Rome is the Eternal City. For more than 2,000 years, it has been home to art, culture, passion and incredible food. It is the highlight of any Mediterranean cruise, and whether you are there for a day, or a week, or a month; your visit to Rome will be unforgettable.
Most cruises in the Mediterranean either begin and end in Rome, or will stop there for a day, so there’s one piece of information that’s important for everyone to know. Ships don’t actually dock in Rome at all. They dock in the nearby town of Civitavecchia.
Rome does not sit on the Mediterranean coast. It was built on the seven hills that flank the Tiber River. Cruise ships all dock in Civitavecchia, which is about an hour and a half north west of the city, but the highlights of Rome are well worth the hike.
There isn’t much to see in Civitavecchia itself, so if your cruise ship is only there for a day, you need to get into Rome on a shore excursion, or by exploring the city on your own.
Creating the Perfect Roman Holiday
Rome is a big, bustling city, but it is entirely possible to get a flavor of its incredible history in one day. You just need to keep in mind that Civitavecchia is at least 90 minutes away by train, car or bus. Factor that travel time into your plans, and give yourself room for extra time for traffic or delays.
There is a train station in Civitavechhia, with several trains going to Rome’s central station every hour. The station is close to the port, but it’s far enough away that you’ll want to take the shuttle bus to the port entrance and then walk the four blocks to the station.
Taxis can also be a concern. Sometimes there are plenty, sometimes not. If they are there, they can be expensive. Either take the train, or make group arrangements before hand. You can sign up for a shore excursion with your cruise line, or book a car and a guide yourself through one of the many companies who offer day tours specifically designed for cruise passengers.
The upside to arranging a packaged tour, either on your own or with the cruise line, is that you don’t have to worry about the long trip from and back to the port. These group tours will make sure you get where you need to go, while the trains can be a more of a stressful adventure. If you decide on the train, leave yourself at least two hours to get back the ship in time.
If you only have one day in Rome, you may find yourself having to choose between seeing the highlights of the ancient city on one side of the Tiber, or St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican on the other side. Or you can book a guided tour that will take you from the Vatican to the Colosseum, so you can see a little bit of both. Most tours will build in a little free time, so you can stop somewhere to eat, which is the real highlight of any trip to Rome.
Of all of the cities that you will visit on your cruise vacation, Rome really deserves more of your time. Extend your stay a few days, if you can, and walk in the footsteps of the ancients through the Roman Forum or the Pantheon. Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, and enjoy a refreshing gelato as you sit and people-watch on the Spanish Steps. Window shop along the Via Condotti. Crane your neck inside the Sistine Chapel, in awe of Michelangelo’s masterpiece ceiling.
The Eternal City has captured our hearts and our imaginations for more than 20 centuries, and it is bound to capture yours. Just make sure you plan ahead, and leave yourself lots of time to get where you need to be. Of course, the best idea is to stay a few extra days to truly fall in love with all the sights and flavors of Rome.