We had wanted to include Pompeii in our trip to Europe. But it is long and expensive to get to from Rome. About four hours each way just in travel time.
On Friday, we found a peaceful alternative in Ostia Antica, much closer to Rome.
Some people call it “Pompeii without the volcano”, but it is an abandoned Roman city from the early years after Christ.
Ostia Antica was an important seaport city to early Rome until ancient coastlines (Mediterranean Sea) and the river (Tiber) changed.
Yes, there was no volcano and no warehouses of plastic casts of victims of that volcano. But, in all other respects, the mostly unknown Ostia Antica is as large as Pompeii, and, because it wasn’t buried by lava, the ruins are in much better shape.
The city of 50,000 people is mostly there in ruins, but some things, such as the massive outside amphitheater, remain largely intact. In the last few years, even more remnants of the city have been found in other nearby areas, suggesting this city may have been even larger than Pompeii.
For us, it was a short walk from an apartment to the so-called “beach train”, and maybe another 20 minutes on the train that brings you very near the front gate. Besides convenience to Rome, the big benefit is that tour buses mostly skip the place. And, we have found in our travels, that is a major bonus. On Friday, under warm, sunny skies, we felt like we had the place to ourselves. Beautiful trees and vines have been allowed to live with the ruins, and the whole experience seemed more parklike than Pompeii.
Most of the antiquity from Pompeii (statues and sculpture, for example) have been moved to a national museum in Naples. In the case of Ostia Antica, the property houses a small, but nice museum of many of the remarkable finds there. The gate charge includes admission to the museum.
Everyone has heard of Pompeii; so go there for bragging rights. But otherwise, go to Ostia Antica because it makes a lot more sense.