On the Sunday of my trip to Rome, I took the subway and a commuter train to the ruins of the Port city of Ostia Antica. It was easy to get to, and it was less crowded than Pompeii. Aside from an Ugly American tour guide participant who got in my face because his tour was loud and I couldn’t help but listen.
But forget him.
Ostia Antica was THE port for Rome during the Empire. You wanted to sail to Rome? You’d put into port into Ostia and travel overland from Ostia to Rome. So a bustling port town had it all—night life, people from all over the empire and beyond, foreign gods, and more. (Before Christianity went to Rome, it certainly came to Ostia Antica).
There are a few places marked off, and there is a “straight shot” of some of the highlights, but there are acres, near square miles of stuff to wander through and explore. On a quiet Sunday, away from the main crowds, you can believe you are alone amongst the ruins.
Other places, like the Theater, are much more popular.
So what happened, do you ask? Unlike Pompeii, it wasn’t a volcanic eruption. Instead, the river changed course, and the harbor silted up. Ostia was no longer a good port. And so as the marshes moved in, the people moved away, and left the buildings, the statues, the inscriptions, the mosaics, and the ruins behind.
So, if you visit Rome and don’t have the time for Pompeii…step back into time at Ostia instead. You won’t regret it.