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The History of Rome - Part Two - Rome as a Port Stop

Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise Stop

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. However, for the purpose of my series on Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise stop, I treat Rome as the actual port stop and include information about Civitavecchia in the entry entitled Civitavecchia as a port stop for Rome. 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. Civitavecchia as a port stop for Rome

9. Fun Facts / Churches & Basilicas

In this blog posting, the second of two covering the history of Rome, I address Rome from 1500 to the modern day.

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.

If you have any questions or wish to make a comment, please feel free to leave them on this webpage or e-mail me directly at:

Next up: Transportation to and from the Airport – Rome as a Port Stop.


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