The History of Rome - Part One

 

Rome is not only a major tourist destination, it’s also the city where many cruises start or finish. But as we know, Rome is not actually a cruise port city. Cruise ships do not dock in Rome. Civitavecchia is the port servicing the city of Rome and it lies about 37 miles north of Rome. However, for the purpose of my series on Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise stop, I will treat Rome as the actual port stop and include information about Civitavecchia in the entry entitled Transportation to and from the Port. My blog entries are divided into the following sections:

 

1.​ History

2. Transportation to and from the airport

3. Transportation to and from the port

4. Getting around the city

5. Places to see

6. Rome Markets

7. Hop on Hop off buses

8. Day trips from Rome

9. Fun Facts / Churches & Basilicas

 

In this blog posting, the first of two covering the history of Rome, I will address the origins of the city. The legend of Rome's creation and the story of the mighty Roman Empire, are fairly well known as both are taught (world wide), in schools. If that were not enough, souvenir shops or kiosks in Rome, generally have offerings that depict the story of the “twins” who founded the city. When rumour has it that the gods had a hand in the creation of a place, it stimulates the imagination.

 

As legend has it, Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by the twin sons of the Princess Rhea Silvia (who was also a vestal virgin), and Mars the god of war. The ruler, King Amulius, who had overthrown Rhea’s father from the throne, learned of the birth of Rhea's sons and fearing that the enfants would grow to manhood and depose him, decided to take measures to ensure that they did not reach manhood. Not wanting to outright murder the babies, he opted to let fate be the determining factor. Romulus and Remus were put into a basket, which was then placed in the Tiber river with the intent that the basket would fill with water and drown the twins. There is also a version of the story that has the basket left on the banks of the river so the twins would die of exposure. Either way, King Amulius was sure the twins would die without him actually being the one to physically kill them. However, the god of the river, Tiberinusa, saved that twins and gave them to a she-wolf who suckled the enfants. That is why you will see statues, murals and frescos depicting a female wolf suckling two young boys.

 

The twins were later adopted by a shepherd, grew to be adults, developed fighting skills and became strong, fearless warriors. Being natural leaders, they were soon followed by an army. They came to learn of their noble heritage and set out to retake the throne for their family. Romulus killed King Amulius thereby proving that the king’s fears about the threat that the twins posed to him, were valid.

 

Eventually the twins, having defeated the king and setting their maternal grandfather back upon the throne, searched for a place to build a city of their own with the intent of jointly ruling. The two brothers separated in their search for the perfect location and each found a hill they favoured as the site of their future city. The hills were adjacent to each other and while Remus wanted to build their new city on Aventine Hill, Romulus had chosen Palatine Hill. The twins quarreled and eventually Remus was killed. The most popular legend is that he was killed by his brother Romulus but there is also the theory that one of the gods killed him. Regardless of who actually killed Remus, the end result is that Romulus ruled as the sole king of Rome until his death. All the kings after Romulus were elected by the senate.

 

Historical records not based in myth, tell us that Rome is set within seven hills: Esquiline Hill, Palatine Hill, Aventine Hill, Capitoline Hill, Quirinal Hill, Viminal Hill and Caelian Hill. The two main hills supposedly selected by the twins are the fixed points for early construction and colonization. There is evidence of habitation that predated the official creation of Rome and about the time the city was established as more than a collection of dwellings, the land was ruled by the Etruscans. The low lying land, and more specifically, the land between the two hills supposedly selected by the twins, was very swampy and by 625 B.C. the Romans drained it and installed a sewer system which exists to this very day. With the draining of the swamp, building in the low-lying areas commenced and Rome grew. For those interested in the sewer system and early Roman structures, you can still see the opening of the sewer system as it drains into the Tiber River.

 

In the city’s recorded history, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was the final Etruscan king of Rome before it became a republic in 509 B.C.. He reigned from 535 BC to 509 BC and was considered to have been an arrogant and aloof ruler who was out of touch with the population. Historical books commonly refer to him as Tarquin the Proud, a despot and horrific ruler. Once he was overthrown, Rome became a republic. Under the republic, the city continued to prosper and grow. With that growth came expansion, roads, central heating, personal cleanliness, sanitation measures and the Roman calendar.

 

In 390 B.C. the Gauls attacked and burned Rome but by 264 B.C. the Romans were back in control of the city and the area that is considered to be modern day Italy. Ancient Rome grew into an empire that soon encompassed most of Europe, Britain, north Africa and the Mediterranean islands. Among the many legacies of the Romans is the development of the Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian), which are all derived from Latin. Buildings that are Roman in origin, are found all over the ancient world in places that were under Roman occupation. The concept for those structures were mostly developed in the city of Rome. When you walk the streets of Rome you will see basilicas, triumphal arch, aqueducts and amphitheatres, all of which are creations of the Romans. Let's not forget about the sewers which drained away the filth of the city with every rain.

 

As we progress through the history of Rome as a city, we can see that the last western emperor abdicated in 476 and Rome went into a general decline in the fifth century A.D. As the power of the Roman empire weakened, so too did the city of Rome. However, Christianity had already begun to flourish and emerge from its humble origins. Where Christian teaching, baptisms and masses were once celebrated in secret, early religious structures were starting to be put into place in and around the city of Rome. Although you can still visit and tour some of the catacombs that harboured the Christians prior to the acceptance of the religion, the building of designated religious structures cemented Rome as a stronghold of Christianity. As the centuries passed, newer and more impressive churches were built, many of which are magnificent and will be covered in the Places to See or Churches & Basilicas sections of my Rome as a Port Stop blogs. Most of those churches were built on the original churches started in 200 – 300 A. D. Those original churches were often built on top of temples that had been dedicated to the old gods.

