Civitavecchia, the Port of Rome
Ironically, cruising the Mediterranean proves quite strenuous, with ports to visit every day. After all, it took Odysseus quite a while to conquer the place. So it is always nice to find a place where you can hop off the boat and simply be.
Civitavecchia proved such a place (as did Livorno, which I've written about previously). It is the main port for Rome, and most from the boat headed off for a whirlwind tour of the Eternal City. In the height of Summer. Exhausting.
When in Rome, it's easy to forget how close it is to the sea (Ancient Rome was, after all, a major trading port with a significant navy). Only 80 km away, Civitavecchia translates as 'ancient town'. Built over an Etruscan settlement - as is much of this area of Italy - the harbour was constructed by Trajan in the 2nd C AD. It became a Byzantine stronghold, was raided by Saracens, liberated by a pope, occupied by the French, survived bombing by the Allies in WWII, became a free port under Innocent III, and then became the main port of Rome. I'm surprised Aeneas didn't claim to have landed here after fleeing Troy to found Rome.
Despite these historical claims, and the number of cruise ships docking each day, there is remarkably little to do here, which makes it a perfect place to relax for a few hours.
|The timeless views when cruising Italy|
The chaos began as soon as we left the boat to catch a shuttle bus to the end of the port. It was an absolute chaos of elbows and shoves in the back as people surged onto the buses, afraid of missing their tour to Rome. The tourist office had little to offer, and outside the fence remarking the end of the port stood a line of non-registered taxis touting for business. After running the gauntlet, we took a bus into town. It was empty, the driver chatty, and we could relax. Buses are, after all, a great way to see a new place. They potter along, go down side streets, and end up at the most amazing places.
Civitavecchia isn't large, and we alighted at the train station at the far end of town, then slowly walked back. It was a beautiful summer's day, and the water looked inviting - only the beach was rocks and pebbles. As an Australian I'm incredibly spoilt, with beaches of the finest sand, and I have yet to find any in my travels a to rival our own. People sat on the pebbles sunning themselves, and wore shoes into the stunning blue of the Mediterranean because of the stones.
|The chaos of summertime-time Rome|
The Sunday markets were in full swing, selling clothes and handbags, touristy nic-nacs, fruit and veggies, the most delicious smelling breads, cheeses and meats. The smell of salt filled the air. The massive Fort Michelangelo dominated the skyline. It was commissioned by Pope Julia's II to defend Rome, and the upper tower was designed by Michelangelo.
In the historic centre, just off the Piazza Vittorio Emmanuelle, stands the Cathedral di San Francesco. Built in 1610 over the remains of a small Franciscan church, it boasts a magnificent Baroque façade, despite damage sustained during the bombing of WWII. The main entrance opens onto a single nave. The church is very simple, very peaceful. It contains works by Domenichino, Pietro de Laurentiis and Antonio Nessi – a fresco above the altar of St Francis Receiving the Stigmata.
In the streets are nearby cafes and restaurants, and although it was Sunday a few shops were open (yes, a skirt and a pair of shoes). A leisurely lunch in the sun, followed by a great coffee, then back on the bus back to the boat, where we partook of cocktails by the pool, while everyone else struggled with the chaos of Rome.
|Cocktails at sunset|