Buongiorno and welcome to Stefano’s RomeCabs, Rome’s leading company for Civitavecchia Port Transfer Services. For 20 years we’ve helped tens of thousands of cruisers get to Civitavecchia from Rome’s Airport pre-cruise, and also from Civitavecchia to Fiumicino Airport post-cruise. Civitavecchia is the Port of Rome.
While Civitavecchia is a great city to spend the night pre-cruise or post-cruise, you might wonder what is there to do in Civitavecchia. In this travel article, we will show you the Top 10 Things to do in Civitavecchia that are possible during your stay without having to leave the town.
Curious about what to see and do in Civitavecchia during your stay before or after your cruise?
Civitavecchia is a modern seaport town on the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea, but like the nearby Rome, it too has ancient roots dating back to the Etruscan times. The Tyrrhenian Sea derived from the ancient Greek name for the Etruscans: the Tyhhrenian people. The Tyhhrenian Sea was essentially named the Sea of the Etruscans as they were an advanced sea-faring civilization that thrived in central Italy before they were conquered by the ancient Romans during their expansion.
Civitavecchia translates to “little ancient town”, and it is indeed an ancient harbor town.
Between 102 and 110 AD, Emperor Trajan built a harbor named Centum Cellae which reached the peak of its magnificence in the Imperial age.
The harbor changed hands by the Middle Ages when it was taken over by the Byzantine Empire in 537, then conquered by the Saracens in 828 who used it as a military base against Rome.
During these dangerous times of strife, refugees fled the harbor city and built a new settlement in the hills that offered them natural protection against invaders, naming their new city Cencelle, in remembrance of their old town by the sea. The magnificent ruins of Cencelle are still evident today.
When the Saracens abandoned the coast 60 years later, the inhabitants returned to their "old land" and renamed it Civita Vetula (or Civita Veccla) in Latin…a name that evolved into Civitavecchia.
Civitavecchia became a part of the Papal States in 1432 until it was finally liberated under Pope Innocent XII in the late 17th century.
The challenges the city faced didn’t end as in the mid-19th century the harbor city was occupied by the French, and in the 20th century, it survived severe World War II bombings. Eventually, Civitavecchia was transformed into the modern main port of Rome that welcomes countless cruise ships and ferries and millions of travelers each year.
Whether you are staying in Civitavecchia Pre Cruise or Post Cruise, you can sojourn in Civitavecchia and enjoy what this vibrant town has to offer. In this travel blog, we include the top 10 things to do in Civitavecchia without having to venture away from the town.
Possibly the most prominent feature of Civitavecchia and the most noticeable monument when approaching the harbor city is the seaside Forte Michelangelo (Michelangelo Fortress), the imposing quadrilateral Renaissance-era fortress with four corner towers. Considering the historical significance of the port of Rome, Forte Michelangelo is the region's most impressive icon of 16th-century military architecture.
In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Bramante to build a fortress in defense of the port and its citizens who were in continuous threat of pirates and other invaders by sea.
This is the same pope who initiated the construction of the New St Peter’s Basilica that was built over the Old St Peter’s Basilica, and who commissioned Michelangelo to create the masterpiece frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Bramante was also the trusted architect who contributed to the New St Peter’s Basilica.
Bramante’s work on the Forte Michelangelo continued after his death under the supervision of his pupils Antonio da Sangallo and Giuliano Leno. The travertine stone-covered fortress was completed in 1537 under the guidance of Pope Paul III.
The fortress was named after Michelangelo due to his designs for the upper part of the main “male” (or keep) octagonal tower. The male or keep is a type of medieval tower characterized by a higher height than the other towers, and this one was allegedly entrusted to Michelangelo Buonarotti to design.
Each bastion was named after a saint: San Giovanni, Santa Ferma, San Colombano, and San Sebastiano (which vaunts a secret underground tunnel that served as an undetected escape route).
Located: Calata Cesare Laurenti, 00053, Civitavecchia Italy
If you have some extra time available, delight in a pleasant walk along the new pedestrian path that circumnavigates the Fort of Michelangelo.
The area resembles a lovely park setting, with interesting statues that add even more charm!
You can enjoy a beachside stroll along the seaside promenade that stretches from Forte Michelangelo all the way to Pirgo.
