If you’re headed to Rome to experience Roman history up close, then you absolutely need to make sure a day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome is on your itinerary! Here are my favorite reasons to visit Ostia Antica (though there are many more), plus a travel guide on how to make the trip!
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Reasons to Visit Ostia Antica
There are so many cool things to do in Ostia Antica that you really need to give yourself enough time to explore and enjoy it. Even though I’ve been to Roman ruins in twelve countries, Ostia Antica is one of my favorite ancient Roman sites, so make sure you have time to see everything you want! Here are my favorite reasons for visiting Ostia Antica:
Ostia Antica was the Harbor City and Main Seaport for Ancient Rome
You can learn a lot here about the culture and economics of ancient Rome. A powerful center of international trade, almost all the goods that ran the empire came through here. The city operated as the port for hundreds of years. One of the more fascinating areas for me is the market, where you could buy goods coming in from around the world.
You Can See Fabulous Mosaics In Situ (Their Original Location)
I’ve seen great Roman mosaics in museums (especially in places like Tunisia), but the mosaics in Ostia Antica are still intact, so you get a feel for what Roman architecture would have looked like when covered with mosaics.
Ostia Antica was Attacked by Marius during the Civil Wars
While Ostia is outside of the city of Rome, it was still in the middle of some of the most interesting chapters of Roman history. During the wars between Marius and Sulla, Marius attacked Ostia to cut off the food supply coming into the city.
The Harbor was Once Sacked by Pirates
Poor Ostia, if being attacked by Roman leaders wasn’t enough, it was sacked by pirates just a few decades later. During the sack, the port was set on fire, the consular war fleet was destroyed and two important senators were kidnapped. The attack caused such panic that a separate law was created just to deal with the pirate invaders, who were destroyed within a year.
Tour the Forum which was Built During the Reign of Tiberius
If you prefer your Roman history to be of the Imperial variety than you’ll want to make sure to see Ostia Antica’s forum, which was built by the order of Emperor Tiberius, with further improvements made to the city under Claudius and Trajan.
See What Life was Like for a Typical Roman
Nothing quite brings to life the colors (and stench) of life in ancient Rome like the site of a public bathroom. Can you just imagine using this when it was…emmm…at capacity?
Play Seneca at The Theater
I never miss a Roman theater (and I’ve seen quite a few), but the theater at Ostia Antica was my first, and thus I will treasure the memories always. Here you can wander around in relative peace, reciting likes from Seneca the Younger, or perhaps the Roman poetry of Virgin.
This is a great place to stretch out and rest your feet during your visit. Just don’t forget to find these gorgeous dramatic masked faces. They’re some of the most expressive Roman artwork I’ve ever seen.
You Can Learn about the Popular Cult of Mithras
The Mithraic mysteries have always intrigued me, perhaps because in America anything labeled “cult” comes with a dash of transgression. However the Cult of Mithras wasn’t a cult in the modern sense, but a Roman incarnation of the eastern religion devoted to the Iranian god Mithra, which was part of the Hindu and Zoroastrian religions as well. Brought to Ostia, it became very popular here and there are multiple sites in the city devoted to the god.
See the Excavated Goods at the Museo Ostiense
If you have time, duck into the museum, the Museum Ostiense, to see some of the smaller artifacts that have been found here.
Learn the Latest Since Ostia Antica is Still an Active Archeological Site
You never know what the site or the town will dig up next. Findings from just a few years ago changed what we thought we knew about how Ostia fell, and any construction project in the city can potentially offer up new and transformative information.
Plan Your Visit to Ostia Antica
You have the choice of visiting the archeological park alone or you can schedule a guided tour in Ostia Antica. I had a guide for my visit, which was so wonderful! There are just way too many details and things to see in the park to walk around alone and without context!
If you choose a tour, you can explore just Ostia Antica or combine it with other nearby archeological sites. See the tours available here.
Tips For Your Visit to Ostia Antica
Here are some basic tips for your visit to Ostia Antica.
What to Wear to Ostia Antica
The dress code is casual (unlike some of the ancient sites in Rome are still used as religious sites), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan out what to wear. You’ll want to dress for the weather. In the summer, it can be unbearably hot, so you’ll want to wear light layers, sunglasses, a hat. Bring sunscreen, because there is not a lot of shade.
Wear comfortable shoes that can handle walking on stone streets for hours on end. A full day of sightseeing ancient Roman sites is tough on your feet!
Have Easy Access to Small Comforts
Bring cash, a few snacks, and water or other drinks. Italy is a super modern country and you will find whatever you need pretty easily. However, you want to have a few things with you just in case!
Plan Your Lunch Ahead of Time
If you go on a guided tour, note the times. If you want to save money, you can bring a packed lunch and eat on your own before or after. There’s a small cafe at the archeological park, but it is more expensive since it caters just to tourists.
Ostia Antica is open from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, but the last ticket is sold an hour before closing. There are sometimes special hours available in the summer, with the last entrance moved to 6:15 pm and the site closing at 7:15 pm. Check the website for up to date hours and other important information that is subject to change.
The best way to avoid the heat (and other people blocking your shot) is to arrive first thing in the morning or book the earliest tour of the day.