 

By 580 the population of Rome had shrunk to around 30,000. But Christianity helped reshape Rome as a city since the Catholic church was formed around the pope and the pope resided in Rome. There were a few periods where the papacy moved to another country or wherein there were two people declaring themselves to be the religious leader of the Catholic church (all for political reasons), but for the most part, Rome remained the preferred location for the Pope and by the sixth century, the great leaders and aristocracy of Europe would make pilgrimages there. As the wealth of the church grew, so too did the wealth of the city of Rome.

 

The crusades of 1095, 1147, 1189,1203 and 1218 contributed to the power and wealth of Rome. Far from draining the coffers of the church, it created a unified cause, and the selling of religious artifacts and mercies became a lucrative business. If you visit the Vatican museum, you will be able to view artifacts from the crusades.

By medieval times, the wealthy churchmen of the city of Rome were sponsoring the building of churches, shrines and pilgrimage stops. Artists flourished and money was liberally spent to fund the creation and decoration of religious facilities in support of the church.

 

As evidenced by the information in this blog, Rome has enjoyed a rich and storied past with two major influences that impacted heavily on the ancient and modern world. To this day, the two major draws of the city of Rome are the Roman ruins such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Forum and the Catholic links such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican.

The History of Rome - Part Two

Having reviewed the early history of Rome, I want to touch on some of the amazing things that happened during the more recent centuries. Let’s start with the memorable date of 1506 wherein the creation of one of the largest present day draws in Rome moved from the planning phase to the building phase. St Peter’s Basilica was commissioned and started by Pope Julius II who had dreamed of creating a church so large and grand that it would be a symbol of Christianity and a testament to the church for centuries. The building is on such a large scale that it took over a century to be completed and was finally opened on November 18, 1626 under the guidance of Pope Paul V. I write more details about St. Peter’s in the blog entitled Places to See in Rome so for now, I will simply state that the interior and exterior of St Peter’s are must see stops when in Rome.

 

Pope Julius II, employed (some say forced), many of the greatest artisans of the day to work on the basilica and other areas within the Vatican. For example, he had Michelangelo working on painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from 1508 to 1512.

But during the 1500’s, all was not peaceful times. In 1527 Charles V, the Archduke of Austria (also known as the King of Spain and the Lord of the Netherlands), attacked and looted Rome.

 

By 1547 all was calm again and Pope Paul III commissioned Michelangelo to be the main architect of the still under construction St. Peter’s Basilica. History indicates that Pope Paul paid better, and more promptly than Pope Julius.

 

The church had a major influence on Rome as a city as evidenced by the building projects and money brought in by the church. City planning and governance was also heavily influenced by the church. For example, in 1585, Pope Sixtus V re-planned the streets of Rome.

 

As evidenced in the historic buildings, squares and fountains throughout Rome, building was constant. From the addition of Bernini’s colonnades in St. Peter’s Square in 1657, the Palazzo di Montecitorio in 1694, Trevi Fountain in 1732 and the Palazzo Nuovo in 1734’s, artistic creations flourished throughout the centuries.

 

In the mid-17th century until the end of the 18th, Rome was a must see stop on the grand tours undertaken by the nobility to finish off their education. During this time, works of art were purchased and removed from the country.

 

In 1797 Napoleon Bonaparte captured Rome and a year later he exiled Pope Pius VI and declared that there was a new Roman Republic. Napoleon’s control of Rome in that first invasion was fairly short lived and by 1799, he was driven out of Rome by the Austrians and the Russians. On February 2, 1808, French troops once again occupied Rome and in May 1809, Napoleon decreed that he was annexing Rome to his empire.

 

In 1820 there was a series of revolts in Rome making it a fairly unstable political environment which culminated in a full scale uprising in 1848. Without delving into the political situation, I can say that it was a matter of control and governance of the city that fed the instability. In 1849 the Nationalists proclaimed a Roman Republic which led to another French invasion.

 

In 1870, Napoleon III recalled his garrison from Rome and by September 20, 1870, the city was recaptured by Italy. This represented the political reunification of Rome with the country of Italy and placing all of Italy under the governance of King Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy. It also marked the defeat of the Papal States under Pope Pius IX. A monument to King Emmanuel’s achievement was built and by 1911, the impressive Altare della Patria was completed. I speak more about this monument to King Emmanuel in my Places to See in Rome Blog.

 

In October 1922, Rome was unfortunately about to enter a dark period as Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party (PNF) marched into Rome. With the rise of the PNF, fascism was in full swing and to avoid open insurrection, King Emmanuel III named Mussolini as Prime Minister, thereby giving Mussolini legitimate political power and authority.

 

In the 1930’s, Mussolini joined forces with Hitler in what many political pundits describe as a marriage of convenience. Although historians depict Hitler and Mussolini as individuals who each held a low opinion of the other, their alliance was mutually beneficial. Unfortunately, some of Mussolini's political actions mirrored those implemented by Hitler in Germany as evidenced in July 1938 when Mussolini’s party passed the Manifesto of Race which stripped Italian Jews of their citizenship and removed them from holding positions within the Italian government. German soldiers began training in Italy and many were stationed in Rome.

