Pompeii or Ostia Antica: Which to include as a day trip from Rome

Click on just about any message board or forum about Roman travel, and you’ll see the question, “Should we go to Pompeii or Ostia Antica during our trip to Rome? After debating the question for ourselves last month as we planned our own Roman holiday, I can tell you there’s no easy answer.


For those in the early stages of planning, here’s the scoop: Pompeii is, of course, the site of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and the archeological remains are those of a civilization caught in time. Ostia Antica is the site of the one-time Roman seaport, which fell out of popularity slowly, as the sea receded (it’s now several miles away). Ostia Antica is also beautifully preserved, and somewhat more accessible in both location and visual layout. The bottom line: do you want to see your ruins with our without a volcano? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you plan:

How much time do you have?

Pompeii is easily a long full day trip from Rome, whereas Ostia Antica is just 30 minutes away. You’ll want to dedicate at least half a day to tour either location (the more the better), so take this into account. Some travelers even make Pompeii an overnight trip. It’s that extensive. To get to Pompeii, you’ll want to take the Frecciarossa line from Termini station in Rome to Napoli Centrale in Naples, then transfer to the local line. Be sure to start your trip early in the day, especially in the off-season, when exhibits at Pompeii closer earlier (as early as 3 pm). Advanced reservations are only needed for the first leg of the train trip. If you opt to rent a car in Italy, you’ll definitely save time and have more flexibility.

What’s your budget for a day trip?

Train tickets to Pompeii ran about $70 per adult and $30 for children in late 2015. Consider this cost in your considerations. Tickets to Ostia Antica are just a few euros, and the train line is included in the greater metro area of Rome. This means that if you have Roma Pass, you’ll travel there for free. Both locations charge entry fees, but they’re minimal. At both locations, it’s possible to either tour on your own or hire a local guide.

What type of preservation do you hope to see?

Pompeii is unique in that it’s literally a moment preserved in time. Ostia Antica was abandoned more slowly and naturally, as the port grew out of service (as the sea receded). Therefore, what you’ll see there is a more generalized ruin that represents many centuries. There’s more to physically see at Ostia Antica, because it’s all above ground and spread out in a city format. At Pompeii, much is still hidden under layers of ash and dirt, but what you can see is magnificent. So the question boils down to: do you want to show your children what a civilization looks like in mid-movement, when struck by a natural disaster, or what many centuries of commerce look like? There’s no wrong answer.

What we decided:

After much debate, we decided to take the plunge and go to Pompeii. Why? Several members of our traveling party were set on it, and when there’s that much enthusiasm for a site, that’s where we head. There’s something vey iconic about seeing Pompeii, and I didn’t want to damper this excitement. Would we have loved Ostia Antica? I have no doubt we would have. As I said before, there’s no wrong answer here.


The above post was written in partnership with Alamo Europe. All opinions remain my own.