Last week, I took a short commuter train ride back 2,500 years to the stillness of the ancient seaport of Ostia Antica, a remarkable site that is nearly as well preserved as Pompeii, yet within quick and easy reach of Rome.
Less than an hour from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, I am ambling along Ostia's ancient stone streets that follow the grid pattern of a Roman army camp -- likely imposed when Rome took over the port city in about 400 B.C.
Even then, the city was already a few hundred years old, established at the mouth of the Tiber River by pre-Romans making the most of the precious salt flats nearby.
Before its harbour was silted over and commerce died, Ostia was a bustling and prosperous town, crowded by at least 50,000 residents living in stacked apartments.
A large, stone amphitheatre that could seat 4,000 still hosts summer performances, as jets from nearby Leonardo da Vinci airport (better known as Fiumicino) take off and land.
There's a synagogue, and temples abound that once sanctified marriages and births, while the cemetery at the entrance to town is a stern reminder of how we will all reach the same end, eventually.