Ostia Antica e Moderna

17 Nov

Via Ostiense, lined with columns and the distinctive stone pine trees

Roman Taberna at Ostia Antica

Though made principally of black and white stones, the designs of the mosaic floors at Ostia Antica were fancifully exuberant.

Valeria explains how the marble slabs were attached to the brick walls at Ostia Antica.

For the last day of our trip Vince and Domenica had arranged a tour of the archaeological site of Ostia Antica with Valeria, a native of Rome, an archaeologist and an excellent guide. Valeria’s enthusiasm for the history of ancient Rome was evident from her detailed explanation of the site. We learned about the layout of this port city, the sewage system, architectural details, the significance of marble, the lifestyle of the inhabitants, and so much more. I inquired about the iconic pine trees at the site and not only did Valeria explain that they are pines specific to the Mediterranean region but she elaborated, stating they are the pines from which pine nuts are gathered. She managed to collect a few edible pine nuts for us to sample on the spot and then went on to relate some recipes using pine nuts. Wow! Can’t wait to make Pasta with Three Ps: pesto, pomodori e panna (pesto, tomatoes and cream).

After our tour of Ostia Antica we decided to check out the modern city of Ostia, actually a suburb of Rome. Often referred to as Lido di Ostia, this seaside resort is a popular summer holiday spot for Romans.

Perhaps because it was off-season and rather chilly, we weren’t much impressed with Ostia. The place is not particularly attractive, had an air of touristy tackiness and seemed a bit lifeless. Part of  the problem is we arrived after the usual lunch-time hours and most public establishments were closed. We had a decent lunch in one of the few restaurants that was open, then popped into a cafe for gelato and caffè. By this time some of the stores had opened but we didn’t see much that captured our fancy.

We headed back to the B&B to rest up and prepare for our journey home very early the next morning. Dinner was at Trattoria i Ciarli, boasting a menu of typical Roman cuisine. We were pizza’d and pasta’d out by then so we all ordered secondi piatti of meat with veggie side dishes. It was no wonder the place was hoppin’ on a weeknight — the food was really quite good. For dessert we each ordered the homemade tiramisu and were in heaven as we emptied our dessert cups. We finished off our last supper with Italian liqueurs: I had sambuca, Domenica limoncello (I think) and Vince a type of bitter the name of which I don’t recall. And when we were done and asked for the check, the owner (or maitre d’?) brought over a bottle of limoncello and three glasses for a complimentary treat the second night in a row. Hmmmm… I really like that tradition and if we had known maybe we wouldn’t have ordered the round of liqueurs after all.

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