Why not take a little time to wander the old port and maybe visit the imposing Fort Michelangelo? Alternatively, head north to the Trajan Baths, where emperors and senators came to soak away the stresses and strains of high office. Civitavecchia boasts a fine cathedral, painstakingly rebuilt after WWII and, naturally, this being the Italian coast, you’ll find a fine selection of seafood restaurants offering the best that the fishermen of the Tyrrhenian Sea can offer!
Although the phrase ‘all roads lead to Rome’ may well be ringing in your ears, you might do well to consider that Civitavecchia to Rome is 45 minutes to 1 hour by train. On the other hand, if exploring Rome under your own steam proves daunting, then MSC Cruises’ comprehensive collection of excursions to Rome from Civitavecchia may prove just the ticket.
Rome’s Attractions? The Colosseum Is Simply A ‘Must See’
Along with the Vatican City, the Colosseum probably shares top billing as Rome’s greatest attraction. This imposing structure really is colossal, even by today’s standards. The building is nearly 190 metres in length and could seat some 50,000 spectators. There were huge awnings to protect people from the fierce Roman sunshine and spectators sat in numbered seats; the seat’s position reflecting the hierarchy of Roman society. Ordinary women, for example, sat in the 4th (top) tier that ran around the very top of the Colosseum, whilst emperors, important senators and vestal virgins would take their place on the podium. In between nobles, equites and plebians would sit according to their rank. It’s not quite true to say that all human life was at the games as slaves, actors, gravediggers and former gladiators were all forbidden to attend - although slaves could, of course, find a role in the arena!
Aside from the gladiators and slaves, the real stars of the show were the fierce dentatae: the sharp toothed lions, tigers and leopards brought from the far flung reaches of the Empire. These wild beasts were so agile and dangerous that spectators had to be protected by screens equipped with ivory rollers lest they found themselves inadvertently becoming part of the grisly spectacle. And what a spectacle it could be, with the huge underground hypogeum housing all manner of animals that could be lifted via trapdoors to appear almost instantly in any part of the arena with the hunter often unaware as to what and where his next challenge might be. In one famous, and presumably atypical example, Emperor Gallienus sent a swindling merchant into the arena to face a lion only to have a chicken emerge from the cage to greet the terrified merchant. The crowd were greatly amused and the emperor even let the merchant live, presumably confident he’d learnt a lesson.
Just How Many Coins Are In The Trevi Fountain?
As well as being a beautiful 18th century rococo masterpiece, depicting Triton on a shell shaped chariot taming the ocean, the Trevi Fountain is also something of a money-spinner. Never mind ‘Three Coins In A Fountain’ on any given day around €3,000 are ‘deposited’ into the water supplied by the ancient Aqua Virgine aquaduct, honouring the legend that promises a return to the Eternal City. These gestures all add up, and in 2016 alone it was estimated that €1.4 million had been thrown into the fountain. Fittingly the money is usually donated to charity and a trip to the fountain is another ‘must’ if only to evoke the scene in Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ where Anita Ekberg raises paddling to an erotic art form.
Did Ancient Rome Invent Fast Food?
Of all the things to do in Rome one strong recommendation is to eat. There are plenty of high end restaurants to choose from but, if you’re combining your meals with some serious sightseeing, then something a little snappier might be in order. And fast food on the go isn’t nearly as modern as you might imagine; certainly the denizens of ancient Rome would have been familiar with the concept, especially the spectators at the Colosseum who’d have snacked upon salted peas, wine and dates or enjoyed fried fish or sausages on sticks after a trip to the baths.
Rome also dukes it out with Naples over the bragging rights for ‘best pizza in Italy’ (and by extension the world). So, if you’ve worked up an appetite on our Rome On Your Own excursion, and you want to enjoy pizza in an authentic, out-of-the-way spot, why not head for La Montecarlo? You’ll notice a picture of former Roman resident, Morrissey, standing outside though, as yet, there doesn’t appear to have been a pizza named after him.
Of course you can’t visit Rome without sampling some of the native dishes that hail from the city. Carbonara is a Roman classic and the combination of egg, pecorino cheese, and guanciale is guaranteed to hit the spot as, indeed, is Cacio e Pepe a beautifully simple cheese, pepper and pasta combination that that any self-respecting Roman chef will execute to perfection. Wash it down with local Frascati and round things off with an espresso, the sweet, dark pick-me-up that seems to fuel the city!
Visit The Vatican City
Spiritual nourishment next as your ‘things to do in Rome’ list remains woefully incomplete without visiting the Vatican. Technically, of course, this isn’t Rome at all, but a separate city state with a population of around 1,000 - making it the smallest state in the world. However, there is nothing small about the scale and importance of what you might see here. From the Sistine Chapel to the Vatican Museums this is a treasure trove of religious and artistic wonders.
The old Basilica of St Peter was built by the Emperor Constantine on the site of the apostle’s tomb -St Peter the Apostle died in Rome and is seen as the first in an unbroken succession of popes. Constantine turned Rome into a Christian empire and his early church has been much expanded with many works and contributions, especially from the Renaissance period.
Of course, you could spend an eternity and not run out of things to do in Rome and the Vatican City, although MSC’s Rome and the Wonders of the Vatican Museum tour will help you appreciate some of these wonders if time is against you. And, if you feel inspired to visit Rome on a cruise then we’re waiting to take your call!