Explore the real ancient Roman town of Ostia Antica, just 30 minutes from the center of Rome, and on a par with Pompeii in terms of preservation and historical significance.
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There are two answers to this question –
The first is, Ostia Antica is a small town on the outskirts of Rome, inhabited by approximately 11,000 people. This settlement grew up around the medieval castle of Pope Julius II (Castello di Giulio II) which was finished in 1486.
The second answer, and more common for visitors to Rome, ‘Ostia Antica’ refers to the sprawling archeological park containing the remains of the ancient town of Ostia.
It is the latter which is the focus of this page.
In my opinion, here are the top reasons to visit Ostia Antica:
Ostia Antica - both the modern town and ancient ruins – are located approximately 22km (as the crow flies) from the historic center of Rome, in the city’s tenth municipality district.
When the ancient Romans founded Ostia, they built their town along the banks of the river Tiber which connected Rome with the Mediterranean sea.
In the 2000 odd years since then, the course of the river has changed but it’s still not very far from the ruins or town – less than 500m in some places!
Ostia Antica is open year round, but is closed on Mondays and on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
The park opens at 8:30 am in the morning, and closes at different times throughout the year, depending on the seasons – for full details, refer to the official site here.
Ostia Antica is predominantly an outdoor site, so make sure you come prepared.
While there are lots of trees throughout the park - providing much needed cover in the winter from rain, and shade in the summer – Ostia Antica is not far from the coast, and as such it is fairly exposed.
If visiting in the winter, I’d recommend wearing something warm, and absolutely bringing an umbrella in case of sudden rain showers.
No matter what season you visit Rome, here are 4 things never to leave at home:
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Also, in the winter the majority of Ostia Antica’s famous mosaics are covered to protect them from the weather.
There is no fixed date in the calendar as to when the covers are removed, so if the mosaics are a draw for you, be sure to visit in the summer.
If visiting in the summer, wear a hat and apply plenty of sun block – I learned my lesson the hard way when supporting an archeological dig on the outskirts of the park a few years ago during the hottest part of the year!
Visit our dedicated pages about what to pack for Rome for every month:
The easiest way to get to Ostia Antica is to take the ‘Lido’ train from Piramide station in central Rome – so called because ‘lido’ translates as ‘beach’ and two stops after Ostia Antica, you’ll find yourself within 5 minutes walking distance of the Mediterranean sea.
These trains run every 20 minutes on average, and the journey from Piramide to Ostia Antica takes around 30 minutes.
The Lido line is often being maintained (it was built a long time ago and is used a lot by tourists and commuters!), and as such I would recommend checking the status of the line before setting off to Ostia Antica.
I find the best place to get live public transport updates for Rome is via the ATAC (the company that manages Rome’s transport network) Twitter account here.
As the Lido line is officially part of Rome’s metropolitan public transport network, you only need a regular 1.50€, 100 minute travel ticket (two tickets required for a round trip) – pretty good value in my opinion!
Make sure you have tickets ready for the return trip before you set off. For more information about Rome’s public transport, visit our dedicated page here.
Another option is to drive to Ostia Antica – following Google Maps will take you directly to the park entrance where there is a large, completely free-of-charge car park.
Alternatively, you can buy a tour with a private driver, who will pick you up from your accommodation in central Rome.
Unfortunately, Ostia Antica is not the most accessible site for those with mobility challenges.
The principal routes through the park follow the same ancient roads that the Romans walked, and as such the surfaces are extremely uneven and all visitors should pay close attention to every step they take.
However, efforts are being made to improve this – along the main paths, some sections have been leveled (but consider these will be muddy in bad weather), and ramps have been installed to enable access in some of the more restricted areas.
There is also a modern road which runs along the edge of the park (but inside the park boundaries) which connects the ticket office and entrance area to the museum and toilets.
If the uneven surfaces of the ancient roads are proving difficult, I’d recommend using this road to see the site – it provides some great views of some of the main monuments (and direct access to the theater area) with none of the stress of traversing the ancient paving.
You do not need permission to access this road but do consider that vehicles use it in conjunction with the site management.
The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome
Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.
In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, and much more.
And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.
Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.
Yes - sometimes!
On the first Sunday of every month (since the scheme restarted in April 2022), visits to Ostia Antica are completely free of charge for everyone – no catches!
Most of the significant monuments are in the center of the park, and as such you can only catch fleeting glimpses as you pass in a car or on the train, so this is not a site that can be seen from outside.
The archeological park is vast, nestled between the Tiber river, the train line between Rome and the coast at Ostia Lido, and Via del Mare – one of the main roads from Rome to its beaches.
The one notable exception is the ancient synagogue of Ostia – this can be seen pretty clearly from the SR296 road connecting Ostia Antica town to the Fiumicino area (near the main Rome airport). It is not possible to stop on this road to view the synagogue but if you are passing, keep an eye out!
