Sandra Scott Travels: Ostia – A Perfect Blend Of History and Beach

Appian Way

Appian Way

Last week I asked: Where is Ostia?

It’s about 20 miles northeast of Rome, Italy.

There are two very different Ostias.

One is referred to as Ostia Antica, an archeological site.

View of the Tyrrhenian Sea from our balcony
View of the Tyrrhenian Sea from our balcony

It is in the suburb of the city of Ostia, which is on a beach and where the people from Rome go to escape the heat.

What a perfect blend – history and beach just 30 minutes from Rome’s international airport.

John and I stayed at Hotel Sirenetta on the lido where the prices were reasonable enough so we could reserve a room with a balcony facing the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The balcony was actually a huge L-shaped area and the hotel was unique – very artsy with a lovely garden area and close to the beach.

I was most interested in visiting Ostia Antica.

Welcome to Ostia.
Welcome to Ostia.

The train station was a 10-minute walk from the hotel.

We got off at the second stop called Ostia Antica.

Then it was another 10-minute walk to the ticket booth.

There was a long, slow line.

I think the best time to go would be before 10 a.m. or after 1 p.m. to avoid the tour buses.

Once inside I wondered where everyone went.

The tree-covered grounds were not crowded.

Appian Way
Appian Way

I find it amazing that 2,000 years ago the people of Ostia lived better than the people in colonial America 300 years ago.

History is not a steady line of progress.

At one time, Ostia was an important Roman port with a population of 70,000.

Due to over-extension of the empire and being unable to defend its borders plus inept leadership along with the mouth of the Tiber River silting up causing the river to change course; Ostia went into decline.

Now the mouth of the Tiber is nearly two miles away.

John and I liked walking along the same road that the people of Ostia did more than 2,000 years ago.

They said, “all roads lead to Rome.”

Some shops.
Some shops.

The famous Appian Way was 350 miles long and covered with huge stones – the very ones we walked on.

There are many places where the old Apian is still used by vehicular traffic.

It is bumpy.

I wonder what other roads have lasted 2,000 years.

I tried to imagine what the busy city was like.

There must have been many days when they could hear the rumble of chariots carrying Julius Caesar and other notables race by.

The city must have been amazing.

An ancient theater
An ancient theater

They had a huge theater that held more than 4,000 people.

It is one of the oldest theaters in the world.

Today they sometimes have concerts there.

The area in front of the theater was called the Square of Guilds.

Nearby were the shops of the workers.

Some of the buildings had mosaics showing what they made or what they were used for such as the mosaic of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, by the baths.

There were many baths in the city.

Neptune mosaic in the baths
Neptune mosaic in the baths

Bathers would have an oil massage.

Olive oil was used instead of soap.

The oil scum would build up on top of the water so servants would skim the oil off the bath water.

There were cold and warm water baths.

The baths were a place to discuss business of Ostia.

The same was true of the public toilets, which had many “holes” so several people could be using them at the same time.

Roman toilets
Roman toilets

Even today, people occasionally euphemistically refer to the toilets as a place to “do their business.”

Travel Trivia Tease™: Where did the abolitionist John Brown give his first anti-slavery speech?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!