My favorite place: le case a giardino

The Case a Giardino are situated at the far end of the scavi and therefor very few visitors manage to visit them. They really should, because this complex is interesting and important for a number of reasons. First there is the location. The whole layout consists of a huge garden (now a green square) surrounded by a series of shops and luxury houses. Yet there is not an actual connection between these houses and the garden. In fact the garden itself is a closed space, only accessible through porches on the four sides of the complex.

casegiardinoThis whole setting lends an extremely peaceful feeling that invites you to have a closer look at these remains, and when you are in the right frame of mind you can imagine Romans walking around in these houses, enjoying their wealth and the vicinity of the coast.  In the middle of the garden we see two apartment blocks each consisting of four dwellings. They are arranged back-to-back and separated by a central passage. The apartments are known as ‘medianum’ houses with a central circulation room surrounded by other rooms. These were really luxury apartments: an internal staircase gives access to a second floor. A second, outer, staircase indicates a third floor with probably the same kind of apartments.

The whole complex was built in the early second century A.D. and is a testimony to ancient entrepreneurship. Whether it was built by a single person or a group of persons or a guild, it comes very close to our modern concept of a real estate development: as many appartments as possible in a given space, made attractive by a pleasant surrounding and separated from the buzzing and rumbling of the rest of the city. A small community within the great mercantile community that was Ostia.

Francis Brenders

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