Welcome to Civitavecchia
This is one of our very early starts for this trip. We awoke at just after 6.45am as we were coming alongside in the Port of Civitavecchia, which is the main port used for visiting Italy’s capital – Rome!
BeyondCruise Live Voyage: MSC Meraviglia – (Missed a day or just got here? Skip to any day!)
The port is nicknamed ‘The Port of Rome’ as it is the closest and biggest port that serves Rome. The majority of the ships that use the port are cruise ships and ferries, although fishing is still an activity from this port, albeit on a small scale.
Located within the port is the huge Forte Michelangelo which was first commission by Pope Julius II to defend the Port of Rome. Only the upper part of the “Maschio” tower was however designed by Michelangelo, but his name is applied to the entire fortress.
Shore Excursion: Walking Tour In Rome
Our excursion today was pretty long (7 hours in total), this is because the port of Civitavecchia is actually located 82km (51 miles) from the Italian capital of Rome. There are various ways you can make your way into Rome, including via train or via coach or private transfer. For us, having never experienced Rome before we wanted to let the ship do the hard work for us and therefore chose an excursion!
We met in the same place as yesterday (The TV Studio, Deck 7) and within a few minutes, we were lead off the ship to our coach which was only a few paces from the gangway. The coach set off and climbed up a few hills where we got to see the port and MSC Meraviglia from a distance and then we joined the motorway which takes you directly into Rome.
The guide told us we would be stopping for a ‘technical stop’ about halfway and recommended if we needed the toilet, it would be a good time to go – as the toilets in Rome are not only extremely busy but also do cost. After a short while, we pulled into a Motorway Services and used some of the cleanest public toilets I have ever seen!
Luckily for us, we’re heading into Rome on a Sunday. Although the tourist attractions will be as busy as usual, it means the traffic to/from Rome should be a little quieter. We arrived in the outskirts of the city at around 10 am and by 10.15 am we were parked only a few streets away from the Colosseum.
Our guide then handed out small radio-type devices with straps to hang them around our necks and a mono-earphone on a cable to plug into them. She told us which channel to tune into to listen to her tour in the language we wanted. The beauty of this compared to a usual excursion was she didn’t have to shout so everyone could hear and you could, of course, alter your own volume if needed! It also meant you didn’t miss anything if she was ahead and you were behind taking photos (that especially always happens to us!).
The tour consisted of visiting some of the most famous landmarks in Rome, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, (Campidoglio), Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria), Trajan’s Forum (Foro Traiano), Venice Square, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and finally the Pantheon. There was time to stop at all places and take photos whilst the guide gave us the history of each place.
Our guide explained to us that Rome is like a lasagne and consists of many different layers of history which to this day they are still uncovering. As we proceeded along the tour this was apparent in numerous places, including the Foro di Cesare, a Roman plaza built by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. It was fascinating to see the excavations and you didn’t need to pay extra to go visit it if you didn’t wish to as the pavements are elevated from the excavations anyway.
We also learnt about the different column heights in Rome – The small columns were for basilicas (large churches – there are 459 churches in Rome!) and the large columns were for temples/gods. The plaza that Julius Caesar had built contained both, as after his death he was officially recognised as a God.
We also saw both Funerary columns that Rome has. The first huge column we saw contained the ashes of the Roman Emperor, Trajan and the column was built from 107 until 113 AD. Such an incredible history! As the majority of people in Rome were unable to read there are scriptures all the way up the column which reads like a picture book.
Other features of the tour included the Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria) which is a massive grand marble classical temple honouring Italy’s first King and First World War soldiers.
Just diagonally opposite the temple, across Venice Square is the balcony that Mussolini declared the Second World War from. There is something historical on nearly every street as you walk across Rome and different architectural styles are absolutely incredible. We’ve collected a LOT of photos!
Travelling via many backstreets we were treated to tiny shops and cafes that not just tourists, but locals use too and also there are many fountains for residents and visitors of Rome to use as well (such as the one below).