If you are looking to save money on the entrance cost to Ostia Antica, there are a few ways to do this:
Explore other sites from Ancient Rome
Unlike a lot of sites in Rome, ticket options for Ostia Antica are very straightforward.
You have two options:
One of the things I love most about Ostia Antica is the freedom you have when visiting to explore the site – few areas are off limits, and you’ll find clear information boards throughout.
It is very easy to spend a full day at Ostia Antica, and because of the size of the site, not see everything!
If you have limited time, or want to see the main monuments, you should consider joining a tour or hiring a private guide.
Ancient Ostia guided tours or private guide will ensure you get a complete experience at Ostia Antica, without finding yourself lost in the sprawling ruins.
As I mentioned previously, Ostia Antica is a huge site where you could easily spend a whole day and still have things left to see!
To help, I have put together the following list of monuments to visit – I have ordered these so you can visit them sequentially from the park entrance and by following the information boards present everywhere.
Following this itinerary will enable you to see a lot of the park, but if you want to explore further and see it all, there’s nothing stopping you apart from closing time!
When you first enter Ostia Antica, you’ll have a long ancient Roman road in front of you, with ruins along the side – here you are walking along the original road into town.
The ruins at the side of the road are those of funerary monuments and tombs – in ancient Rome, the deceased were placed outside of the inhabited areas. (Read more about the catacombs of Rome here.)
The first main monument you’ll come to is the ancient gate to the city, which now isn’t that impressive when compared to some of the other sites in the park, but it’s a great place to ground yourself and begin your visit.
This will be the first of many ancient bathing complexes you’ll visit in Ostia Antica if you endeavor to explore the full site.
What makes this monument particularly special is the huge and incredibly well-preserved mosaics, the most famous of which depicts the god Neptune being pulled through the sea on a quadriga (four-animal chariot) of seahorses.
Maybe the most iconic monument in Ostia Antica, this well preserved theater would have been a focal point of life in the ancient town.
Restoration works provide a sense of the original size of the theater, and it is even still used today for open air events!
So called because each square building along the three sides of this piazza featured different businesses – recognizable now by the floor mosaics that distinguish the specialism of each trader.
Located in the area between the museum and capitolium/forum (more about this below) you’ll find a maze of ruined structures, most of which would have had commercial businesses on the ground floor, and residences above – a lot like a modern city today!
Look out for the sign ‘THERMOPOLIVM’ – in this building you’ll find an ancient inn and bar – evident from the counter, storage amphorae, outdoor patio with fountain, and even a wall fresco advertising this business’ particular specialities of vegetables, cheeses, and eggs.
Ostia was likely Rome’s first colony, and as such it became a city-building blueprint for the ancient Romans. When you arrive in the capitolium area, you can easily make out the famous layout for Roman towns where the forum was at the center, and roads split off into the separate districts.
Directly opposite the main temple in the capitolium are the ruins of the Temple of Roma and Augustus – this temple was jointly dedicated to Rome’s first emperor, and the deified version of the city of Rome.
The footprint of the building can be seen in situ still, and if you look to the side where a small staircase is located, you can see a series of decorative fragments that were found at the site and remounted here to demonstrate how the exterior of the temple would have looked.
Moving on from the forum area and following the course of the Decumanus Maximus road towards the synagogue (more on this below), you’ll come across an ancient fountain at the side of the road – no longer providing water unfortunately!
While not imposing or large, this small water-feature provides a glimpse into what the streets of Ostia Antica would have looked like – adorned with ornate fountains and other decorative but practical features, a hallmark of Roman colonies.
The ancient synagogue at the very edge of the archeological park is worth the walk; it is the oldest synagogue in Italy and shows the diversity of the ancient town.
Its location now is remarkably different to when it was built centuries ago – in ancient times, standing here would have meant you were very close to the sea, but geographical changes to the land and river means the coast is now approximately 2.5km away!
Travel back in time to Ancient Rome as you explore the site of Ostia Antica with an experienced archaeologist guide and learn about the rich history of this iconic site. Travel in a private car or van which is at your disposal for the entire tour.
Currently, within the archeological park area there is not a restaurant or café – only two sets of vending machines with basic snacks and water – one set at the entrance, and the other near the museum and toilets.
There are also water fountains near the theater.
Thankfully however, the park is located on the outskirts of the modern town of Ostia Antica.
From the entrance of the park, if you head towards the castle (it’s impossible to miss!), you will find yourself in the medieval ‘borgo’ (village) of Ostia Antica.
Within this area there are a number of great places to eat and drink, but my absolute favorite is L’Alimentari, located at Piazza Umberto I, 6 – they have an ever changing menu of daily specials, all prepared fresh using local ingredients, as well as a wide range of classic pastas, pinse and panini, and GREAT coffee!
I’d recommend grabbing a table outside if the weather permits, where you’ll have a great view of the medieval walls of Ostia Antica, peppered throughout with ancient Roman stone fragments.
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