The weather has not been typical for Rome in June and until a a few days ago, it was still quite cool and cloudy some days. Given the floods in Prague, parts of Germany and Hungary, I am not complaining and it was actually perfect weather for walking and hiking but when warm weather arrived, we decided to take advantage of the brillint sunshine and visit Ostia Antica on a day trip. Having bought a second hand car for just this purpose (not for going to Ostis but for doing day trips and travelling around Italy), it was easy to just hop into the car and set off.
Ostia Antica dates back to the 4th cent BC and as it was situated at the mouth (ostium) of the Tiber river, it was an important naval base protecting Rome from invasion via the Tiber. Subsequently, it served as the major commercial Roman port. However, the river silted up, malaria struck and this once busy town of over 60,000 people was gradually abandoned. It is no longer on the ocean but about 30km inland and there are ruins of what must have been a beautiful city with shopping arcades, warehouses, baths, a large theatre where performances are still held, remains of houses and a necropolis.
We found it more enjoyable than visiting the Foro Romano in the centre of Rome as there were few tourists and the ruins were better preserved. One could really imagine what life must have been like in Roman times. Because of the river silting up, a lot of the site became covered with mud which protected it from the elements thus leaving some of the mosaics and even some frescoes intact.
One of the oldest Jewish synagogues in Europe was in Ostia and there is this carving of a menorah still intact. We saw it in the museum but I’m ashamed to say that we didn’t actually make it to the synagogue itself. One of the things about living in Rome is that one doesn’t hurry when seeing the sites. So we stopped at the café for lunch and after a couple of glasses of wine and a visit to the museum, we skipped the part of the city that would have been closer to the sea and decided to drive to the seaside. Unfortunately, half of Rome must have had the same idea so rather than sitting in traffic, we turned around and came home instead. Since it only takes about half an hour to get to Ostia Antica from where we live in Rome, we will go another time and take a picnic lunch.