Port of Rome (Civitavecchia)
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One of our favorite things to do there is walk and ogle. On a recent visit, we took one day to do the route from Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica -- with its jaw-dropping art, statuary, and religious significance -- to Via del Corso, where our quest for the latest Italian fashions was more than fulfilled amidst the well-dressed crowd of Roman shoppers. The next day, we went on an ancient history quest past ruins and columns, traversing the same streets Julius Caesar strode (and rode) to the Colosseum, where gladiators once battled. Walking on, we were awed by the Pantheon, the well-preserved ancient symbol of Rome and now a great hangout spot.
First-time visitors, many envisioning Rome as big and congested, will be surprised by the scenic layout, with its famous seven hills and the Tiber River running through the city. (Cleopatra famously made her grand entrance from the river.) And the senses may be shocked by the general energy, hustle and bustle. With cars, taxis and scooters roaring here and there, crossing the street can be a challenge. (Don't worry; there are quiet piazzas aplenty with lovely cafes where you can get away from it all and unwind.)
The food is, of course, wonderful -- we can't eat enough pasta -- and the spirit of la dolce vita (the good life) abounds. Whenever we do such a quest in Rome, we do regular gelato stops (try the yummy pine nut flavor) or coffee breaks. And the shopping scene serves up Prada, Gucci, Armani and more. (High style can be found in more affordable brands like Furla, as well.) What could be better than that?
No question, Rome has one of the world's most important collections of once-in-a-lifetime sights to see, including St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum and on and on and on. And for those historic monuments alone, the city is worth a visit.
But if you're on an itinerary where Rome is just a port of call for the day, you won't see everything. Either resign yourself to that fact, or book a tour that will at least drive you by the main sights. Be aware the port for Rome, Civitavecchia, is about 1.5 to 2 hours from the city. (There is decent train service.) If you're beginning or ending your cruise there, plan to stay at least a couple of nights to explore the Eternal City; it's likely to steal a piece of your heart. Make sure to drop a coin in Trevi Fountain, which is said to assure you'll come back again.
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Where You're Docked
Civitavecchia has been the port of Rome since Emperor Trajan's time in A.D. 108. It is about 1.5 to 2 hours by taxi or bus from Rome, depending on traffic. Free shuttles typically ferry passengers from their ships to downtown Civitavecchia.
This is a commercial port and it's about a 20-minute walk into the city, although there are basic services like Internet, a deli and a small market, just outside the gates of the port. The other important "service" Civitavecchia offers is a train station, about a mile outside the port, with a direct line to Rome.
Good to Know
Watch out for pickpockets on buses and at the major tourist sights (especially the Colosseum, where there are often bands of gypsies).
From Civitavecchia: The bus trip or taxi ride to Rome takes 1.5 to 2 hours. The other option: Take the train, which leaves every half-hour from Civitavecchia (takes a little more than an hour) and lands right in the heart of Rome at Termini Station. Additionally, most cruise lines offer both a motorcoach transfer option and organized tours. If you're not a tour type, one advantage here to the cruise line motorcoach option is that if the motorcoach is late coming back, the cruise ship will wait. Taxis line up at the port, too; plan to pay about $150 each way to Rome and back.
In Rome: Rome is a great walking city; within the center area, most of the major historic attractions, shopping areas and fabulous piazzas are easy to get to on foot. However, Rome's bus system is also efficient and simple to navigate, particularly from Termini Station. The Metropolitana or Metro (marked by a big red M) is the city's subway system.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the euro. Get cash from an ATM machine that's compatible with your local bank. Local "cambio" shops exchange dollars to euros, though at higher rates than at ATM's. Banks also provide exchange services for a fee. You can use credit cards, but dollars are generally not accepted by retailers and restaurants.
Italian is the official language, but many people you encounter will speak at least some English.
Food and Drink
A meal at an outdoor cafe is a must-do Roman experience. Although Piazza Navona can get a bit crowded, that's part of the fun. The bustling piazza is filled with cafes offering alfresco dining and chairs facing out for the best people-watching, while musicians stroll and provide ambience. One cafe to try is Tre Scalini, the oldest restaurant on the piazza, with its umbrella-covered, red-clothed tables and traditional Italian pastas, pizzas and steaks.
Near Vatican City, en route to Castel Sant'Angelo along the river, a host of restaurants is located along Borgo Pio, but, instead, duck down one of the side streets for less crowded and less tourist-filled small restaurants with better prices and better food.
Religious icons from Vatican City make great souvenirs, as do leather handbags and shoes.
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