Thanks to the ingenuity of the Etruscans, Greeks, and later the Romans themselves, there are plenty of Ancient Ruins to explore in Italy. The best–in my not so humble opinion– is the town of Ostia Antica.
Just a 40 minute train ride outside of Rome, the Ancient city of Ostia Antica is a history nerds playground. In Pompeii, there are barriers that keep the public from exploring the ruins–getting too close.
It's the opposite in Ostia Antica. Everything is open for exploration. No sectioned off areas (not unless they are too dangerous to traverse). No plastic barriers between you and the stone. Heck, you could even climb up onto the tombs in the Necropolis if you wanted, though I would advice against this. Preservation is key to keeping cities like this open to the public, and destroying history just because you want a cute instagram photo is a major no-go.
The biggest selling point about Ostia Antica is how intact sections of the city are; specifically the apartment block (The House of Diana), the public latrines, the massive theatre, and the numerous warehouses that sit along the bank of where the Ancient Tiber river ran. The mosaics of the fish market are one of my favorite parts of the city too–though it is always the temples and shrines to the Gods and Goddesses that capture my attention.
In Ostia there are also numerous explorable Roman baths where you can see the underground levels of the old spa-houses where slaves were worked to death to keep the temperature perfect for the Roman citizens.
You can still climb up the steps of the Capitolium. The view of the forum spread out beneath you: the Curia and Thermopilium. Who wouldn't want to run up the steps of an Ancient Temple to catch a view like the one below?
There are also a number of statues in Ostia. My favorite was of the winged Goddess Victory. In the museums, the most popular statue is of Psyche and Cupid embracing in mid air.
The city's history is also rife with intrigue. Multiple sackings (by pirates and later architects) makes the cluster of art at the site one-of-a kind, and as priceless as one would imagine the old port of Rome to be.
Another selling point for Ostia Antica is that the site is nowhere near as crowded as Pompeii, especially during peak seasons. When people think of Ancient Ruins in Italy they immediately picture Pompeii, but Ostia Antica is just as good, if not better, because of its location and ease of exploration.
While some of the fields are a bit overgrown, the abundance of vegetation just adds another layer to the city. I believe it added a touch of beauty to the Market Square where the Temple to Ceres stands (Greek Demeter).
Through the Ancient Roman history class I took whilst I was studying abroad in Rome we took two trips to Ostia Antica, and honestly it wasn't enough. The next time I make it to Rome I'll be visiting again, to roam through the columns, statues, and markets that make Ostia Antica so remarkable and unique.
Now of course this post was based off of my own opinion, but I'm curious as to what any of you think– been to both Ostia Antica and Pompeii? Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments down below:)
I'm off to the tropics tomorrow so if want to see more of my shenanigans follow me on Instagram and twitter.
Thanks For Reading!