Instead of trekking down to Pompeii, why not explore Rome’s very own ghost town? Ostia Antica may lack mummified ancient Romans but it is complete with ‘anti-the-man’ graffiti, an amphitheatre and fabulously frescoed villas. This was once a bustling seaport at the mouth of the Tiber River, accepting grain, slaves and innumerable other ‘goods’ from across the Empire. Wandering the amazingly well preserved streets, you’ll marvel at two to three-story apartment blocks, craft workshops, temples, mosaic-laden bathhouses and even a local bar. Given that Ostia Antica receives a tiny fraction of the visitors who flock to Pompeii, at times it feels more like exploring an abandoned movie set than an archaeological site.
You can reach Ostia Antica easily by train from Piramide (Line B metro stop).
In summer, today’s Romans are likely to stay on the train for another few stops en route to Ostia Lido Centro. This is the heart of the city’s beachside neighbourhood where many locals pass their holidays strolling along the promenade, slurping granitas and dipping themselves in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ostia was first connected by railway to the centre of Rome in 1924 and many of the houses lining the waterfront boast gorgeous art nouveau style.
Ostia Lido Centro is also home to a wholesome little gem called Carouselambra Bistrot (Corso Regina Maria Pia, 22). This café and bar was opened in October 2012 by two internationally fabulous modern-day Romans, Silvia and Andrei (Italian/Australian/Romanian). Using fresh organic produce, they offer a rotating smorgasbord of sweet and savoury treats, including caramel brownies, choc chip cookie gelato sandwiches (!), sumptuous salads, hummus and typically Roman maialino da latte arrostito (roast pork). I highly recommend you sate your hunger here after spending your day exploring the ruins and bronzing your bod on the beach.
Via dei Romagnoli, 717 – Ostia Antica
Opening hours and entry fee
Open every day 8.30am – 7.15pm (from the last Sunday in March to August, 31st)
Full price entry: €8