Ostia Antica

This well preserved port town allows a real glimpse at day-to-day existence in the ancient Roman Empire.

TravelCurious Tip

You can leave during the day for some lunch in the lovely nearby town and return to Ostia Antica afterwards. Just make sure to let the guards know you will be coming back.

First port of call

Take a day out of your planner and swap the noisy traffic of metropolitan Rome for the ancient streets of Ostia, an ancient Roman port town just outside the city. Nearly all of the old town has been fully excavated; you will probably need a day to properly explore the astounding ruins.

This site is a great example of an ancient Roman town with shops, taverns and a theatre for ordinary citizens; while it may not display the same kind of grandeur as the temples and monuments of the Roman Forum, it is full of beautiful art and architecture that offers a real insight into daily life in the Empire. Ostia was extremely important to Rome from the time of the Republic, and retained that importance throughout the Imperial period. Located at the mouth of the Tiber, most imports to Rome passed through its port (ostium means ‘mouth’). Remnants of the striking structures of the port can still be viewed in the town today.

The first thing visitors encounter when they enter the old town is a necropolis of brick and marble tombs and what remains of the Porta Romana, one of three main gates framed by the 1st century BC walls of Sulla. Some of the most impressive remains are the large public baths with their spectacular mosaics, which have survived astoundingly intact. Just a few hundred yards from the entrance on the right are the Baths of Neptune, beside a colonnaded courtyard for exercising. There are also the Baths of the Cisiarii, the mule drivers who brought goods from Ostia to Rome, denoted by their mosaics of long-eared donkeys; the Baths of Seven Sages which bear instructions for using the bathroom; and the Baths of the Marine Gate, with their elaborate mosaics of athletes, philosophers and a woman who bears a remarkable resemblance to the Statue of Liberty, as well as the frescoed tomb of a Roman patrician.

The sound of mosaic

Just beyond the Baths of Neptune is an ancient wine shop, with an ancient advertisement: a mosaic of a large cup proclaims ‘Fortunatus says: if you are thirsty, have a cup of wine.’ There are plenty more beautiful mosaics all around; be sure to see in particular the shipbuilders’ School of Trajan and the commercial Piazza delle Corporazioni.

Ostia’s theatre dates from 12 BC and is one of the best preserved buildings on the site. Its stage, once set among high walls, columns, arches and statues, faces onto a large semi-circular seating area which can hold 3,000 people: amazingly, it is still used today. In the summertime concerts and plays are held here as well as the International Festival of Ostia Antica.

The town has its own Forum flanked by two imposing temples; the Temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, called the Capitolium, and the Temple of Roma and Augustus where a statue of the female deified Rome marks the spot of the shrine. You can also see examples of typical Roman houses, named for the statues found there, like the House of Cupid and Psyche or Casa di Diana.

In addition to all this you can see the workshops of ordinary people; a cleaner’s, an oil shop, a grain mill and the Thermopolium, precursor to the snack-bars and cafés of modern Rome, which was used by common people who had no kitchens. If all this isn’t enough there is a museum in the town displaying further artefacts found here, which is free with a parking ticket. Ostia offers an unmissable trip back in time.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Ostia Antica Museum
Housed on the ground floor of a building dating back to the 15th century. Contains artwork, statues and family possessions recovered from the site.
Precursor to the snack-bars and cafés of modern Rome, which was used by common people who had no kitchens.
Baths of Neptune
Ancient public baths coated in beautiful mosaics and designs, which have survived astoundingly intact.
Porta Romana
Inscriptions at one of three main gates, framed by the 1st century BC walls of Sulla.
Piazza Santa Maria
A happening square in the heart of Trastevere where you can relax, people watch and enjoy the festivities in the evenings.
Testaccio Food Market
One of the largest and most vibrant food markets in the city, particularly in the morning.

Related Tours

Ostia Antica, The 'Pompeii of Rome': Private Day Trip by Train
Explore the amazing ancient port town of Ostia Antica, on a private day trip from Rome, just forty minutes away by train. Walk in the footsteps of the ancients as you wander around the now empty streets, step inside their apartments and villas, and visit the bathhouses, the necropolisbasilicas and town squaresfast food restaurantstemples, and even the public toilets in this vast archaeological park spanning over 10,000 acres, that some claim to be "better than Pompeii"

On your private tour you will: 

  • Meet your guide in central Rome and travel together by train - the fastest way to reach the ruins;
  • Explore the incredibly well-preserved city of Ostia Antica (Ancient Ostia) the most important port town for the ancient Romans (now a few miles inland);
  • Learn all about daily life for those who lived in ancient Ostia two thousand years ago 
  • Enter ancient homes, some grand villas, some smaller apartments, see the shops and restaurants, the ruts in the road from the chariotsthe bakery – where you can still see the hoof marks of the donkeys in the flour mill;
  • Explore the breathtaking amphitheatre – and imagine what it must have been like to be a spectator of an ancient show;
  • See the basilicas and town halls, the fire station, the prison, and the amazing mosaics of Neptune in the old bathhouses; 
  • Learn about ancient Roman hygiene in the public toilets;
  • Return to Rome with your professional tour guide.

Once the ancient seaport of Rome, the vast 10,000-acre archaeological site of Ostia Antica is incredibly well preserved and still being excavated by archaeologists today! Enjoy the peace, calm, and tranquillity of the countryside – and enjoy the shade of the umbrella pines just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of busy Rome. 

Walking around Ostia Antica, it is easy to imagine what life must have been like two thousand years ago. Your guide will paint a picture of the bustling streets and the farmers' markets as you step inside the fast food joints, the baths and various temples, the fire station, grand villas and more humble apartment blocks; you can visit the (very!) public toilets and the town squares, the bakery, and walk onto the stage of the amazingly well-preserved amphitheatre, and really imagine the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

Transport yourself back to a lost time when people slept, ate, and lived here. Your expert private guide will help you to navigate this extraordinary ghost town and bring the ancient people back to life, as you wander around these evocative ruins.


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