 

In June 1940, Mussolini declared war, joining Germany who had declared war a year earlier when they invaded Poland. The Allies invaded Italy in July 1943 and on June 5, 1944 the allies marched into Rome, liberating it from the combined Italian/German rule. A new government was formed, and Mussolini was expelled. In April 1945, he was executed. Fascism had ended and with it, the monarchy. The disgraced monarchy was viewed as both irrelevant and the mechanism that had allowed Mussolini to be given power. As of June 2, 1946, democracy had returned to Italy and the city of Rome celebrated a new political age.

 

With the end of the Second World War, Rome once again become a draw for historical and religious studies and tourists from around the world. With the tourists also came the movie industry and movies such as Roman Holiday in 1953 (starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck) and An American in Rome 1954 helped boost the profile of the city through the magic of cinema. The "Eternal City" soon became a must see city to citizens from around the world.

 

In March of 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed which officially established the European Economic Community. Coming into force on January 1, 1958, this agreement unified the economic ties of France, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany (which was still divided ).

 

By 1960, Rome hosted the Summer Olympics which were considered a success with Italy winning a total of 36 medals, 13 of which were gold. Tourists flocked to Rome and it became known as a city offering up something for everyone.

 

Many tend to think that politically, Rome has been fairly calm since the end of the Second World War but in 1978, Aldo Moro, the Italian Prime Minister, was kidnapped and later killed. Despite being a democracy, it was not until 1993 that the first mayor of Rome, Francesco Rutelli, was actually elected.

 

As evidenced by this, and the previous blog posting, Rome has had a rich and varied history. I could have easily broken the history of Rome into ten blog postings and still not done it justice. Suffice to say, the two blog postings about the history of Rome are designed to give a fairly light overview and invite you to discover more when you visit or research the city.

Transportation to and from the Airport

In this blog posting, I cover transportation to and from Fiumicino International (Leonardo da Vinci) airport. For those of you who have read my first book Postcards to Alice, you will remember that I start the book with a story about getting stuck in the airport in Rome for over twelve hours due to a general transportation strike that delayed my connector flight to Athens. It also made leaving the airport for a quick trip into Rome a very, very difficult option. If it had not been for the fact that I had previously been to the airport a number of times, I would have had a very poor impression of this facility and general transportation options in Italy. However, that stop was just one of many over the years and for the most part I have a positive impression of the airport and the transportation options to and from the airport terminals.

 

When you arrive in Rome, especially after a long overnight trip from North America, you just want to get to your final destination as easily and quickly as possible. Fortunately, Rome has every possible transportation means available and all budgets covered. Located 32 km from Rome, Fiumicino airport is outside the city centre and some form of transportation is needed to get you from the airport to your accommodation or next destination. The terminals are joined together so it makes no difference which terminal you arrive at, you will be able to make your way to the various points associated with your preferred method of getting into the city (be it taxi, train, bus etc.).

 

Private Transportation

Let’s start with the easiest. Pre booking transportation. I have done this many times and frankly it is the most enjoyable, hassle free option but also the most expensive. Having a driver wait for you at the arrivals area with a sign with your name on it, and at the ready to take you to wherever you want to go, is relatively easy. The downside is the price and any traffic problems (which happen quite frequently). Make sure you book your private transfer from a reputable firm and the price is agreed upon in advance. You can pay anything from $50 - $135CDN ($40.50 - $110 USD). Please note that if you are arriving and going directly to Civitavecchia, the cost of a private transfer is approximately $120 - $150CDN ($96 -$121USD).

 

Taxi

The next option is to take a taxi from the taxi stand. There is a set fee of 48 euros from the airport to the city centre with a maximum four passengers set price. If you have more than four people, you can expect extra charges. I found two or three people each with a large suitcase and a carry-on bag is pretty much the maximum the average size cars can comfortably hold.

Several times I have also negotiated a discount return fee for the end of my trip with the taxi driver who drove me from the airport. The return trip would be considered an off-meter trip so if you do this and prepay, obtain a receipt from the driver and make sure it notes the taxi driver name and number. I have never had an issue with arranging (and prepaying) for an airport return but it is always best to be prepared by taking down the driver information and specifically the contact information.

 

Beware of people who may approach you in the terminal to ask if you need a taxi as they are not associated with the official taxis and accepting a ride with them will cost you more. Even if they quote the rate of 48 euro, they usually add supplemental charges for things such as bags, more than two passengers or other sundry items. One of the people staying at our hotel told me he “negotiated” a rate of 50€ which included tip. When they got in the cab, the driver handed them each a bottle of water which they took. They later found out that the two bottles of water represented an extra cost of 14€ but the most expensive part of their taxi ride was still to come. The driver asked them if they wanted him to take them past the Colosseum on the way to their hotel. He told them that it was not out of their way and close to their hotel. He then told them to get their cameras ready and he would slow down for photos. That supposed sight seeing jaunt cost an extra 20€. In actual fact, the Colosseum was on the way to their hotel and they would have passed it anyway. Their 50€ ride turned into an 84€ drive. In short, my advice is to go to the official taxi stand - ALWAYS

 

Shared Transfers

Booking a shared transportation option gives you the opportunity of having a private vehicle and driver meet you and take you to your destination for about $25 - $40CDN per person. I have done this twice. The first time it worked great and I met an American couple who shared the transfer with me. Their hotel was within spitting distance of mine. The shared transfer was seamless, far less expensive than a private transfer and I met some great people. The second time, I tried this, there were problems, significant delays and by the time we were headed into the city, I found myself in a very crowded van. It was not a fun experience. To make matters worse, I was the last party to be dropped off, adding to the arrival time between the airport and my hotel. I therefore suggest you check with the transfer company to establish what their transfer policies are regarding delayed flights of other transfer parties, limits to the number of passengers and baggage in the vehicle etc.

