A site I had never visited before in all my trips to Rome was Ostia Antica. Ostia Antica was the main port of Rome, and is similar to Pompeii in this main way: they are both huge archaeological motherloads of information and have been extensively excavated. The similarities, however, seem to end there. Ostia Antica gives us a view into the daily life of an average Roman, rather than the Romans who could afford a villa at Pompeii. The area is enormous; I have no idea how far I walked today, but it was a lot, so that’s useful for you.
Since it’s so close to Rome itself, Ostia is facilissimo to get to. I took the metro and then a train that basically drops you off across the street from the site entrance. I arrived around 9:45 a.m. And I was thrilled I had. Today was the first overcast day Rome has had in weeks, and the clouds were my companions on my little trip for most of the morning. Probably the most exciting thing about Ostia Antica in terms of its differences from Pompeii is this: WAY. LESS. POPULAR. Perhaps I happened to be there on an off day, being Thursday morning. If you look at my photo collage, you will notice that there are zero people in any of my photos, except myself. That was because there were not very many people there, period! Groups definitely arrived more frequently as the day (and the heat) wore on, but my advice to those of you who love travel but hate crowds is this: Check out Ostia Antica on a nice Roman morning! You won’t be disappointed.
I went with no agenda, and had no idea how expansive the site was, to be honest. I don’t know why I didn’t expect a city, but I enjoyed so much exploring all the back streets of the town. As I’ve said before, getting lost is one of the best ways to have an adventure, and almost as soon as I arrived and started walking down the Decumanus Maximus, I made myself scarce from the 5 other people who were already there. This, my friends, was not difficult. There were so many streets that end up leading farther than I imagined, some of which would end up at a villa or similar that had magical headless sculptures or detailed narrative mosaics. In a way, it reminded me, too, of some of the necropolises I had visited years ago. A site so enormous is difficult to maintain, and often I found myself knee-high in brush that hadn’t been cleared since fall or before. A few times I had to stop and turn around due to the overgrowth. If I had been vested in my dig pants and some good hiking boots, that overgrowth would have been an easy foe to defeat and trample. However, my trusty Birkenstocks were not entirely up to the task, and for that I was sorry.
For two-and-a-half hours I wandered back and forth, from the ancient port area to the forum, finally to the cafeteria, where I decided to eat. I had considered eating at a restaurant I had seen outside the site to finish my journey, but curiosity and hunger drew me to the cafeteria that was on-site. Having paid for my meal, I sat down and noticed a number of dusty Americans also eating. They must be excavating here, I assumed, and then heard a familiar voice. I turned around and there was my Latin 102 TA from the UofA! My second small world experience of this whirlwind trip, but this one was much less shocking to me. I knew she was in Rome, and it surprised me not at all that she would be digging at Ostia Antica. She invited me to see their site, which happens to be the oldest synagogue in Italy, I believe. It took me a long while to find the site (they had just finished eating and had to go, whereas I had just sat down to carbo-load), but I finally did after a number of wrong turns and finally asking at the dig lab. Tucked all the way back in Ostia Antica was their area, and it was nice to get a brief tour from her before making my way back to Rome.
By the way, you can enlarge the photos and photo collages that I post by clicking on them. I’m trying to do a better job this year of editing as many of my photos as I can to share! 🙂