When we were in Rome, I wanted to take the kids to see Pompeii. They know about Pompeii from Mary Pope Osborne's Vacation Under the Volcano. They also read the companion book on facts: Ancient Rome and Pompeii by the same author.
The train from Rome to Pompeii takes about four hours (with train change in Naples) and that seemed like too long a day for us. The train tickets were also not cheap.
And then I stumbled on this bit of information: an alternative to Pompeii was the ancient city of Ostia Antica, conveniently located only 40 minutes from Rome, and at the cost of a metro ride--1 euro!
It took us longer than two hours to get to Ostia Antica because the guys discovered that, at the metro stop (Pyramide), where we going to transfer to a suburban train to Ostia (Porta Roma San Paolo), was the giant, high-end Italian supermarket, Eataly.
It was serendipitous that Eataly happened to be on the way to Ostia because it's the type of place B and Timmy would go out of their way to visit.
We finally got to Ostia after lunch and the place was deserted except for a handful of other tourists. It was a nice change from the crowds in Rome. Entrance was cheap at 6 euro, and kids below 18 were half of that.
The ruins are sprawled out and sparingly marked. For something 2000 years old, Ostia is impressively well-preserved.
Mosaics are still intact, and building walls help you imagine what the city was like then.
It's easy to think you are just walking in a park, without the facts sinking in--these structures are 2000 years old--older than Jesus Christ! Ancient--as in A-N-C-I-E-N-T. This is not make believe, it's the real deal, and we could've been easily starring in National Geographic documentary, right here, right now!
It's times like this that I wish we had a personal guide. A good story-teller would've been able to bring the site to life.
Rick Steves has an audio guide here but I didn't come across it until after we visited Ostia.
After an hour, half the group bailed and headed back to Rome. I told you--they probably felt like they were just visiting a park. However, it was the last day in Rome for the teenagers and they wanted to shop, while Coco and Kat were joining a tour of the Pantheon and had to get back in time for that.
We decided to stay on and explore some more. We stayed until 6 pm.
This below was a store, with the counter still intact.
mural of a serpent
In the middle of all these ancient ruins is a museum that houses sculptures and mosaics all found here.
Inside the museum...
Well preserved sculpture and mosaics from 1 B.C.
There is also a museum store and a small snack area.
and here is the floor plan of a typical house.
The communal toilets are intact.
This excursion was a change of pace from exploring crowded Rome. From what I understand, Pompeii would've been overrun by crowds too.
Those interested in archeology and history (and interior design) will be fascinated with Ostia Antica.
Those who are not, will enjoy the stop in Eataly.
authentic decorative classical moldings from the real ancient Rome
If you go, be prepared to spend a lazy, reflective day. Bring a picnic lunch and try to get a guide to tell you all about Ostia and how life was like in ancient Rome. I think it will make all the difference.