Only Bring what You Can Carry
There is no luggage storage available at Ostia Antica so you cannot expect to have somewhere to leave suitcases or large backpacks.
5 Things to Bring with You to Ostia Antica
- The Lonely Planet Italy guidebook or the Rick Steves Italy guidebook for your trip. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you arrive in Italy, or you’ll find them overpriced. I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.
- An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use an Italian sim card while here to help navigate the trains.
- Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS system, and general travel genie.
- A Camera since Ostia Antica is super photogenic. I use a mix of my Nikon D810 and my Samsung8 smartphone these days. (Though many of these pics in this post were on my old Nikon D40).
- A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Italy because it has many anti-theft features.
How to Get from Rome to Ostia Antica
Three ways to get to Ostia Antica from Rome:
You can easily get to Ostia Antica from Rome via public transportation. If you are leaving from Termini Station, simply take the B line to Porta San Paolo (Piramide) and then transfer to the Rome-Lido line headed towards Cristoforo Colombo. Get off at the stop for Ostia Antica.
Once you are in Ostia Antica, you can reach the archeological park using the blue pedestrian route. The journey takes about an hour and costs 1.50 euros (about $2.00 USD).
By Taxi & Car
You can choose to take a taxi if you would like, but keep in mind that taxis in Rome are quite expensive! You can also choose to drive if you’re renting a car during your trip to Italy. There is a parking lot available for visitors.
How to Get Back from Ostia Antica to Rome
How to return from Ostia Antica to Rome after your visit.
The trip back via public transportation is simple. Walk back to the train station, and reverse your route back to your original train station. If you’re headed to Termini Station, change trains at Porta San Paolo (Piramide).
The journey takes about an hour and costs 1.50 euros (about $2.00 USD).
By Taxi & Car
Getting a taxi back to Rome will be more difficult than getting a taxi out to the park in the first place since there are so many more taxis available in the city. If you have trouble finding one, you can always call a local taxi company like Coop Radio Taxi Ostia Lido. However, you could always simply take the train back instead of taking taxis both ways.
If you are returning by car, you might want to keep in mind that driving in Rome is a nightmare. I would only journey to Ostia Antica in a rental car if I was planning on driving onward to my next destination. Even though I’ve driven in many countries in Europe, I would never willingly drive in Rome.
Where to Stay in Ostia Antica
While most people come out to Ostia Antica as a day trip from Rome, you can also choose to stay here overnight. This is a great option for those who want to combine a trip to the archeological park with a trip to the beach, which is the closest one to the city. I’m including recommendations for the following budget categories:
- Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $25-35 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $70 for a double.
- Mid-range: Around $75-100 USD per night
- Luxury: Ostia Antica doesn’t have any true luxury accommodations, so if you want a five-star hotel check out the Rome hotel recommendations below!
Budget: Located just ten minutes by car from the archeological site, the Affittacamere Flavia Roma is the best option for a budget traveler who wants to stay in Ostia for the night. You can also easily reach the nearby beach, which is fifteen minutes away by car. With free wifi and an on-site bar, you can definitely relax and unwind after spending a long day exploring. Check the pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Mid-Range: With free wifi, a pool, and free parking, Gens Mundi B&B is a great option for the mid-range traveler or anyone on an Italian road trip. The rooms are modern, and the B&B gets some of the best ratings in the city! Check the pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Where to Stay in Rome
There are tons of hotels in Rome, but it can get confusing comparing value when thinking about all the different locations you can pick during your time here. I’m including recommendations for hotels and hostels in these three budget categories:
- Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $25-35 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $70 for a double.
- Mid-range: Around $75-125 USD per night
- Luxury: Around $150 per night or more
Budget: Rome has a ton of hostels to choose from, but most of them are blessed with pretty bad reviews (even for hostels). For an affordable hostel dorm that people actually love staying in, pick New Generation Hostel Santa Maria Maggiore. Just a ten or fifteen-minute walk to the Coliseum and Termini Station, the hostel has a great location that will make your time in Rome easy. Complete with free wifi and shared kitchens, it will also help keep your overall costs down. Check the pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Mid-Range: For modern rooms and a fabulous location at a mid-range price, check out The Wesley Rome. Hotels in the city have gotten so much better since my first trip to Rome, and The Wesley is a great example. While the rooms are smaller than at some other hotels, the location can’t be beaten! It sells out very fast, so book your room here early. Check the pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Luxury: For a complete Roman luxury vacation, stay at the five-star Sina Bernini Bristol which is the iconic Roman hotel located behind the Bernini Triton fountain on Piazza Barberini. With a great location that’s walkable to most of Rome’s best sites, you’ll feel at home right in the heart of the city. After long days of exploring the city, you can retreat to the hotel’s sauna and Turkish bath. Check the pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Rome Travel Resources
Here are some resources to help you plan your trip to Rome. First, check out my interview with Mike Duncan on the history of The Roman Forum. I also have several Rome episodes of my travel podcast, Rick Steves Over Brunch.
If you love history memes, check out the Roman history section of my gigantic 250 Hilarious History Memes to Soothe Your Dark Soul.
Finally, check out my list of books to read before you vacation in Italy.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for Italy make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities (like Rome…ahem) where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets. Italy is the only country I’ve been to (out of almost seventy) where I’ve had someone try to pick my pocket!
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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