Ostia Antica. The good, the bad and the ugly

03/30/2010 - 05:52

I have been meaning to go for years, but the mother-in-law lives round the corner and it seems a bit wrong to drive all that way and not see her. But Sunday we did the honourable thing and lied about where we were when she rang. The entrance fee is a very reasonable 6 euro each as it is a large site, we spent 6 hours there and only saw about a third. You mainly walk on the old roman roads, which are not much better than Italian roads today so wear good shoes.   The site is very close to Rome’s main airport and has main roads on all sides, but there is not much noise and once you get away from the main areas of interest you sometimes think you have the place to yourself.   In many ways Ostia antica is far better preserved than Pompeii. At Pompeii a number of the building that have been restored so that you can see what it was like in that particular house or shop. With Ostia you get more of a feel for how the whole town worked, being able to wander though small alleys and markets.   Information is a bit sparse with the English guidebook being badly translated, lots of technical terms with no explanation. There were audio guides, but these have been stopped. There are notice boards in Italian and English, but again no interesting facts. One explained all about the Cippi attached to the building and we spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what they were. There are no human guides either, but this may change in the summer.   Food and drink inside is expensive, but we expected that. We saw one poor tourist pay more for a snack than we had paid for a meal the day before. Get food and drink in the village before entering.   There is no seating for a rest, but no one seems bothered if you sit on the walls. Bins are few and there is a fair bit of rubbish over the place. The toilets are disgusting with no paper or soap and I would guess are not cleaned daily. The one at the site café were better, but suffered from over use and this was a quiet day.   Museum closed at 13.30 on a Sunday and this was not mentioned at the gate. We got in 10 minutes before closing, but you don’t need much more than that anyway.   To summarise. If you want the tours and information, go to Pompeii. If you are in Rome and you like to work things out for yourself, the day would not be totally wasted.



Just a quick addition: my parents live close to Ostia Antica so we visited quite a lot with the kids until about 5 years ago. Sitting to eat your lunch was not a problem. We just sat on the steps of the theatre/arena, where everyone else sat. The children then had fun finding the right spot down on the "stage" which had the perfect acoustics - they would whisper and we would tell them, from the top, if we could hear them. It would keep them happy for ages!

 Thanks Mark. I had a couple of hours to spare before flying out of Rome Ciampino, so though I'd give  my son and his friend a bit of exposure to ancient Rome in the form of a walk along the Appian Way as reached from the airport. As we walked along, with me expounding as to ancient tombs of Roman nobility, it was soon clear they were seriously distracted by all the ladies of the night plying their trade in the middle of the afternoon. Sounds like Ostia Antica would have been a better bet!