 

Trains

Much like the Heathrow express in London, the Leonardo Express Airport train takes you to and from the airport in a short, 30-minute time frame. It is modern, clean, comfortable and departs every half hour. Overall, it is a quick, efficient means of getting from the airport into the city to the termini station and you do not have to not worry about any street traffic jams arising. The cost is 15€ ($22CDN, $18USD). Children under 12 ride free.

There is also a local train and at 8€, it is half the cost of the Express. The F1 departs every 15 minutes and takes 55 minutes to get to its final destination. It will take you from the airport with stops at Traslevere, Ostiense and Tiburtina stations. However, if want to get to the Termini, you should change at the Ostiense station and catch the FL5. This train can be crowded and dirty. Beware of pickpockets on the train and at the termini.

 

Buses

Taking a shuttle bus from the airport to the termini is easy and there are a number of companies operating shuttle bus services. Each company offers similar pricing and discounts (such as children under 4 or 5 ride free, senior discount etc.). The bus area is located outside of Terminal three (3) and finding the bus stops is easy as the airport is well signed. The cost is about 6€ ($9CDN or $7.25USD). The buses can be busy and as noted with other vehicles taking the road, can fall victim to traffic snarls. The drive time averages 40 to 60 minutes but as mentioned, can take longer depending on time of day and traffic conditions.

 

Local Buses

You can catch a local bus for a very reasonable price of 3.60€ ($5.32CDN, $4.27USD). It will take you to the Termini Station (specifically Piazza dei Cinquecento). It also connects to the underground lines of A at the Cornelia Station and B at the Magliana Station. Look for the blue and white buses at the Regional Bus Stop signs outside of Terminal two (2) arrivals area. It will take about an hour depending on traffic but represents the most economical means of getting into the city centre.

 

Uber

Yes, Uber is available to take you to and from the airport. There is a fixed rate of 60€ ($88CDN, $71.19USD), and your driver will pick you up at arrivals or drop you off at the departures area depending on your choice.

 

Ship Transportation

You can arrange transportation from the airport through your cruise line. The prices and options vary according to your destination (port or hotel), and the specific cruise line you are using. Check with your cruise line directly or your travel agent to discuss options and associated prices.

Transportation to and from the Port

As mentioned in my first blog posting about this city, cruise ships do not dock in Rome. Civitavecchia is the port servicing the city of Rome and it lies about 37 miles north of Rome. If you have booked your cruise through a tour operator as part of a group tour, your transfer to and from the port should be part of your package so no need to book an independent mode of transportation.  If you are booking your own transportation, here are some options to consider:

 

 

Hire a Bus/Coach

 

For pre cruise stops in Rome, I have hired a bus for transportation to the port. I have used this method a number of times and I find it easy, economical and an opportunity to meet your fellow cruisers. Prior to the cruise taking place, I book a bus (usually a 50 passenger bus), and make arrangements for it to pick me up at my hotel and take me to/from the port. I then make the fact that I have a bus available to transport fellow passengers to/from the port known on social media sites specializing on cruises (such as a Facebook or a cruising site that may have a group for that specific cruise). It is not difficult, and I have never had an issue getting sufficient passengers to fill the bus. I have never had an issue with securing payment from passengers or having problems with a bus company.

 

There are various companies that offer transfer services from Rome to the port but I book with Grassini Bus http://www.grassinibus.com and I have had great service with them. In addition to buses, they also have cars and drivers and minibuses so it is possible to find a vehicle to suit your specific needs. The cost is far less than cruise ship arranged transportation and the price you charge each passenger will vary depending on the number of persons you have on the bus.

 

A few words of caution

 

1. Make sure that you do not fill the bus. People taking cruises tend to have at least one large suitcase and a carry-on bag. The bus companies, all of them, will tell you that their busses hold 30, 40 or 50 passengers (depending on the size of the vehicle), and all their luggage. But those buses will NOT hold that amount of luggage. The luggage compartments will quickly fill up and if the bus is full, there will be issues with space for the left-over luggage. For a 50-passenger bus, I make sure that I leave 10 seats empty which will allow for excess luggage to be placed on the bus in the seating area. Essentially, I book between 30 and 40 passengers total for a 50-passenger bus.

 

One time, one of the 50 passenger buses I hired carried 46 passengers when 6 extra people, who had heard about the bus from other passengers, turned up at the departure point in hopes of getting a ride. I told them that we would only take them if we had room and could safely carry the excess baggage in the passenger seating area without piling it up. We were fortunate that the bus was very large and we were able to get the luggage onto the bus without posing a problem. However, they had to sit with their carry-on bags on their laps for the trip. Since I had already established a price for the bus and collected the money from pre-booked passengers, I used the excess money to augment the tip to the driver. This always ensures that the drivers are willing to go the extra mile and help with baggage etc.

