AD | Discover the Roman Coast with Visit Ostia Antica

May 12, 2019

This post is in collaboration with Visit Ostia Antica, all opinions are my own. 

It's no secret that Italy is one of my favourite places to visit - it’s still a dream of mine to move there for at least some of my life. If you know me, or if you've read my blog before, then you'll know I’ve spent the past 4 summers digging in the Campania region of Italy and exploring southern Italy in my free time. So when Visit Ostia Antica got in touch about a collaboration, I couldn’t have thought a more perfect partner to work with. A couple of years back when I was studying my undergraduate, I actually wrote my dissertation on the Roman tombs of Ostia, and ever since it’s been on my bucket list of places that I want to visit. 

Visiting archaeological parks is an incredible way to get to know the history of a region, and guided tours of the parks can really help you understand what you're looking at. Visit Ostia Antica are helping to shed light on the archaeological park of Ostia Antica with guided tours for both kids and adults. 

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Ostia Antica was the harbour town of Rome, and encapsulated many of the traditional Roman features of town. It’s been uniquely preserved through years of sedimentation due to its location on the Tiber, and is now a fantastic archaeological park to visit. 

Ostia Antica was developed by Caesar, who wanted to improve Rome’s grain supply with the harbour. It was further developed by Tiberius, who built a new harbour and urbanised the town’s infrastructure. The nearby town of Portus was later established with three harbours, to accommodate the growing supply needs of Rome and therefore Ostia took on a more administrative function, with large grain stores. Ostia became what we would maybe refer to as a commuter town, with many of those who worked at the harbours in Portus, living and travelling from Ostia. 

Visiting the city today, you’ll be amazed by the preservation of the buildings. What is often of most interest to tourists is the insight into the daily life of the people that lived here. Among the many places to visit in Ostia Antica, including theatres and imperial buildings, here’s some sites that I think shouldn’t be missed on your visit to Ostia Antica: 

The Isola Sacra

As I mentioned before, I wrote my dissertation on the Necropoleis at Ostia – there’s five in total, but arguably the most famous is the Isola Sacra. Necropoleis – commonly referred to as ‘cities of the dead’, are incredible places to both study and visit. The religion and belief practices of the Romans are often most evident here. In the Isola Sacra, you’ll be able to see different styles of tombs – from house tombs that resemble (you guessed it) houses, to columbaria which were collective burial spots filled with niches for inhumation and cremation urns. The Romans celebrated the dead, often visiting the necropoleis, and even dining at the tomb – you’ll be able to spot ovens for bread baking and dining furniture!

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The Harbours

Ostia Antica developed from its role as Rome’s port towns, alongside Portus, which was developed by Claudius and later enlarged by Trajan. By visiting the harbours, you can understand how Ostia helped feed the city of Rome, and discover the areas of the great horrea (grain stores). 

Piazzale Delle Corporazioni 

Throughout Ostia Antica, you'll see many beautiful and well preserved mosaics decorating the floors of many buildings. One of the most impressive and famous mosaics is the Piazzale Delle Corporazioni which contains mosaics depicting different trades and countries from which Rome traded items. Behind the mosaics are small rooms, which are believed to be commercial offices. 

Religious Sites

As with any Roman city, places of worship are immersed with everyday life and political buildings. But not all Romans practised the same religious beliefs, and ‘mystery cults’ began to emerge, where people worshipped gods in new ways. Some of these new religions were practised in secret (hence the name), and as a result there are some incredible friezes depicting initiation ceremonies found in the Roman world – The Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii is a great example of the cult of Dionysus. Ostia Antica, too, has its share of mystery and hidden practices such as an incredible Mithraeum of the Seven Spheres, dedicated to the god Mithras. 

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A great way to visit these sites and learn more about their history and significance is by a guided tour of Ostia Antica. Visit Ostia Antica provide guided tours of many of the famous sites around Ostia, with tours showcasing daily life, the harbours and even the religions of Ostia. And what makes it better is that there are kid and family friendly tours too – perfect for a family day trip if you’re holidaying in nearby Rome, or perhaps making a trip up from Naples. 

Let me know if you've visited Ostia Antica, or have plans to! 

Love, 
Emily 
xxx

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