This article opens a new column about the monuments of the modern Ostia Antica village. Text and pictures by Maria Teresa Tozzi*
The interesting medieval area of Ostia Antica, the so called “Borgo”, is opposite to the archaeological site. It was founded by Pope Gregory IV for defensive purposes in the 9th century: the inhabitants took shelter inside it during the Saracen invasions.
The Castle is open every weekend from 9,30 am to 6,30 pm and it is possible to enjoy a guided tour.
It was constructed by Pope Julius II (1503-1513), who incorporated the ancient tower of Martinus V (1423-1424) into the new structure. It was the seat of papal customs, which controlled duties payment for goods that arrived to Rome from the sea.
The water was very important for the construction: in the past there was a moat around the tower. It was linked to the river through a tunnel. The historic flood (1557) of the Tiber changed its course and today it is far away from the castle. For this reason, the papal customs was moved: first to the “Boacciana” tower and then to the San Michele tower.
Inside the castle it is possible to understand its defensive importance, but also its several changes. It became a luxurious residence after transformations made by Julius II. The pope wanted to build a papal apartment with a main stair decorated by Peruzzi.
Some rooms had a particular use, such as one with a circular shape for the bathroom.
The castle is a symbol of the passage from old medieval fortifications (tower) to new defensive systems (polygonal bastion).
The guided tour starts from the lower level, through the so called “casematte”, to the walls and the tower, where it is possible to enjoy a wonderful view of Ostia Antica.
*Archeologist and official tour guide.