 

2. Make sure the bus company you hire can take you right into the port to the check-in point of the cruise line you are taking. I have heard complaints of people who have been left at the port gate with their luggage. This is not a major issue as there usually are shuttle buses to take you to the ship’s check-in point but I much prefer to get on the bus in Rome and have that bus take me right to the ship check-in point without having to transfer at the port entry.

 

3. Make sure you use a reputable company and check out their references. I have been fortunate in that I have had no issues with the bus company I use but see my comments on private touring companies to appreciate that this warning comes from experience.

 

4. Make sure the bus can get to your hotel. On one trip, I was staying at a hotel near the termini and the hotel was located on a street that had vehicles parking on either side. On the day of the transfer, there were so many cars blocking the way to the hotel, that the bus I hired could not get down the street. The driver ended up parking the bus a block and a half away. Upon learning of the problem, we all walked from the hotel, with our luggage, to where the bus was located. However, it was inconvenient and there were people who needed help with their luggage. One couple’s taxi actually waited for the bus to parallel park before driving past it to get to the hotel only to find upon exiting the taxi with their luggage, that they had to walk back to the bus. It was a most inconvenient turn of events and now I ensure that the hotel in which I am staying can accommodate bus parking and that the road leading to the hotel is not subject to parking congestion.

 

5. Be prepared to leave people if they are late. This has only happened to me once and the unfortunate couple missed us by minutes. They had googled the distance from their hotel to mine and the trip was only supposed to take 15 minutes. They left an hour before the bus departure time thinking that they would have about 45 minutes to spare. They underestimated Rome traffic in the morning and their 15 minute trip took well over an hour. We had waited for them 30 minutes past the scheduled departure time and then we left without them. We met up on the ship at the sail-away party and all was good. They had managed to negotiate a deal with a taxi for a ride to port but their 12 euro bus ride turned into a 125 euro taxi fare.

 

Cruise Line Organized Transportation

 

Cruise lines will offer car, van or bus transportation to the port. Some cruise lines offer cars or luxury vehicle transport. The arranged transport will either pick you up at the airport, train station or other meeting point. Remember to take into account Rome traffic if you are heading to a meeting point. Expect to pay over 100USD. The fares vary depending on the vehicle you book through the cruise line. Bus fares are lower and also vary so giving you an exact costing is impossible as different cruise lines charge different amounts.

 

Train to/from Civitavecchia

 

I confess to only taking this option once and that was on a trip when I was travelling on my own with no group. The promised twice hourly train service between Rome and Civitavecchia was attractive and quite inexpensive. I took the train from the

S. Pietro/Vatican stop as it was closer to my hotel. I could have taken it from the Termini as well. At a cost of €4.60 the cost was quite economical. I found the train crowded, not that clean and there were significant delays so it took almost 2 ½ hours to get to the port. I was told that the time delay was actually not too bad as others had experienced longer delays (this information is anecdotal from fellow passengers, and I have not independently verified their information. I can only speak first-hand as to my experience).

 

The travel time was supposed to take a little over an hour but upon checking on why it took so long for our trip, I was informed that delays are more common than not so I should not have expected a 70-minute ride as it is most often a lot more than that. The train station is about a mile to the port so you can either walk or take a taxi to the port gate and then catch a shuttle bus to your cruise ship check-in point.

 

Remember, IF you do take the train, buy your ticket with a ticket agent or by using one of the machines. Most importantly, get your ticket stamped BEFORE boarding the train.

 

Please note that there is no direct train services from Civitavecchia to Rome Fiumicino Airport or vise versa so you will have to get to one of the departure/arrival train stations in Rome (which are S. Pietro/Vatican or the Termini). See my previous blog posting on transportation to and from the airport for details on getting to one of those train stations from the airport.

 

Civitavecchia Express

 

The Civitavecchia Express was designed to move cruise ship passengers to and from the port to Rome and back. There are two trains in the morning and two in the late afternoon. These trains are more comfortable and fairly quick but at €9.90-€16 they will cost you a little more than the local train.

These express trains can be caught at S. Pietro/Vatican and Ostiense stations which are both fairly convenient to tourist areas and connect to the transit options in the city (buses, subway, taxis etc.). If you are catching this train from the port to go to Rome at the end of a cruise, you can connect at Ostiense Station to get to the airport.

 

Local Bus

 

This is neither the fastest route to get to/from the port but it does offer up an opportunity for some local adventure. I have not used this method to get to and from the port for two reasons. If I am starting or finishing a cruise, I will have to negotiate the local bus with my luggage and that can be troublesome as we reach local areas of high passenger traffic. If I am just stopping in Rome for a day on a shore excursion, the local bus to and from Rome will eat up a lot of your time as it is very slow.

If you have limited funds and maybe only a few points you want to see in Rome, take the local bus. If you want to see as much as possible of Rome on a one-day shore excursion, spend a little extra money and take a method of transportation that will allow you more time in Rome and less time sitting on a local bus.

 

Private Car Hire

 

To hire a car and driver is a pricier option but it will give you comfort and a vehicle that goes directly to where you want to go. Costs vary but expect to pay anywhere from €150 for a simple transfer to or from the port, to €400+ for a round trip day tour. The costs vary according to the type of vehicle, the length of the tour and the places to be visited (if a day tour). In general, €500 for an 8 hour tour is an average costing of a port to Rome return tour with six stops.

