Rome, the “Eternal City,” as the saying goes, was not built in a day –and cannot be seen in a day—but often cruise passengers have only one day to enjoy it (unless they are fortunate that their voyage begins or ends in Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, and they are able arrange for an extended stay pre- or post-cruise).
For those whose itineraries feature Civitavecchia only as a port of call, all is not lost, as cruise lines generally feature optional full day guided tours to Rome (the city is 46 miles or about 45 minutes to an hour from the port depending on traffic). These excursions include a panoramic drive with a couple of stops to take in some of the major points of interest plus a few hours of free time, typically at St. Peter’s Square, before returning to the pier.
In addition to the full day excursions to Rome, many lines offer transfers to a drop-off/pick-up point in the heart of the city so passengers can get a taste of the bounty of sights that the capital of Italy offers on their own with provided maps. Some passengers opt to independently take the train into Rome from the train station at Civitavecchia (Stazione di Civitavecchia) –if you do so keep an eye on train schedules and the clock as it is easy to lose track of time in Rome.
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Whether on a transfer, a guided tour, or independent sightseeing, most cruise passengers enjoy their short time in Rome, content with having received an introduction to this, one of the world’s foremost cities, and conscious that as locals say, “Roma, non basta una vita!” (A lifetime is not enough for Rome).
Rome’s “musts” are legion and include the Pantheon, on Piazza della Rotonda, ancient Rome’s best preserved building dating from AD 120 in its present form, and site of burials of kings and the painter Raphael; the Colosseum on Piazza del Colosseo (inaugurated in AD 80, where gladiators fought in front of crowds that could reach 50,000) and, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, the Roman Forum with its fabled ruins first developed in the 7th century B.C. (Via dei Foro Imperiali connects the Colosseum with the Roman Forum) that along with the legendary Via Appia and the Catacombs introduce passengers to the ancient, imperial era of Rome (typically some of these sites are stops during many full day excursions).
Nobody leaves Rome without dedicating some time to the treasures of the Vatican and the picturesque Spanish Steps in the Piazza di Spagna (a tourist magnet and gathering place of young locals since the 18th century, with the Keats-Shelley House to the right as you face the steps) and the quaint Trastevere section of Rome, as its name implies across the Tiber River from the historic center of Rome with many bars, cafes and trattorias (small restaurants).
The centerpiece of the Vatican is St. Peter’s Square, one of the world’s most spectacular public spaces designed by Bernini in the 17th century, framing St. Peter’s Basilica with what archaeologists believe is the tomb of the Apostle Peter –the first basilica on the site was built by early Christians in the 4th century. The present basilica is crowned by Michelangelo’s monumental dome and showcases his Pieta marble sculpture of Mary holding the dead Christ after the crucifixion – only one of numerous other Renaissance and pre-Renaissance works of art including the bronze baroque “baldachin” by Bernini over the main altar and a bronze of St. Peter to the right as you face the main altar, believed to be a 13th century work by Arnolfo di Cambio.
Still other “musts” are the Vatican Museum with its extensive collection and the Sistine Chapel, the Pope’s private chapel and the place where the cardinals of the Catholic Church meet to elect a new pope when the holder of the office dies. The Sistine chapel is also famous for the paintings of Michelangelo including the “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling and “The Last Judgment” behind the altar. St. Peter’s Square is a frequent stop for free time on full day tours to Rome from Civitavecchia.
Other Roman highlights include monuments from more recent eras of Rome, including the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, built to honor the first king of a unified Italy who reigned in the 19th century –a monument that looks like a giant wedding cake –and is so called by the locals. The hard-to-miss Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, located in the heart of the city, is often a drop-off/pick-up point for cruise line transfers into Rome from Civitavecchia.
Yet another Roman must-see is the Trevi Fountain, a short distance from the Via del Corso (a sign on the street points in the direction one must turn to reach the fountain). Designed by Nicola Salvi, this baroque fountain was finished in 1762 on the rear of the Palazzo dei Duchi di Poli and it is a fantasy of gods and goddesses with Neptune, the Roman god of the sea as its central figure flanked by two Tritons. Trevi Fountain, arguably the best known in Rome, was made famous by the 1954 movie, “Three Coins In The Fountain” with Clifton Webb and Dorothy McGuire, which inspired the custom by tourists of throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain and making a wish to return to Rome. This spot where the Trevi Fountain stands, was the ending point of the Virgo aqueduct, built in 19 B.C. by Agrippa, son-in-law of Caesar Augustus, who was responsible for the construction of some 500 fountains in Rome in one year.
Other spectacular Roman fountains include those of the Piazza
Navona including Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), commissioned by Pope Innocent X, and adorned by statues that represent four great rivers: the Nile, the Plate, the Ganges and the Danube.
Local flavors not to be missed while in Rome include pasta dishes in trattorias (perhaps in Trastevere, or anywhere in Rome) washed down with a glass of Italian wine, as well as creamy and delicious gelatos (ice creams) for a snack while you tour the piazzas or dessert after your lunch in the city.
For “been there, done that” passengers who have already visited Rome, cruise lines typically offer a variety of excursions in the area surrounding Civitavecchia, such as cooking lessons, wine tastings and tours to the necropolis of Tarquinia with its Etruscan house-like graves with impressive frescoes.
Cruise lines that sail to and from Civitavecchia, or feature it as a port of call, include Azamara, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Silversea.
IF YOU GO – For additional information on Rome, visit www.italia.it.