The pedestrian seafront promenade of Civitavecchia is a bustling hotspot. You’ll find convenient benches to rest and enjoy the tranquil sea view and various shops, cafes, and restaurants that help make your stroll more enjoyable. On hot summer afternoons, grab a gelato from any of the nearby cafes, and relish the moment.
The eye-catcher along the promenade is the 25-foot-tall sculpture rendition of the famous photograph taken in 1945 in New York’s Times Square of a WWII sailor kissing a uniformed nurse, celebrating Japan’s surrender. This magnificent sculpture was created by Seward Johnson and is consequently called "Unconditional Surrender".
If you are staying at a hotel in Civitavecchia Pre-Cruise or Post-Cruise during the warm months from late spring to early fall, you can also relax on the seaside beaches of Civitavecchia.
The palm tree-lined beach area around the shoreline is just a sliver, but you can spend a restful afternoon on the warm sand taking in the sea breeze and sipping a refreshing tropical beverage from beachside cafes.
In the distance and near the cruise port, you will see cruise ships at sea or docked at the cruise port nearby.
Not far from the Port area along the beachside promenade is the "Pirgo", a more secluded beach area accentuated by an ornate arched pier and made lively by a beach club with umbrellas and sunbeds.
Travelers and cruisers who love history will enjoy Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale), the small museum that features important archeological findings from the ancient Roman Centum Cellae in the Civitavecchia area, the necropolis from the surrounding areas, and artifacts from Terme Taurine (also known as Trajan’s Baths).
Conveniently situated just a short block distance from the main Viale Garibaldi, the museum is housed inside an 18th-century garrison that was the former Papal Customs commissioned by Pope Clement XIII.
The museum itself is small, but its treasure trove of artifacts merits a short visit. Visitors can view impressive ancient artifacts displayed on the ground floor and the first floor.
The museum currently features a route on two floors, with artifacts starting from the dawn of civilization, throughout the ancient age, up to the Middle Ages.
On the ground floor, you have the opportunity to admire the 2-meter tall 1st century AD statue of pagan god Apollo that was unearthed in 1959 during excavations at the Villa Simonetti of Santa Marinella which was once the summer residence of the Roman jurist Eneo Domizio Ulpiano who was considered one of the great legal authorities of his time.
Another significant statue at the museums is the 1.65-meter-tall reproduction of Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin). The monumental chryselephantine sculpture of the goddess Athena is attributed to Phidias who created it for the Parthenon of Athens in 438 BC and was adorned with gold and ivory. The statue was discovered in 1959 in the nearby town of Santa Marinella. The head of the statue was discovered in 1895 and sold to the Louvre Museum where it still exists, and a plaster copy was placed on the statue here.
The upper floor of the museum houses an impressive collection of ancient painted ceramics, bronzes, refined metals, gold jewelry, ancient Roman glassware, as well as some Etruscan Bucchero (black pottery). The exhibition covers the entire chronology of the Etruscan civilization arranged by classes of material.
Address: Largo Cavour, 1, a few steps from the Varco Fortezza entrance (Forte Michelangelo).
Opening Hours: 8:30 AM – 7:30 PM. Closed on Mondays
Ticket Prices: Full Ticket: 3 Euros, Reduced Ticket: 2 Euros
Another sight to behold in Civitavecchia is the old city wall with battlements that runs along the historic waterfront.
In 1630 Pope Urban VIII raised a massive defensive wall near the Forte Michelangelo separating the port from the city to protect the citizens from enemy attacks. Today you can walk along this wall for a splendid view of the harbor.
The easiest access to the ancient walls is by taking the stairway next to McDonald’s.
The wall is connected to modern buildings, and you will find cafes and restaurants along your stroll on the fortified wall for a spectacular opportunity for lunch, an aperitif, or a relaxing beverage at an outdoor cafe with views of the harbor and the magnificent cruise ships.
Along the bottom of the defensive wall is the Vanvitelli Fountain, named after the architect Luigi Vanvitelli who created this fountain in 1740 from travertine stone. Pope Benedict XIV commissioned the fountain to replace an old basin.
The monumental fountain features the head of an old bearded faun framed in an ornate niche with a curved pediment, from whose mouth water flows into its basin below. The fountain can be accessed from the ground below by curved steps.