 

Research the company you hire and check out more than one or two references. I hired a van and driver to take myself and five other women to Rome for a day trip. The driver was an hour and a half late. Calls to the company were answered but we were simply told the driver was stuck in traffic. It was increasingly frustrating to see other people being picked up by their private hire companies while we stood around in front of the ship awaiting our pick-up.

 

Once the driver picked us up, he was apologetic but there was no price decrease for the 1 ½ hour of touring we missed. When told to take us directly to the Vatican as I was worried that the entrance line up was going to be too long by this time, he confidently told us that it was better to go in the afternoon as there would be no line-up at the entrance. From previous experience, I knew it was far better to go in the morning, particularly if you want to be able to spend time in the Sistine Chapel.

 

However, I was overruled. We went instead to the Colosseum and while the five other women toured that site, the driver took me to Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. Enroute, the driver told me that the touring company typically shaved an hour or two off a tour by having the drivers start later. Apparently. the company was habitually late picking up passengers. I had looked at two of the references relating to the company, but had I researched a little deeper, I would have seen a number of reviews that mentioned late arrival of the driver and vehicles to do port pick-ups. That would have put me off hiring that company as promptness is critical for both starting and ending a tour.

We did get to the Vatican Museum after lunch and there was not much of a line up to enter but there was an impossible crush of humanity in the Sistine Chapel and we were not afforded the time to simply stop and enjoy the experience. Never again will I go on a Vatican visit after lunch.

Getting Around the City of Rome

Walking

On my first visit to Rome, I was in my early twenties and walking kilometers (or miles), was not an issue. Being long on enthusiasm and short on cash, anything I could do to save money was a must so walking became my “go to transportation option”.

 

I had booked a hotel near the Vatican and over the course of a week, I had walked to the Vatican, and most other points of interest. For example, from the Vatican to the Colosseum, it was about 4.4 kms (2.73 miles). From the Pantheon to the Colosseum it was approximately 1.8 km (1.1 miles). I could continue to give you distances but those are easy for you to figure out using any mapping app you have and inputting your location with where you want to go. If you are prepared to walk, you can see most or Rome’s important sites by walking. The upside is you will save money, the downside is that it is not possible to see everything in a short period of time and if you are on a one-day cruise stop, you will have to be selective about what you will be able to see. Maximize your options. If you are arriving by train, you will be able to walk south west to the Colosseum fairly easily. View the Colosseum, temple ruins, Forum, Palatino and then make your way to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi fountain before looping north and east again back to the termini. There are several museums and numerous interesting churches along the way but depending on the speed at which you walk, and the time spent at each location, you may not have time for a whole lot more.

 

If you start touring west of the Tiber river, such as at Vatican City, you will find yourself able to traverse (with average walking capability), St Peter’s Basilica, St Peter’s Square, Vatican Museum and to the Castel Sant'Angelo (which is approximately 1.5 km from the entrance to the Vatican).

Bus

I have used the local bus services for limited trips around Rome. For example, there is a bus from the termini to the Vatican and I have used that a few times and also taken the local buses to get to the catacombs and other areas not serviced by the underground (subway). Please note, you must purchase your tickets before you get on the bus and these can be bought from tobacconists and vending machines which you will find located at Metro stations and major bus stops. A B.I.T standard ticket - valid for one metro ride or 100 minutes on all city buses will cost you €1.50.

 

I was told that you can buy bus tickets at bars but I have never found a bar that sold them.

My personal experience in taking the buses in Rome is that it was fairly easy if you are on a direct line, such as the termini to the Vatican. It can be a little difficult if you have to make several changes as it was not well marked and trying to marry up the bus transfers on remote routes was a wee bit confusing.

 

Underground (subway)

I found taking the subway in Rome to be fairly easy, efficient and fast. A word of warning: “Watch for Pickpockets” particularly around major stations.

As with the buses, you can buy your tickets from tobacconists, vending machines and ticket kiosks at metro stations. As in the case with all forms of transportation systems in Europe, there are passes available which can afford you savings over time if you are using public transport for more than a single day. Rome has such passes. You should note that the tobacco shops sell tickets only and do not sell the passes.

- 24-hour ticket - valid for unlimited metro, bus, and train travel within Rome for 24 hours from validation at a cost of €7,

- 48-hour ticket valid for unlimited metro, bus, and train travel within Rome for 48 hours from validation at a cost of €12.50.

- 72-hour ticket - valid for unlimited metro, bus, and train travel within Rome for 72 hours from validation at a cost of €18.

- C.I.S. - valid for 7 calendar days

 

You can look at bus and train transportation maps online:

 

https://www.atac.roma.it/en/utility/maps

Rent a Car

Car rentals come in all shapes, sizes and prices which are too many to annotate in this blog posting. Renting a car has the added benefit of having a private means of transportation at your disposal any time you want to go somewhere. The downside is driving in Rome traffic which is notoriously busy and trying to find parking on narrow, crowded streets. Unless you have a lot of experience driving in Rome, or are going outside the city to see various sights, I suggest you give this method of transportation a pass.

 

Private Car and Driver Hire

To hire a car and driver is a pricier option, but it will give you seating comfort, limit exposure to other people and provide you with a driver who takes you directly to where you want to go. Once again, prices vary too much to give a quote as the vehicles come in all sizes and prices which will depend on the number of passengers and the length of hire. Prices are competitive so it is possible to get some relatively good deals. Make sure you book with a reputable company and check references. You can also ask about the driver covid vaccination status.

