Its name may be hard to say but Civitavecchia, a town in the Lazio region of Italy, is certainly an easy place to enjoy. Its proximity to Rome, along with its status as a busy cruise port and one of the main ferry links to Sicily and Sardinia, means the town is a hive of activity for much of the year. But with a name that translates literally to “ancient town”, the truth is, there’s far more value to this bustling seaport than simply commerce and tourism.
With a history stretching back to the 2nd century, Civitavecchia retains many of the remnants of its storied evolution. Visiting all the historical sites of the city would be a task to fill several days, but if you’ve only got a short while you shouldn’t miss these three.
As museums go, this one is pretty impressive. Set over three levels, exhibits include some fascinating Etruscan and medieval relics unearthed from the Civitavecchia region, with stone sculptures, ceramics and bronze artefacts among the displays. While many of the pieces were part of the collection of the original Civic Museum, which was destroyed in World War II, there are also some that were only unearthed as recently as the 1950s. The Archaeological Museum is a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the town.
You couldn’t really miss this one even if you wanted to! While this impressive fortress bears the name of the great Michelangelo, he wasn’t solely responsible for its construction. Times were tough in the 1400s and Civitavecchia had endured a turbulent period, often coming under siege from pirates and looters, so, in 1503, Pope Giulio II della Rovere tasked Bramante and two of his students to construct the massive defensive bastion. It wasn’t until much later, in 1535, that Michelangelo was commissioned to complete work on the upper part of the octagonal donjon. The fortress has survived the centuries remarkably well, and its distinctive quadrilateral shape topped with four turrets is the most recognisable landmark in the town.
Cathedral of San Francesco d’Assisi
The simple, elegant lines of this Franciscan cathedral date back to the 17th century. The Classical double height façade, with its intricately carved figures depicting Hope and Justice, strikes an imposing figure, while inside there are some beautiful frescos by Antonio Nessi. The cathedral is a lovely place to enjoy some cool solitude away from the busy port area.
So before you rush off to jump on a cruise ship or catch a ferry to Sardinia or Sicily, spend a few hours in Civitavecchia discovering its intriguing history.
How to Get to Civitavecchia
As a major cruise port and departure point for ferries to Sicily and Sardinia, Civitavecchia is easy to access from Rome. It’s a simple matter of booking a transfer from Rome airport and travelling the short distance by road, or you can catch a local train. Whether you fly in to Fiumicino or Ciampino airports, the 80km distance will only take around an hour. Shuttle Direct can provide a safe, comfortable transfer from Rome airport destinations to your accommodation or cruise departure in Civitavecchia.
Where to Stay
Hotel Samarcanda – For clean, comfortable, budget accommodation in Civitavecchia, the Hotel Samarcanda is an excellent option. With large, air-conditioned rooms, private bathrooms and friendly owners, the Hotel Samarcanda is situated in an excellent location to access the cruise port. There is a great restaurant next door, as well as an ice-cream parlour, and the hotel offers free transport to and from the cruise port and Civitavecchia train station.
Hotel Mediterraneo – Situated in a prime location on the Civitavecchia seafront, the Hotel Mediterraneo is just 300 meters from the train station and 500 meters from the harbour. The air-conditioned rooms are well appointed with satellite TV, minibar and private bathrooms, and a continental buffet breakfast is included in the price. With sea views, free Wi-Fi, an excellent location and very friendly and helpful staff, the Hotel Mediterraneo is both comfortable and convenient.
Hotel de la Ville – Stylishly appointed with a classic décor, the elegant Hotel de la Ville boasts a prime position right next to the port and 200 metres from the Civitavecchia train station. Set within a beautiful 19th century building, the rooms feature satellite TV, minibar, Wi-Fi and air-conditioning. With free parking, an onsite restaurant and excellent access to the cruise port and ferry departures to Sardinia and Sicily, the Hotel de la Ville is also within walking distance of the shops and restaurants of Civitavecchia.