Weekend P. 1: Ostia Antica

Jo:

The optimal method of taking a break from an archaeological excavation, is to view a completed excavation. Our first stop of the weekend was at Ostia Antica. Ostia, the seaport of ancient Rome, was a location vital to the success of the Roman empire. Without such a port so near to the Tiber River (in fact, the Romans treated the Tiber as a godly figure), Rome would have lacked a place to trade for goods, to exchange cultures with foreign countries, and to become such a cosmopolitan and worldly environment.

At the Roman ruins of Ostia Antica, I was enthralled by the plethora of intact structures that ranged from full fresco paintings to the Capitolium. Bliss and I most literally walked in the footsteps of the ancient Romans by entering into some of the private buildings and homes. The homes almost seemed to be mazes, as not every wall was intact, it was difficult to navigate around and identify each room as the cubiculum, triclinium, etc.

One of the most prominent structures of the ruins was a theater. Along the main road, the Decumanus Maximus, there were two iconic artifacts—the baths of Neptune and the theater. As you will see in the photo gallery, the theater hosted around 3000 viewers and was thought to have been built by Agrippa, the right-hand man of Emperor Augustus. The baths of Neptune were very near the theater, and although sometimes underappreciated, was beautiful in its own remarkable way. The ruin offered a staircase that opened up a view downwards to the immense, and carefully articulated mosaic.

As we walked further into the ruins, I began to grow an appreciation for how well preserved this entire site was. After working in Orvieto and learning how difficult and how long a process it was to clean off an artifact, seeing the Roman wells and homes nearly intact surprised and left me stupefied. Bliss and I walked in and out of each room and even went up staircases to find that the view of the once lofty city from above was remarkable as well.

Because we had limited time (there was still a lot left to see and do), we were forced to rush through the rest of the ancient city, but still left with a lingering question: how did the archaeologists uncover such a large site? I could only imagine how many hours and how much work it took to finish the entire city. In addition, I was left wondering how amazing the Roman city’s architecture was, that it still for the most part survives today, 2000 years later.

Hungry after the walk, we stopped at a nearby restaurant that seemed extremely authentic. The owner, who asked us to call us “Nonna,” said that she cooked each meal with special family recipes. As expected, the meal was absolutely breathtaking. I myself had a calamari antipasta that was draped in balsamic vinegar. It was arguably the best appetizer I have ever had. For the main dish, I ordered a simple pasta with marinara sauce, and somehow Nonna found a way to make that unique and delicious as well.

After our lunch, Bliss and I headed north to Scarlino, where we stopped by a beach. Quite the rocky shore, this beach was a tough one to go barefoot. Despite the rocks, we went for a quick dip. Above us in a veranda was a bar that overlooked the beach. The bar also had several beach chairs that rested in the water where Bliss and I relaxed for a while. At around 7:00 P.M., we deemed the wind and the waters to be too cold and swam back to shore. After two weeks of digging in the trenches, it was nice to brush off in the beach.

Following a long shower, we headed to dinner nearby the beach. Because it was so late—around 9:00 P.M.—the dinner concluded and we headed back to our room. A full course meal from delicious bruschetta antipasta to a mousse dessert, we were stuffed and ready for bed. A long and action-filled day was ahead of both of us, and rest was essential. The bed greeted me nicely and I immediately fell asleep.

Pisa was only a night away.

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