 

Taxis

I have often taken taxis around Rome both for work or to take me to points of interest. Although Rome traffic can be bad and taxis will get caught up in traffic jams at rush hour, drivers do have knowledge of alternate routes to take at times of heavy traffic congestion. So although they may not be able to avoid the brutal traffic jams, they can and will take alternate routes when possible.

 

Just a quick word of warning, it is best to take a taxi from a taxi stand. If a taxi stand is not available, ensure you can see the taxi license and driver information on the back of the front seat of the vehicle. Make sure the meter is turned on when the taxi starts to move. If the driver tells you the meter is broken, take another taxi of negotiate a price in advance.

Hop on Hop Off buses (also known by the short form of HoHo buses)

If you want to move from tourist point to tourist point around the city, consider a day or two-day pass on a hop on/hop off bus. These buses will always go to various points of interest and operate throughout the day allowing you to hop off at any location, do a little sightseeing and then hop on another bus to move to another location. In Rome there are different tour operators, but the prices are generally the same. At the present time the cost is Adult: € 22, Child: € 14 with some operators offering senior discounts. You will see the Hop on Hop off bus stops around the city and there are two that I have used that are near the termini (north, west corner). You can buy tickets from the individual ticket sellers at the stops.

Place to See in Rome - East of the Tiber River

I admit that most of my visits to Rome have resulted in my staying east of the river as some of my favourite places are found in that section of the city. Consequently, I am more familiar with the walking distances from point to point in that eastern area.

 

Colosseum

This is an iconic landmark in the city of Rome. The first time I saw it was on a city tour I had booked when in Rome on a business trip. I had one free afternoon and the easiest way to cover as much of the city as possible, was on a four hour organized bus tour. Not my favourite means of seeing a city but a great option for those with limited time and a desire to see more than one or two places. As soon as I saw the Colosseum I was in awe of the size and look of the building. Now THIS building represented my mental image of what Rome was about.

 

Called the Flavius Amphitheatre, it is the largest colosseum in the world. The tour I was taking, allotted time for a quick photo opportunity but not for entrance into the building. The best I could do was to snap a few photos from across the street and frankly, that brief look was not enough. I vowed then and there that on my next trip to Rome I would spend a fair amount of time walking around the Colosseum and buy a ticket to get into the building.

 

Built under the auspices of the emperor Vespasian in 72AD and completed eight years later under his successor Titus, the Colosseum was a marvel for its time and remains a sensation to this very day. It is listed as one of the seven wonders of the man-made world. The building could hold some 50,000 plus people and is touted as having an average of 65,000 people in attendance for the events. You can buy tickets in advance for the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill for about 39 euros and that will save you time waiting in lines at the entrances to those places. I highly recommend buying a ticket to all three as they are within easy walking distance of each other.

 

I could write a book on the history and specific details of this building but this blog is designed as an overview of places to see in Rome and it is time to write about other locations. My one piece of advice is to say that the Colosseum is a must see so if your time in Rome is limited, this limestone, tuff and brick building should be at the top of your list. I have now visited this site on each subsequent trip to Rome and it never fails to impress me. I discover new things on each visit. If you are staying in Rome, check to see if you can get tickets to do a night-time tour of the colosseum and you will not be disappointed.

 

As with most crowded places in Rome, watch for pickpockets and scammers. You will be approached by people offering to give you guided tours of the Colosseum and area. Some are very knowledgeable amateur tour guides or history students while others are not. Their level of expertise/knowledge is never assured. There are also people dressed as Roman soldiers who expect payment to have their picture taken with you. As mentioned in my book, one of them had a large, visible tattoo of a rock band on his arm which detracted from the authenticity of his centurion look.

Watch for uneven pavement and areas where walking is difficult. There are limitations to areas where wheel chairs can go.

 

Arch of Constantine

Located very close to the Colosseum (a little to the west of it to be precise), I stumbled across the arch while heading towards Palatine Hill. Not having any information about the arch, I eavesdropped on a tour guide informing her group about the history of the arch. The only fact I retained was that parts of the arch are composed of reliefs plundered from other memorials that had been previously built to celebrate victories or events that predated it. Rather cheeky I thought. Imagine having a monument built to you and then have it ravaged because someone wanted the best bits for their arch.

 

On subsequent visits to Rome, I did my own research and learned a bit more about this site. The arch was dedicated in 315 AD to celebrate Constantine's victory at the battle of the Milvian Bridge three years previously. I take it that the delay in finishing the arch had something to do with the pillaging of other monuments. Since Constantine won, and his co-emperor, Maxentius lost, I suspect that any existing monuments to Maxentius were the first to lose their embellishments. Standing at an impressive height of 21 meters (69 feet), it is a great place for photos.

 

Palatine Hill

If you walk through the Arch of Constantine, you will be able to see Palatine Hill. Described as being the center hill of Rome’s seven hills, this area consists of sprawling ruins and represents some of the oldest parts of the city of Rome. There are maps of the site available and I highly recommend you use one so you can read as to what the various ruins represent. The Palatine Museum is a good place to explore as there is a treasure trove of items recovered from the site as well as detailed descriptions of the buildings and history. There is also a depiction as to how the landscape has changed over the years. For example, the hill originally consisted of two summits called Cermalus and Palatium and now there is one large mound called Palatine.

You can buy tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (Fast Track Entry Tickets) for 21 euros.

