During our trip to Italy, one of the amazing places that we visited were the Excavations at Ostia Antica (Scavi di Ostia Antica). We spent most of a day exploring this magnificent museum and definitely did not get to see all of it; what you find in these excavations is a sense of what life was like in this ancient harbor of Rome, not through depictions and descriptions, but by the raw footprint and beauty that has been uncovered.
Walking through neighborhoods gives a feeling of what was being done in each of them and how this evolved over time. People lived and worked in these locales and left their imprint through their buildings, statuary and mosaics.
This statue of Cupid and Psyche was located in the Domus di Amore e Psiche near the temple of Hercules. This house was excavated in 1938.
As I get time to go over all my photos, there will be much more from these wonderful excavations.
Saturday was our travel day from Ostia Antica to Colordesoli, up in Tuscany. Before we left Ostia Antica, we wanted to take the opportunity to visit the papal castle of Julius II, as it is open for visiting during the weekend.
I mentioned Julius II in a previous post; he was nicknamed ‘The Fearsome Pope’ or ‘The Warrior Pope’ likely due to his rather active foreign policy. He was elected to the papacy unanimously in 1503, due to a bit of backroom dealing, in which he made the Borgias believe that they would get lots of money as a result of his election.
However, upon getting elected, he stated:
“I will not live in the same rooms as the Borgias lived. He [Alexander VI] desecrated the Holy Church as none before. He usurped the papal power by the devil’s aid, and I forbid under the pain of excommunication anyone to speak or think of Borgia again. His name and memory must be forgotten. It must be crossed out of every document and memorial. His reign must be obliterated. All paintings made of the Borgias or for them must be covered over with black crepe. All the tombs of the Borgias must be opened and their bodies sent back to where they belong—to Spain.”
He very much became his own Pope and was ambitious in building, as much as striking out into foreign lands. His building projects included the destruction and rebuilding of the St. Peter Basilica (it wasn’t big enough before) and the commission of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.
The castle in Ostia Antica is not huge by castle standards, but nonetheless very impressive. It is clearly set up for battle, both inside the castle and taking on any siege that may be laid upon it. Canon and gun ports are everywhere, and they even used the residual heat from gun fire to warm that water for bathing. In its more recent past, the castle has also been used as a prison, as evidenced by prisoner’s markings on the walls of cells, counting down the days till their death.
The guided tour of the castle is full of information, and even though our tour was in Italian, a couple of our fellow tour participants were nice enough to provide us English translation of a number of tour highlights. So, if you’re in Ostia Antica during a weekend, check out the Castello de Giulio II!
On our first full day in Italia, we focused on the nearby opportunity of visiting Il Scavi de Ostia Antica (the excavations of Ostia Antica). For the very reasonable price of 8 euros, you get more than a day’s worth of exploration at this amazing site. To put it mildly, a single day is not enough to appreciate all the wonderful structures that have been excavated at this old harbor of Ancient Rome; the route of the Tiber was right by Ostia Antica 2,000 years ago.
We decided to explore on our own with the map that we purchased, and we were immediately astonished by the detail that has been preserved across the millennia. Get off the main thoroughfares to look at the plaques that are sometimes hidden from direct view to get to the really good stuff!
After well over 5 hours of exploring on a beautiful Italian Spring day, we decided to call it a day and go for a gelato. We didn’t see everything, but did unearth some rather cool items that definitely are not seen by everyone; most tour groups appear to focus on a shorter route than we took, and when we got to the further regions of this park, we were rewarded with quiet time and some hidden treasures.
Minerva as Winged Victory
Dolphin Gang with Neptune
Strutting your Stuff!
Amor and Psyche making out
View across the Ruins
Poppies among the Ruins
Temple of Ceres
Through the Portal
Ruins among us
Our decision to base ourselves in Ostia Antica first appears to have been solid thus far, particularly after a great meal at La Bussola, which I recommend highly with fresh, well-prepared food and friendly service!
After getting as much work done at the last moment, as possible, we were off on our next sizable vacation in several years, packed in our flight from Boston to Rome like a good harvest of sardines. 8 hours later, we landed at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, which is beginning to look very nice with all the renovations that are under way.
We picked up our rental car, a rather cute Fiat 500, which is pretty sporty for a little car, and were off to our first stop in Ostia Antica. Despite traffic, we checked into our really nice AirBnB location here in Ostia Antica and decided to crash for a little bit and refresh ourselves after the flight.
After this, we decided to explore the center of Ostia Antica, where we went for a rather nice walk, through the Castello I’d Giulio II…
Castello di Giulio II
Alley Way in Ostia Antica
Castello di Giulio II
Doorway in Ostia Antica
The papal castle of Julius II looks rather impressive with its heavily fortified walls. Considering his nickname of the Warrior Pope that doesn’t surprise; this pope was an interesting character, if what history writes about him is correct (Wikipedia article). We’re looking forward to seeing the inside of this museum on Saturday, before we’re off to Tuscany.
After this pleasant stroll, we enjoyed a gelato (#1) and found some simple, yet delicious pizza for an early dinner (dinner is typically served after 8, but we were a bit too tired to wait for that). Overall a good start!