24km (15 miles) SW of Rome

The ruins of Rome’s ancient port are a must-see for anyone who can’t make it to Pompeii. It’s an easier day trip than Pompeii, on a similar theme: the chance to wander around the preserved ruins of an ancient Roman settlement that has been barely touched since its abandonment.

Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, was the port of Rome, serving as the gateway for riches from the far corners of the Empire. Founded in the 4th century b.c., it became a major port and naval base under two later emperors, Claudius and Trajan. A prosperous city developed, full of temples, baths, theaters, and patrician homes.

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Ostia flourished between the 1st and 3rd centuries, and survived until around the 9th century before it was abandoned. Gradually it became little more than a malaria bed, a buried ghost city that faded into history. A papal-sponsored commission launched a series of digs in the 19th century; however, the major work of unearthing was carried out under Mussolini’s orders from 1938 to 1942. The city is only partially dug out today, but it’s believed that all the chief monuments have been uncovered. There are quite a few impressive ruins—this is no dusty field like the Circus Maximus.

Tip: Ostia is a mostly flat site, but the Roman streets underfoot are all clad in giant basalt cobblestones—wear comfortable walking shoes.

Getting There—Take the Metro to Piramide, changing lines there for the Lido train to Ostia Antica. (From the platform, take the exit for “Air Terminal” and turn right at the top of the steps, where the station name changes to Porta San Paolo.) Departures to Ostia are about every half-hour; the trip takes 25 minutes and is included in the price of a Metro single-journey ticket or Roma Pass. It’s just a 5-minute walk to the excavations from the Metro stop: Exit the station, walk ahead and over the footbridge, and then continue straight ahead until you reach the car park. The ticket booth is to the left.

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Visitor Information—The site opens daily at 8:30am. Closing time is at dusk, so it ranges seasonally, from 7:15pm in spring/summer to 4:30pm in fall and winter; check at www.ostiaantica.beniculturali.it or call tel. 06-56350215. The ticket office closes 1 hour before the ruins close. Admission costs 10€, free for ages 17 and under and 65 and over. The inexpensive map on sale at the ticket booth is a wise investment.

Parking—The car park, on Viale dei Romagnoli, costs 2.50€ for an unlimited period. Arrive early if you’re driving: It is fairly small.

Exploring Ostia Antica—The principal monuments are all labeled. On arrival, visitors first pass the necropoli (burial grounds, always outside the city gates in Roman towns and cities). The main route follows the giant cobblestones of the Decumanus ★ (the main street) into the heart of Ostia. The Piazzale delle Corporazioni ★★ is like an early version of Wall Street: This square contained nearly 75 corporations, the nature of their businesses identified by the patterns of preserved mosaics. Nearby, Greek dramas were performed at the Teatro, built in the early days of the Empire. The theater as it looks today is the result of much rebuilding. Every town the size of Ostia had a Forum ★, and the layout is still intact: A well-preserved Capitolium (once the largest temple in Ostia) faces the remains of the 1st-century a.d. Temple of Roma and Augustus.

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Elsewhere in the grid of streets are the ruins of the Thermopolium ★★, which was a bar; its name means “sale of hot drinks.” An insula (a Roman block of apartments), Casa Diana ★, remains, with its rooms arranged around an inner courtyard. The Terme di Nettuno ★ was a vast baths complex; climb the building at its entrance for an aerial view of its well-preserved mosaics. In addition in the enclave is a museum displaying Roman statuary along with fragmentary frescoes.

Where to Eat in Ostia Antica—There is no real need to eat by the ruins—a half-day here should suffice, and Ostia is within easy reach of the abundant restaurants of Rome’s city center. The obvious alternative is a picnic; the well-stocked foodie magnet Eataly is only a couple of minutes from the Lido platform at Piramide Metro station, making it easy to grab provisions when you make the Metro interchange. There are perfect picnic spots beside fallen columns or old temple walls. If you crave a sit-down meal, trattoria Allo Sbarco di Enea, Viale dei Romagnoli 675 (tel. 06-5650034) is right outside the archaeological park. There’s also a snack and coffee bar at the site.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.