored.

The ancient town of Ostia was Rome’s port town. Walking around Ostia, you’re really walking in the footsteps of the every day ancient romans, through shops, restaurants, houses, bakeries, bath houses, the theatre, the storage facilities and even their necropolis (burial ground).

It is a larger excavated area than Pompeii, and to those in the know it is “the better Pompeii”. While it doesn’t have the dramatic tragedy of the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Ostia is an incredibly beautiful, tranquil and well preserved ancient city to explore… and best yet it is just 25 minutes by metro from Rome, and 1.50 euro each way! The entrance fee is a mere 8 euros and you could easily spend a full day exploring the ruins of this extraordinary place.

Strategically important both for the military, trade and food storage of Rome, the Caput Mundi was reliant on Ostia for its food supplies and trade routes. It would be fair to say that the two cities were mutually dependent on the other. While in the Roman Forum you’ll walk through the grand temples and palaces of the emperors, in Ostia you get a sense of the more common people of the ancient world: the butchers and bakers, the barbers, the restaurant owners, the tradesmen, the actors, the firemen. Everyday life lived out in the bustling streets, now eerily quiet and empty. You’ll see the imprints of chariot wheels on the roads, the marks of donkey’s hooves in the bakeries. You’ll see the bath houses, the frigidaria, tepidaria and caldaria and learn about Roman spa treatments – like how the gentlemen had their armpit hair plucked – and the life of the slaves that worked the under floor heating system.

And lets not forget the public loos: very public indeed! Long benches with holes cut in to them – so that you would sit cheek by jowl with your neighbour. Shooting the breeze for hours… often discussing business matters, whilst er… doing your business. And let’s not think about the sponge on the stick…

You’ll learn about how the Romans were entertained at the amphitheatre and be wowed by detailed mosaics that have survived millennia. The site is set amidst stunning countryside and has a restaurant so you can really relax and spend a whole day immersed in the world of the ancient Ostians and their way of life.

Not far from the sea, you can end a perfect day amidst antiquity’s ruins with a sundowner at the beach!