Ostia means ‘mouth’ in Latin. This city used to be the harbour of ancient Rome on the mouth of the river Tiber. Today it is one of the largest and probably one of the best preserved archaeological sites in Italy. The oldest remaining buildings date from the 4th century BC. Walking along the streets of Ostia Antica one can see the remains of harbour warehouses, the offices and houses of craftsmen and tradesmen, bathhouses, bakeries, hot foot shops, temples and a large amphitheatre. The Thermopolium, a hot food shop with a counter and pictures of food on the walls, was definitely one of my favourites. You could call it a Roman café except, of course, that the Romans did not have coffee.
Visiting Ostia Antica is a great trip ‘back in time’. I really liked the fact that there were no crowds of tourists around, though I went there at the beginning of March, outside tourist season.
The reason Ostia Antica is so well preserved is that it was gradually buried by the mud of the Tiber. This mud preserved the ancient city in much the same way as volcanic ash preserved Pompeii and Herculaneum. The difference is that in Ostia you get to enjoy the ancient city without any sense of tragedy in the background.