Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wednesday, 1st November – Rome

Our last day in Rome and the last day of our holiday! We are ready to come home (especially our feet are) but sad that this wonderful time is coming to an end. We had planned a day out of the noise and crowds of Rome, but woke up to pouring rain. We spent a while looking through the guide book for a plan B and by the time we finished the rain had stopped, the sun was peeking through the clouds so we went back to plan A, which was to visit Ostia Antica – an excavated 1st century ancient Roman town, similar to Pompeii but a lot closer to Rome (and without the volcano).

It was a bus, metro and train trip (less than an hour) and when we got off the train the rain was pelting down. Undeterred, as intrepid travelers, we opened our umbrellas (and waded through minor flooding by this time) and pressed on. It was the best thing we could have done because the rain eased within minutes of our entering the site, but it kept the tourists (mostly) away.

Ostia Antica was a working class town, the main port for Rome, at its height home to 100,000 people. It’s a huge site (10,000 acres) and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring it. It had everything you could want in an ancient Roman town – houses, temples, tombs, a theatre, baths, shops, frescos, mosaics, statues (mostly without heads), even a forum, plus a few things we didn’t expect: apartment buildings, a bar, and a public toilet. It was even well signposted! You could wander freely over the site and we loved just poking around and exploring. One of the most fascinating sections was the Forum Delle Corporazioni (the Square of the Guilds), a monumental square lined with more than 60 offices of ship owners and traders. Along the pavement 2nd Century AD mosaics advertised the services offered by the various shops – shipping merchants, grain dealers, even ivory traders. It transported us back 2 millennia – it felt like a real town, where real people lived and worked and died. Very evocative and a great way to spend our last day.