Wandering in Ostia Antica

Rome is a fascinating city, needles to say. Its monumental beauty never seize to amaze, in what feels like an endless maze of breathtaking sights. Sometimes this maze takes you outside of the city limits, to give you an overwhelming experience – walk with me through Ostia Antica

A tourist guide book and a bit of imagination –  that is all you need to uncover your time travel superpowers. Italy is filled with places where you can test these superpowers, and today I will recommend one of those extraordinary places for your next journey: Ostia Antica.

Founded in early 7th century BC as the Roman harbor, Ostia Atica is located 30 km northeast from Rome, where Tiber river disappears in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ostium in latin means “the mouth of the river”. Together with Pompei, it is one of the world’s biggest archaeological sites, with numerous secrets still untold, since over 60% of the ancient city is still buried underground.

Ostia Antica Theater, I century BC

What makes this place so incredible is the level of conservation of civil architecture, allowing us to take a unique glimpse into the everyday life of the ancient Rome. Numerous temples, governmental buildings and housesstill rising 2 or 3 floors high above the ground, have transformed the city into a monument, so eloquent and impressive.

I happened to be there one sunny morning of year 53 BC. As I walked the streets I could feel the fresh breeze coming from the sea, the loud voices from the local restaurants and public baths, I saw the merchants delivering precious goods to city warehouse, and priests on their way to the temples. The city theatre left me in awe. As I was passing by the mill house, the smell of freshly grained flower was a clear sign that I needed to find my way to the local bakery.

As I walked the busy streets, I was astonished how much it felt like home: same hectic atmosphere you see in a modern city, while I was floating through general indifference and some occasional smiles. And then I saw him from a far, and recognized him immediately: Caius Cartilius, the city mayor, unusually tall, with a soothing voice, talking to his fellow citizens. They call him Poplicola, the friend of the people, so I’ve heard.

Monument of Caius Cartilius Poplicola, 20.25 BC [photo courtesy from http://www.ostia-antica.org/regio4/9/9-2.htm]
What would it take today for someone to earn this name? Is it even possible?

But then again, my time travel is short indeed, I only had time for a glimpse, that left me with even more questions than before. That is the beauty of it. To leave a place full of ideas, dreams and a lot of unanswered questions. There you have your reason to come back.

I can’t help but wonder, if people of Ostia Antica ever imagined that someone like me would invade their space & time, some 2000 years later. Just like I wonder if our cities will be honest testimonies of our times.

The streets of Ostia Antica

If you are staying in Rome for more than 3 or 4 days, I recommend this visit wholeheartedly. Let me know where your time travel took you.

Safe travels <3

All info at ostiaantica.beniculturali.it