An Ostia Antica day trip from Rome offers a remarkable window into the everyday lives of Ancient Romans. Founded as a castrum (military fortification) to guard the mouth of the Tiber, it developed into the prosperous port of Rome.
Mud and silt from the sea did a sterling job at preserving the houses, temples, bars, public baths, workshops, stores and latrines from its heyday in the 3rd Century BC. Its mosaics alone are worth the price of your train ticket.
Read on to discover how to get to Ostia Antica by train, what to see and tips for visiting these Roman ruins (scavi).
How to Get to Ostia Antica from Rome by Train
From central Rome, take Metro line B to the Piramide stop (direction Laurentina). From Piramide, it’s a one-minute walk to the Roma Porta San Paolo train station (follow signs to Lido).
Alternatively, you can change trains at EUR Magliana.
Transfer to the Metromare (Rome-Lido) line towards Cristoforo Colombo. Get off at the stop for Ostia Antica.
A standard metro ticket will cover you for the entire journey which should take just over an hour.
On leaving the station take the footbridge that crosses the motorway running between the station and the archaeological site.
Ostia Antica Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
Ostia Antica is open from Tuesday to Sunday. You can check the seasonal opening hours here.
In 2024, an adult ticket costs €18. If you are an EU citizen between 18 and 25 years old you will get in for €2. Check the website for other concessions.
Although you can buy your ticket online, in my experience this is not necessary
Highlights of Ostia Antica
When you enter the site, you will find yourself on the Decumanus Maximus, which is flanked by some of the town’s most important buildings. It is an excellent navigational point.
The Decumanus Maximus was the main street in Ancient Roman cities and ran from east to west. It was intersected by the Cardo Maximus (Cardo), the north-south street.
Baths of Neptune
The Baths of Neptune are one of the first buildings that you’ll come across walking along the Decumanus Maximus. They were built between 117 and 161 AD and are one of the biggest excavations in Ostia Antica.
They have several rooms and a palestra (the exercise area). Climb the steps for a good view of the remarkable black and white mosaic of the god Neptune riding four horses through the sea.
The Theatre of Ostia was built in the 1st Century BC by Agrippa and later expanded by Commodus and Septimius Severus. It could accommodate up to 4,000 spectators.
Similar to modern-day theatres, the best seats were close to the stage. Most of the original seating area and the orchestra’s marble floor are intact
Forum and Capitolium
The Forum is at the crossroads of the Decumanus and Cardo and was Ostia’s administrative centre.
As with other cities in Ancient Rome, important buildings were clustered around the Forum. At its heart stands the Capitolium, a temple dedicated to the three main Roman gods – Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
The Baths of the Forum, one of the largest baths in Ostia, date from the 2nd Century. It’s here that you’ll find the town’s forica, public latrine, with its 20 perfectly preserved marble seats.
Shops of the Fishmongers
The central market for fish, meat and vegetables was on the Decumanus Maximus. The Fishmongers’ shops have a marble table, a fish basin and a black-and-white mosaic with marine motifs.
Porta Romana Necropolis
The Romans buried their dead outside the city limits and this necropolis would have been just outside the gate of Ostia Antica. As both burials and cremations were common practice, there are open tombs and sarcophagi.
The horrea were large warehouses built to store grain. They comprised 60 small rooms, some arranged around a collonaded courtyard.
Tips for Visiting Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica or Pompeii?
Ostia Antica and Pompeii were very different towns.
Pompeii was a cosmopolitan resort town frequented by wealthy Romans who splashed the cash on their homes. Compared with Ostia Antica, there are more houses to see and thanks to that volcanic ash, Pompeii is better preserved.
Ostia Antica was a working port city, populated by a spectrum of social classes. It is mostly its public buildings that remain.
Having visited both sites on several occasions, I prefer Ostia Antica.
Its ruins offer an unsurpassed insight into both the domestic and commercial life of the Roman Empire. And unlike Pompeii, you have more freedom to explore the site (I love poking around in the remains of ancient buildings).
Finally, there’s much to be said for walking in the steps of Ancient Romans in near solitude.
Pompeii is a victim of its success and you quickly tire of swerving around selfie-wielding tour groups. The lack of crowds at Ostia Antica is a compelling reason to add it to your Rome bucket list.