It took me too long to finally visit the ruins at Ostia Antica and I say this with much regret. To those who say that you won’t be as impressed by Ostia Antica after you’ve visit Pompeii, I’d say you are wrong. It’s different, fascinating and absolutely worth the visit.
I am not sure if it was a matter of expectations and after years of hearing that the ruins aren’t as spectacular as Pompeii’s, I went there without expecting much. After days of cold wintery weather, the decision to visit Ostia Antica was made more on the basis of wanting to be outdoors to make the most of a beautiful sunny autumn day than anything else.
The plan became concrete when I told my sister-in-law what our plans were that morning and she said that her husband had the same idea. So off we went, four adults and three kids in tow. As this was a last-minute decision, we went there unprepared and after we got home from the visit, I realized we missed a couple of interesting places. Oh well an excuse to visit Ostia Antica again in the near future. From this experience, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your visit the first time around.
1. Head there early
One mistake we made from the start was that we left late and only got there at noon. The closing time from November to February is 5pm (the ticket office closes an hour before) which meant we had limited time to fully explore the area.
There was no issue of waiting in line to buy the tickets and no one even bothered checking the tickets as we walked in. I wasn’t surprised about this and kind of gives you an idea that I have lived here too long. I was, however, surprised to see a good number of visitors but as the grounds are vast, it didn’t feel crowded at all.
Here is a link to opening times and the photo below is the information found on the back of the map we bought together with the ticket. I have also checked a few websites which list different closing times but you’d be safe if you plan your visit with 5pm as the closing time.
A plus if you finish early is that you could also visit the medieval castle and town which is just across the road from the entrance to the ruins.
2. Read up ahead of time
We had hope to get an audio guide as a few sites listed there were available. That was not the case and I was disappointed as we have learned from our experience that knowing what you are looking together with some background information offers a whole new perspective of the place. Instead of the audio guide, you could buy a map for €1 which shows you the various itineraries and/or a guide book for €7.50.
We chose to buy the map as that morning we had downloaded a pdf which provides detailed information on Ostia Antica. However, we didn’t take the time to look at it ahead of time. It has some general information such as how to get there with the train (note: the info for opening hours and price is incorrect – it is now €8.50), a brief history on Ostia Antica, a map which shows the main sites of interest at the ruin and detailed description of each one.
As you can see in the photo below, the price listed on the ticket is €6.50 + €2.50 for an exhibition. I am not sure what exhibition that refers to and to keep things simple, it’s €8.50 as listed on the window at the ticket counter.
Along the route, there are also information panels (in Italian and English) which are useful and if you get the chance to download the guide on Ostia Antica, you will have sufficient information to appreciate the place.
As there is a lot of ground to cover, you may also opt to use this itinerary by Rick Steves which also has details on how to get there by train.
3. Bring your own lunch or snack
We had brought some pizza bianca as we know that the girls would enjoy a snack. Unfortunately we hadn’t thought about lunch. As it was getting late, we dropped by the bar located within the ruins which offers hot food but choices were limited and it was also expensive. Bringing your own sandwiches and water would be ideal.
I know some of you may be reluctant to head out of the historic center and hopefully with these tips, you will consider planning a trip to visit the ruins at Ostia Antica – it’s worth the effort and you will be impressed!
Have you been to Ostia Antica? If so, share with us in the comments below tips for visiting Ostia Antica.
Updated Nov 7th, 2012
Thanks to the comment by the American Institute for Roman Culture (AIRC), the closing times through February 15th is 4.30pm and ticket prices are back to €6.50 as the show has ended.