After we were shown the Piazza Navona, we were given an hour to go eat, shop or do whatever we wanted. By now we were quite hungry and Sara and I found a Pizza Ristorante down one of the side streets and ordered some Bruschetta to start with. I then had a Funghi Pizza whilst Sara had some fresh homemade Lasagne. It was fantastic and good value for 30 EUR (including drinks and tip!). Rome, we were told is expensive to buy or rent property in, but is cheaper than places like London to actually live for normal day to day costs.
The tour was around 5-6km in total over 4.5 hours, but it was all flat and accessible for those in wheelchairs. Throughout the tour, there are a lot of people that approach you to buy: selfie sticks, bottles of water, portable phone chargers, kids toys and other gifts. A simple no is enough for them to stop asking you and there are so many tourists there that they probably only need 1% to say yes to make it their worthwhile!
Aside from the Trevi Fountain, most places are on extremely wide roads with very wide pavements – we found that you could easily take photos of everything within a minute or two of approaching them, so don’t be too worried about the crowds.
We met with our guide after our allotted ‘us time’ and she lead us through the busy streets to the final stop, which was the Pantheon – a magnificent sight.
Then we set off via some of the pedestrianised shopping areas, eventually, we met up with the coach and we set off directly back to the port. The journey home was silent – a good majority of the coach was asleep and you could hear a pin drop nearly! Within 90 minutes or so we were back at the port and ready to board MSC Meraviglia again.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable excursion, Rome’s history covers an incredible 28 centuries and to be honest, one day in the city is just not enough for most people. Yes, you can make your own way there and do your own tour but we found that having a guide (with the audio device too) really maximised the day there.
If you are thinking of a fly-cruise and want to spend some time in Rome, we’d recommend possibly flying into Rome two days beforehand and then you can really explore everything. Thankfully, MSC Bellissima next year offers embarkation at multiple ports, one of which (Naples) is just a one-hour train ride away. Other fly-cruise ports (from the UK) include Genoa, Barcelona and Marseille – so if you fancy more time in one of those ports, again, fly in a day earlier or fly out a day after your cruise! The flexibility of being able to join the ship at a port of your choosing, rather than just one port, gives you the ability to plan your own holiday.
Once back on board we headed again to the Bamboo Pool and Bar for cocktails and there was plenty of people around and in the pool. There was also an aerobics/Zumba class which had about forty people involved and looked fun, but we were exhausted from the day!
Back to the cabin, we sat on the balcony and enjoyed the view out to sea, even though we’ve no sea days this trip, sitting on your balcony and looking out with a drink we find incredibly relaxing. We spent some time looking through photos and then changed for dinner.
Kaito Sushi Bar
Tonight we have booked our second speciality restaurant (don’t worry, we’ll be getting to the Main Dining Room later in the cruise!).
Again, there is a set dining menu but this time you get everything on it and if you wish, you can buy extras from the main menu at a 50% discount, but we found the set menu was enough for us.
The food was incredible and Sara (quite a sushi fanatic, being from New Zealand) thought it was excellent – so top marks for that! Again, we had drinks with the meal which were part of our inclusive drinks package, but you could order individual drinks or premium drinks if needed.
After dinner, we heard it raining against our balcony. As it happens there was a huge storm across Italy. In fact, Rome had severe flooding and hailstorms literally hours after we left! We spent an hour or two in the stateroom planning the next day (and blogging!) whilst watching the fork lightning at sea and listening to the thunder roll across the ocean – the rain was extremely heavy but the winds were calm and the seas fairly smooth still, or if they weren’t MSC Meraviglia handled them extremely well as we felt next to nothing!
Tonight we are sailing deeper into the Tyrrhenian Sea towards our next stop which is the capital of Sicily – Palermo! We’ll be travelling for approximately 255 nautical miles. Hopefully, the weather will either change direction or pass us before we visit tomorrow!