The pedestrian area below the defensive wall makes for a pleasant passeggiata and you might come across locals walking their dogs or jogging along the walls.
Location: Calata Principe Tommaso 7-12
The Saint Francis of Assisi Cathedral of Civitavecchia is an elegant 18th-century Baroque cathedral dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, and it is also the city’s main church.
Commissioned by Pope Clement XIV in 1774 to be built over a smaller pre-existing 17th-century church, the current cathedral is a prime example of remaining local Baroque-Neoclassical architecture.
Outside the cathedral, a set of steps lead to the central bronze Porta Santa (Holy Door) flanked by Ionic columns. The door is adorned with a prominent relief sculpture of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Two large statues of Saint Francies and Saint Anthony of Padua adorn the cathedral’s facade.
Inside the cathedral, above the tympanum, are the statues of Justice and Faith. Below these statues, in a rich frame of golden stucco, is a painting by Antonio Nessi representing Saint Francis experiencing the holy Stigmata.
The church was completely restored in 1950 after it sustained significant damage during the WWII bombing of Civitavecchia.
Although a simple church in terms of ornamentation, the cathedral merits a stop for a quick visit.
Location: Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
While staying in Civitavecchia, don’t miss out on a stroll through Piazza Leandra and the historic part of town. Piazza Leandra can be reached from the main road Corso Marconi.
Piazza Leandra is one of the main squares of the medieval part of town and a good starting point to explore the rest of the historical center of Civitavecchia comprised of characteristically narrow streets and historical buildings.
The quaint and rustic cobblestoned Piazza Leandra features a medieval fountain that was reactivated in 2015 and the late 17th century Church of the Stella that overlooks the square.
From here you may proceed through old Civitavecchia, crossing through the Archetto (an ancient archway) to reach the nearby Piazza Aurelio Saffi and the Church of Death.
Built in 1685 and originally named the Church of Santa Maria Oration, this is the oldest church in Civitavecchia. The church is linked to the Confraternity of Death and Prayer, which constituted in the second half of the sixteenth century to offer proper burial to corpses left abandoned outside the city walls or at sea.
Get the feel of an authentic Italian open-air market with a stop at the Mercato di Civitavecchia (also known as the San Lorenzo Market).
From a wide assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish sold by numerous vendors occupying different stalls, to gastronomical specialties, fresh food, household goods, clothing, and souvenirs, the daily market is the pulsing heart of Civitavecchia where locals come for their daily shopping and curious visitors browse the stalls.
Nearby, you will also discover cafes, pizzerias, and various local shops.
Location: Piazza Regina Margherita, 00053, Civitavecchia Italy
Local restaurants in Civitavecchia serve up delicious fresh seafood that’s not to be missed!
Dining establishments in Civitavecchia range from simple eateries to high-end dining venues that are affordable for most travelers’ budgets due to locally caught seafood and local farms sourced for fresh ingredients that help reduce overall costs.
Here are 2 of the many restaurants in Civitavecchia that we love and dined at frequently.
Lungoporto Antonio Gramsci, 65
Located adjacent to the Old City Walls with both indoor dining and outdoor tables on top of the crenelated defense walls for a picturesque view, Trattoria Sora Maria prepares delicious dishes of locally caught seafood and traditional cuisines, paired with a choice of fine wines.
Viale Giuseppe Garibaldi, 16
Whether you are in the mood for seafood or a grand pizza, Ristorante Da Baffone will be sure to please. Conveniently located along the main road by the sea, Ristorante Da Baffone has been in business for more than 40 years and is frequented by loyal locals and travelers alike. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining.
We hope this will help you navigate around Civitavecchia and see some of the most noteworthy sites in this beautiful port harbor city.
If you will be staying overnight in Civitavecchia before your cruise, we offer private Transfers from Rome Airport to Civitavecchia hotels for the ultimate convenience.
If you wish to explore the best of Italy from Civitavecchia, we offer a variety of Day Tours from Civitavecchia to many of the region's top destinations.
Thank you for reading our travel blog 10 Things to do in Civitavecchia, and for choosing Stefano’s RomeCabs for private Civitavecchia Transfers. We look forward to seeing you in Italy!
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