This post was most recently updated on January 12th, 2022
Our last day in Rome. What to do? We’re heading to see what Rick Steves considers “the most underappreciated sight in all of Italy.”
Ostia Antica – Ancient Rome seaport
Ostia Antica is Rome’s ancient seaport. It was first established in 620 BC, conquered by Rome in 400 BC, and by 150 AD, Ostia had become Rome’s busy commercial port. Ostia Antica was a thriving commercial center with a population of 60,000 people, with theatres, churches, temples, apartments, markets, public baths and thermal houses, warehouses, and mansions. It was also a naval base and fort. When Rome fell, the port was abandoned and over time, the harbor filled with silt. It was this mud that eventually covered Ostia and preserved it through the ages.
There is a lot of information available online with more details about ancient Ostia. These were my two favorite resources: Rick Steve’s article and this Ostia Antica website. Before we left home, we printed out this guide and brought it with us. It was invaluable, as it described the history and a walk-through of everything there is to see in Ostia Antica.
How to get to Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is only a few miles south of Rome and easily reachable by car. There is also a train line that gets you within a five-minute walk. The excavations can certainly provide an entire day’s worth of exploration, and the price of admission is very reasonable: only 9 euros. There is a museum, cafeteria, restrooms, and gift shop, but you will spend most of your time outdoors, so be sure to use sunscreen. It is so fascinating, you will not realize how much time has passed as you walk through the ruins! Ostia was a large city, so you can easily spend hours here and sometimes not even see anyone else. We went in May and enjoyed sunshine and wonderful breezes from the sea. Absolutely enjoyable and oh so interesting!
Here’s a computer reconstruction of what Ostia might have looked like in its day:
Photo Collage of Ostia Antica
And here’s a collage of the photos we took while we walked through the streets of ancient Ostia Antica. I hope you get to visit it someday too!
After Ostia Antica…a Modern Temple
By early afternoon, we were getting warm and hungry, so we headed to our next destination–another Roman temple of sorts–this one not ancient at all. In fact it was still under construction. When the building of this temple was announced on April 4, 2008, Italian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints met the announcement “with the animated cheering and enthusiasm you might expect to see in a sports arena during a last-second win”, explained President Massimo De Feo, president of the Rome Italy Stake. Members of the Church all over the world could not fail to recognize the significance of an LDS temple being built in Italy, especially in Rome, where some of Jesus’ disciples bore witness of His gospel. If you’d like to know more about why temples are so important, click here. As members of the Church, we were also interested in checking in on the temple’s progress. Here’s what it looked like the day we arrived in May 2014:
There have been a lot of construction delays since then, and the temple is still not completed. The projected finish date for the entire temple complex is now expected to be sometime in 2016. But this is what it will look like when it is finished:
What will the complex include? A temple, a large meetinghouse, a Visitors’ Center with reproductions of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus statue and the twelve apostles made of Carerra marble, a Family History Center (genealogy research), a lodging facility, and gardens designed to be peaceful and attractive so that one can feel joy and ponder on the beauty of God’s creations. Here’s an amazing video about the Rome LDS temple and the re-creation of Thorvaldsen’s statues.
IKEA in Rome
While we were visiting the temple, we noticed a nearby IKEA store. I may be revealing some of my quirks, but IKEA is one of my favorite stores. I just had to go visit! We decided to take advantage of their inexpensive cafeteria and gelato-dispensing machine and grab a late lunch. Half the fun of eating in another country is finding unique places to eat, and IKEA certainly qualified. Sure wish they had one of those gelato machines in my San Diego IKEA!
Since we were flying out of Italy the next day, we needed to head back towards the Ancona airport. We enjoyed a relatively short drive from Rome to the east coast of Italy and settled for the night in a rather obscure little coastal town called Porto Sant’Elpidio. I chose a modest seaside resort because it had free parking, free wifi, an onsite restaurant, and cottages with kitchens. The rates at Villagio Mimose were also very affordable–only 116 euros total for a 2-bedroom cottage. We walked along the promenade and opted for a “toe-dip” in the freezing Adriatic Sea as we watched the sun set. It brought with it a certain melancholy as we knew we’d be leaving Italy soon. Ciao for now, Italy!