Visiting the Harbour of Trajan in FiumicinoDiscover the archeological area of the Harbour of Trajan in Fiumicino: history, guided visits, opening hours and useful information
If you love the history of Rome you can't miss a visit to the ancient Harbour of Trajan in Fiumicino, a vast archeological area whitin the so-called Isola Sacra (Sacred Island), close to the Oasis of Portus and not far from the Necropolis of Portus.
During a nice walk among these centuries-old trees, immersed in a luxurian vegetation, you'll have the chance to experience the places where 2000 years ago sailors and merchants carried the goods that arrived from every corner of the Empire.
From the Portico of Claudius, with the famous ugly columns, you'll get to the Severiano Warehouses, passing through the Darsena and flanking the perimeter of the hexagon, a brilliant engineering construction, and why not, if you are lucky you might even find some specimens of the local fauna.
The Harbour of Claudio and Trajan: a pill of history
In the year 46 started the construction of a new maritime port comissioned by emperor Claudius (about 3 km away from the port of Ostia), formed by a big 150-meter outer basin and by a smaller inner basin (caled Darsena) connected with the Tiber river through 2 channels.
The works concluded in the year 64 under the empire of Nero, who forged commemorative coins for that occasion. Unfortunately, the construction was affected by a series of hurdles, like the fact that the sea bottom was continuously being buried under sand and a violent storm that sinked over 200 cargo vessels and another hundred got burned in a fire.
That was the reason why between 100 and 112 emperor Trajan decided to start the construction of a new hexagonal basin, located more internally compared to the port of Claudius and therefore better sheltered.
The hexagon, engineering work of great value, comunicated with the Tiber and with the port of Claudius by an artificial channel, the Fossa Traiana (today's channel of Fiumicino).
Inside, it could dock about 200 ships while behind the mooring points were the big warehouses preceded by arcades. A lighthouse was on the right mole of the inflow channel to the harbor basin and to complete the complex, a colossal statue of Trajan and a large building, the Imperial Palace with the appended baths, a private theater and a small temple dedicated to Hercules.
While walking among its ruins, try even just for a moment to imagine how it would look 2000 years ago with ferment commercial activity, people from everywhere that met here to exchange goods, the continuous comings and goings of ships and wagons, the cries, the confusion and the open taverns that offered refreshment to mariners.
Harbour of Trajan: what to see?
Now let's go back to the present days and let's finally plunge into the visit of the main monuments of the archeological area.
After getting your map of the area at the entrance, follow the path on your right to find the remains of the defensive city walls of Portus, built by the end of the 5th century.
Inside, you'll find 150 rooms that used to serve as warehouses to storage supplies, products and materials of every kind. Further on, along the avanti, lungo the tree-lined road you'll find yourself in front of the portico of Claudius.
This monumental portico was brought back to light in 1933 while the land reclamation works commissioned by prince Giovanni Torlonia.
Its columns, built with travertine, were ironically called the ugly columns due to their rough look; a characteristic that can be found also in other Roman monuments dating back to the Claudius Age.
Continuing along a narrow path surrounede by two big walls, you'll get to a wide green stretch that in the past, before the land reclamation works, constituted the Darsena.
This rectangular basin was part of the project of Claudius, but it wasn't built until the times of the Nero Empire. It is said that the basin was aimed to hold the small ships that returned upstream the Tiber river.
Alongside the perimeter of the Darsena you can still see the bollards that were used to dock the ships that from here, returned upstream the Tiber river to reach Rome.
Keep your trip going and walk now towards the tree-line road flanking the Darsena. Here, the landscape is very multi-colored: strawberry trees, tilia, holm oaks, oaks, eucalyptus, and many other plants that colour in green everything that surrounds you.
At the end of the road you will find yourself in front of the remains of those who were the Warehouses of Trajan, important deposit of storage that was used until Medieval times.
It must be said that at the end of the 2nd century A.D., the small village of Portus, under Trajan became due to the warehouses, the main commercial hub of Rome with new homes, places of worship and public buildings.
Visiting the ruins of the Warehouses of Trajan will help you to better understand the great engineering skills reached by the ancient Romans.
Continuing forward you will finally reach the hexagonal harbour.
Stop for a moment and pull out your camera to capture the splendid panorama of the lake, surrounded by a luxuriant vegetation and by the characteristic white trails.
If you loved this little paradise and you want to spend a day at open air discovering the lake, we recommend that you also read this article about the Oasis of Portus.
The next stop are the Severiano Warehouses, that despite their name were built in Adrian-Antonius Age (since the 114 AD).
The layout of the structure has the shape of an L, with the long side disposed on the main channel of the hexagonal basin and the short side part of one side of the basin itself.
These warehouses were organized in such a way that the unloading, sorting and storage of goods occured simultaneously in each sector without hindrance, thanks to the distribution of ingenious systems of ramps.
Unlike the warehouses of Trajan the vaults are replaced by cruise vaults.
A tip: There are 2 points of the stores in which it is allowed to climb to admire from above the hexagonal basin in its entirety. Do so and you will thank us for the tip!
At a right angle with the side north-eastern Severiani Warehouses, you can see the vast complex known as the Imperial Palace.
The building, which originally faced on both the port of Claudius and the harbour of Trajan, at the moment is not visitable, but in the past it was subject to numerous excavations and recoveries of furnishings and precious architectural materials.
This imposing building was probably the district of representation for travelers of high rank, ambassadors and for the stay of the imperial family.
Finally, some of the other buildings you shouldn't miss during your visit to the archeological area, there's also a Early Christian Basilica provided with a baptismal font and remains of Late Antiquity Warehouses.
This thrilling trip into the discovery of the ancient Portus and the Harbour of Trajan ends here.
If you have been taken aback by this magical place, then we recommend you to read also the articles below:
Area archeologica del Porto di Traiano
- HOW TO GET THERE
The Archeological Area of the Harbour of Trajan is located in Via Portuense Km 25,600 (entrance gate under the viaduct of Via dell'Aeroporto di Fiumicino). The area is not provided with parking facilities but you can leave your car at the multi-storey car park of the airport, opposite to the terminal, at a price of 2 Euros per person. From the parking lot just follow the signs for Terminal 5. In fact, the shuttle departs from Terminal 3, stops at terminal 5 and then continues to the archaeological area.The staff of the bus will give you a voucher with which it is possible to buy a discounted ticket.
From the Leonardo Da Vinci airport in Fiumicino there is a free shuttle that starts at Terminal 3 departures (first floor) in front of port number 5 from 10am every 30 minutes. Returning from the archaeological area is at 15 and 45 minutes. For more information call +39 3371175780.
Alternatively, you can park at the cemetery located on the other side of the road and reach the entry of the area through the sidewalk and pedestrian crossing of the SS 296.
The Archaeological Area of Trajan's Harbor is open from Saturday 2 September to Sunday 26 November from Thursday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.