As part of my whirlwind week in Rome, we took a day trip to the ancient archaeological site of Ostia Antica, located just 30 minutes west of Rome. Ostia Antica is part of the larger suburb of Ostia, and served as Rome's major port city at the mouth of the Tiber River dating way back to 620 BC. Ostia Antica can be compared to Pompeii and is said to be even better preserved. The city was abandoned with the fall of Ancient Rome and overrun with the threat of malaria. Due to silt and mud slides, the place was beautifully preserved and protected from extreme looting and weather damages.
Something that struck me upon arrival was JUST how well preserved it was. You can still see the gorgeous mosaics that covered the floors of the bath houses, and you can actually see which sections were for women and men based on the types of murals that are on the floors.
What's more, you'll see the ancient remnants of apartment flats, warehouses, mansions, public dining spaces, a marketplace and public one-room bathrooms, all magnificently preserved.
Our incredible guide, Alfio took us on a memorable tour filled with interesting facts and tidbits. My favorite part of the time with Alfio was when he took us into the amphitheater and sang to us from the stage area. He wanted us to get a feel of what it would be like to be there for a performance. It was a feeling I will never forget. Especially because we backed him up with Beyonce-style dance moves.
We toured the housing structures -- tiny little spaces used for sleeping and not much else. Alfio reminded us that this settlement was a very social place, and people would hang out outside as much as possible, socializing in the squares, local dining areas, the theater, and the public baths. Very little time was spent in the homes themselves.
Walking around the marketplace, Alfio explained there had once been merchant stalls set up there. You could actually tell what was sold in each stall by what was depicted in the mosaics on the ground. This stall (pictured below) sold exotic animals for use in the Colosseum.
A public cafeteria served food to the residents, and was incredibly well preserved. You can actually see the menu of the food that was served the day the town was abandoned (see photo below).
Be sure to check out the Archaeological Museum of Ostia located within Ostia Antica. Gorgeous statuary is on display inside including this weird one of two babies kissing (ok, cherbs I guess).
Once we were sufficiently overwhelmed by all of the history we just saw, we headed toward the Tyrrhenian sea to take a breather. What an adorable coastal town Ostia is. We stopped into a local gelateria and had some "real" Italian gelato, not the Americanized crap pumped full of fat. I felt like I had an absolutely fantastic day trip from Rome.