 

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Located a little north west of Palatine Hill and the Colosseum, you will find the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Built in 141 AD in honour of the deified empress Faustina, her husband Antoninus was added to the temple name upon his death and deification. With its impressive six outward facing columns in the front, this ancient temple was converted to a church in the middle ages. It is now called the Church of San Lorenzo (the Church of St. Lawrence in Miranda), and is a building that makes a great photo, whether you take a picture from the archeological park or up close. Try photographing it at sunset for a particularly dramatic shot.

 

Temple of Caesar (also known as the Temple of Divus Iulius or Comet Temple)

I mention this place as it is located in the area of the Temple of Vesta, and not too far from the Colosseum (north west). From the information I had read, the structure should have had a similar frontal appearance to that of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina with six columns in front etc. But time and mankind have not been kind to this structure and I found it to be an underwhelming ruin. It deserves mention only due to the unique history behind its creation and name. Construction of the temple began in 42 BC and was dedicated to Caesar, who was the first emperor to be deified in August of 29 BC.

 

You may be asking yourself as to why some refer to this as the Comet Temple and the answer is quite simple; following Caesar’s death, a comet appeared in the sky, and some believed that it represented Caesar’s rebirth. In case you are ever asked the question in a trivia game, this is the only Roman temple that celebrates comets.

 

The Pantheon

Moving north, away from the area of the Colosseum, you will come to the Pantheon. A Catholic church since 609, this impressive building is a former Roman temple built in 126 AD by the emperor Hadrian on the site of a former Roman temple. It is set in an open square called Piazza della Rotonda which allows the visitor to get some great outside shots of the building. Best of all, it is free to enter and look around. As mentioned, the Pantheon was converted to a church and then subsequently designated a basilica. It now has the official name of Santa Maria ad Martyres but is still called the Pantheon and referred to such on most maps and in guide books. The basilica opens at 9am and closes at 7pm although the last entry is at 6:30pm.

 

There are often people in the square selling various items (on my last visit I found several selling knock off purses) and there are restaurants nearby. I dined al fresco with friends at an outside café that had a clear view of the Pantheon and the fountain in front.

 

Spanish Steps

About a kilometre from the Pantheon (walking north), you will find the Spanish Steps. I find this tourist attraction to be unexceptional but it is touted by some guidebooks as a must see. Designed by Francesco de Sanctis, the steps were built between 1723-1725 to facilitate access to the church of Trinoita dei Monti which can be found at the top of the stairs. I highly recommend making the climb up the 138 steps to the church where you will see an altar inspired (some say designed), by Michael Angelo. Two trivia points of interest are that the name of the steps is derived from the square at the base which is called the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square), and secondly, the steps are the widest set in Europe.

 

The Church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti (aka Trinoita dei Monti)

If you take my advice and climb the Spanish Steps, you will arrive at the twin towered 16th century church of Santissima Trinità dei Monti. Built under order of the French king, Louis XII, the church remains the property of the French government and is one of five churches in Rome where mass is celebrated in French. You can begin your journey in the Spanish square, climb Italian built steps, set foot on French land at the top of stairs and enter a French church. As previously mentioned, Michael Angelo inspired the Chapel of the Descent From the Cross. The designer, Daniele Voterra, was a student of Michael Angelo and based the design of the chapel on sketches drawn by Michael Angelo.

 

Trevi Fountain

Every time I visit Rome, I discover more fountains. Many of them are of exceptional beauty and design. The Trevi Fountain is wonderful, but I would not describe it as the most beautiful fountain I have seen in Rome, or even in Europe. It is however the most famous. Always a popular stop on the city tours, this is a must see for those intent on visiting the typical Rome tourist spots. It tends to be quite busy and pick pockets abound so watch your valuables and exercise caution in the area.

 

Located in the Trevi district, you can comfortably walk to the fountain from the Spanish Steps or even the Pantheon. The fountain abuts the Palazzo Poli and is located where three roads meet. An interesting trivia fact is that Trevi is a combination of the Italian word "tre" meaning three and "vie" meaning roads.

 

The fountain was built in 1732 and was designed by Nicola Salvi who was awarded the contract over Daniele Volterra. Volterra, a Florentine native, initially won the contract to design the fountain but there was a public outcry when it was learned that someone from Florence had been awarded the contract. Consequently, Salvi, a native of Rome, was given the project instead. As previously mentioned in this blog, Voterra was a student of Michael Angelo and you can see Volterra's work throughout the city.

 

Another interesting trivia fact is that although the fountain is a relative new comer to Rome, its water comes from one of the oldest water sources, the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct which dates back to ancient Roman times.

 

There is a saying that if you throw one coin into the fountain you will return to Rome. I always throw a coin into the water and so far, it seems to have worked. I keep returning to Rome. There is also a saying that if you throw two coins in the fountain you will fall in love with an Italian, but being happily married, I always limit myself to the one coin.

 

There are a large number of noteworthy churches in Rome, and particularly a number of exceptionally beautiful ones that can be found east of the Tiber. Rather than make this blog posting too long, I will do a separate blog posting on the churches as they are excellent examples of various building styles and contain outstanding artistic works. My favourite church in the world is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore which I feel deserves a little more detail than I can give it in this blog posting. Look for that information further along in this collection of blogs on Rome as a pre or post port stop. 

To be continued...

 

If you have any comments or questions related to this article please feel free to add them to the comments section or contact me at gailgauvreau@gailgauvreau.com