We love it when readers send us questions. One of our posts inspired a question about how to do a DIY Rome tour so she could avoid the typical mob of passengers on a cruise tour. Here is the letter and how I responded.
I'm so happy I found your post on the beautiful port city of Civitavecchia. I thoroughly enjoyed the lovely photos and learned so much.
My husband and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary with a Mediterranean Cruise this summer. We've cruised three times to the Bahamas and have never seen the need to book a shore excursion through the cruise line. However, we have some some questions this time around and I wonder if you'd be willing to help?
While the port city of Civitavecchia looks beautiful, I would love to see the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum in Rome as well. My question…is it possible to do both? What is the port like as far as … could we not book a tour through the cruise line and just get a rental car or something similar and take ourselves into Rome? We're only 39 and just cannot imagine doing a huge tour where we're waiting on others all day….we'd love to do our own thing but just don't know if that's even possible. Is it possible to spend the morning in Rome and enjoy a late lunch and early evening in Civitavecchia?
Thanks in advance for your help and again, I enjoyed your post!
I’m really glad you liked our story. Thanks for letting me know it was helpful. I love getting feedback.
With one day in the area I don’t blame you for wanting to see Rome. But you will only have a few hours in port. Forget about visiting Civitavecchia, I say, and spend all your precious time in Rome. Save sleepy Civitavecchia for the future, when you take a cruise that begins or ends there.
Getting to Rome
Don't rent a car though, take the train. Civitavecchia's train station is a short walk along the very picturesque waterfront and you'll find Termini Station on every map of Rome. Besides, the train is faster and cheaper and you won't have to deal with the hassle and expense of parking in Rome. What a nightmare.
Take the high speed train to Rome from Civitavecchia and you'll be there in only 45 minutes. The regular one can take as much as an hour and a half each way. I'm sure you don't want to spend three of your precious hours in Rome traveling to and fro.
- Here’s the website you’ll need: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
Both in one day?
Not to be Debbie Downer, but I would advise against trying to see both sights in one day on your own. You can, of course, but you are going to be spending a much greater chunk of your time getting from place to place instead of sightseeing. Rome is meant to be savored. Consider: They spend hours eating a simple meal.
That said, you and your husband might have a different travel style than we do. Priorities vary.
- Some people are happy with spending half an hour at two sights and doing nothing else. In, out, back to the ship happy.
- Some prefer to squeeze as many sights as possible into one day, then check the city off their Bucket List.
- Others consider a one-day visit a great introduction to a world-class city and immediately begin planning a return trip.
If you don't want to run from place to place, I’d suggest you pick one of the two and explore the surrounding area. With 2,000 years of history there will be plenty to see nearby either one. (The Colosseum is adjacent to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum; it's a lot of fun walking amid the excavations.)
Choosing between the two
If you’re undecided about which to choose, ask yourself this: How much time will you spend examining the intricacies of Michelangelo’s creation vs. wandering through the various levels of the Colosseum?
- If you really want to see the Sistine Chapel, I wrote a post listing 7 Things to See at the Vatican that might be helpful. The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museum and you will have to walk through the entire museum to get to the Chapel. It is a world class museum and has a lot of famous pieces that you will rush by you are focused on getting to the Colosseum. And there’s the line at Saint Peter’s to consider…
- On the other hand, there’s the Colosseum. They only sell a combo ticket: Colosseum/Palatine Hill/Forum. We maxed out that ticket and went to all three. Then we had Italian food at a little back street eatery with menus only in Italian (they cook for locals, which we like) and went to see Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Gelato too, of course. Here’s our photo gallery for inspiration. (I have to get on Dan; he’s only posted a few of his shots and I know he has a lot more.) Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Either way, you'll be on your feet a lot so make sure you have really good shoes.
If you still want to do both
If you are set on seeing both on your own, the fastest way to get from one place to the other is via the metro.
A more scenic route is the Hop-on/Hop-off bus in Rome. Cost: €28 for the basic tour. It stops at both places en route, plus you will get a narrated tour of the city. They have a lot of tour options, including a ticket that includes the bus, Vatican Museums and Colosseum.
A third, more luxurious option is to take a private tour like this one for your once-in-a-lifetime trip. Plenty of companies offer shore excursions, but quality and prices vary, so check around. We're affiliates with Get Your Guide because they are the world’s largest online platform for booking tours, attractions and skip-the-line tickets. Also, some of their tours are priced per group rather than per person.
Here are some examples:
How to maximize your sightseeing time
By the way, if you're doing the trip on your own, remember that both of the sites you mentioned have long lines.
- For Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel tickets, click here to buy them online.
- Colosseum tickets are available all over the web. If you need to buy them onsite, few people visit neighboring Palatine Hill, where they rarely have lines. Buy your ticket there and then head to the Colosseum.
Tip: Once you’re in the city, the traffic will be horrendous. Use the metro or walk. It’s way faster than the bus.
Have I talked your ear off yet? I really hope you let me know how your cruise goes and what you end up doing.
Have a great trip and a happy anniversary!