Rome is a city filled with history and culture and every turn you take, you can see little streets lined with shops, cafés, and tourist attractions. Sometimes the city center can be overwhelming for tourists, and so Ostia Antica is a great place to unwind from the chaos of the city. There is certainly no shame in wanting to check out a lesser-known tourist attraction while you are in the Eternal City. The town of Ostia Antica lets you get a glimpse of a smaller piece of Italy that many people miss, while also capturing the beauty of the Eternal City’s art and culture and preserving it over time.
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Ostia Antica was a part of ancient Rome’s seaport. During early 400 B.C., Rome conquered this port village and chose to convert it into their naval base. Every powerful city needs a place to defend it in the event of danger, and Ostia Antica served as such for Rome. Over time, Rome no longer needed the protection and Ostia Antica was transformed once again into a trading port for commercial use. Often tourists consider places like Herculaneum and Pompeii to be great attractions because they ended in disaster. Ostia Antica did not meet an unfortunate end, but gradually washed away over time and, with time eating away at the remains of Ostia Antica, it became a ruin. Finally, when the Roman Empire came crumbling down, Ostia Antica went down too. Today, Ostia Antica is a quick hop and a train ride away from Rome, but there are only a handful of tourists who visit each day.
There are five excavation sites that are open to the public at Ostia Antica. You can take a glimpse at how ancient Romans lived their day-to-day lives at this seaport and it may not look so different from how things are run today. Aside from the rotting stones, ancient warehouses, and the diminished port, Ostia Antica is in great shape for its age of over 2,000 years. The first excavation site is the Decumanus. This is considered the main center or town square. There are public buildings, warehouses, a theater, bath houses, and shops scattered around, which have been dug up and preserved as best as possible. The second site is the Porta Marina. You cannot have a seaport without the port and this port was the main function of this ancient city. The third site is the forum and its surrounding areas. The forum is where public officials held their meetings and important town decisions were made. The fourth site is Via Della Foce. This area is where apartment buildings, stores, and churches could be found. This street was a focal point in which people could gather and enjoy one another's company. The fifth site is also from the Porta Marina. The port was an important part of this city, but the surrounding areas are what made the port thrive. The residential areas, shops, and spas were important to this town and not much has changed in today's world.
These excavation sites have been carefully examined and studied over the years. Some sites provide a clearer picture than others, depending on the how badly they were covered in mud. The artworks of the frescos are full of color and life and the images of the now-buried seaport thrive on the walls of the stone buildings. You can almost hear the crowd cheering at the city's ancient theater. Each excavation site tells a story, and Ostia Antica has been waiting years to tell its story. Now is possibly the best chance to experience all that Ostia Antica has to offer.
There is one museum located in Ostia Antica and it is definitely worth the visit. The museum is small but has a huge historical presence. There is a statue of two angels embraced in a soft kiss, gorgeous mosaics that fill the walls, and busts of heads of real yet unknown people. Throughout this museum, there are over 400 ancient artifacts that depict some part of Rome or Ostia Antica’s past. The quarried marbles that have been collected over the years throughout the port and Rome are rich with culture. Inscriptions were a huge part of the ancient city and almost all of the artifacts and artwork have been inscribed upon, and even though some of these are illegible, visitors should bear in mind that these artifacts are a staggering 2,000 years old.
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