How to See Rome on Your Own from Civitavecchia Cruise Port

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We love it when readers send us questions. One of our favorites was about how to spend one day in Rome from a cruise ship. She wanted our “Rome on your own” advice so she could avoid the huge crowds that go on a cruise excursion.

While she only wanted to see the Colosseum and Sistine Chapel, you may have more in mind for your day in Rome. Scroll down for:

  • How to see Rome in a day on a cruise
  • How do I get to Rome from cruise port?
  • How much time to spend in Rome from cruise ship?
  • Thoughts about seeing Rome on your own from Civitavecchia

We’ve got travel tips as well as organized and self guided Rome tour ideas and suggestions.

best way to see rome in a day and tips for exploring rome on your own and options for diy and organized tours in rome from cruise ship

Linda!

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!

Cher πŸ™‚


My advice on how to tour Rome from cruise ship

Hi, Cher!

I’m really glad you liked our story. Thanks for letting us know it was helpful. We love getting feedback.

First of all, the port is 40 miles out of town, so if you’re only docked one day in Rome cruise port, you won’t have time to do both. Forget about visiting Civitavecchia and spend all your precious time in Rome. Save the Rome cruise ship port for a cruise that begins or ends there, or come back a little early and walk around.

Let me start by recommending Rick Steves’ Mediterranean Cruise Ports guidebook, which is perfect for independent cruisers. It covers how to spend one day in various ports: itineraries, must-see spots, places to eat, local currency, how to get into town, even self-guided walks and tours.

Fisherman in Civitavecchia, Italy

How to see the Roman Colosseum and Sistine Chapel in one day

Now to your question: Is it possible to see both the Sistine Chapel AND the Colosseum in one day?

Yes it is, as long as you only want to examine the intricacies of Michelangelo’s Creation and walk the upper levels of the Colosseum. However, ticket lines are super long. Avoid them by buying them before you arrive.

There is no way to avoid the time it takes getting from place to place or waiting on security lines.

TIP: You’ll be on your feet a lot so make sure you have really good shoes. And bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

How to see the Colosseum

Go to the Colosseum first, while it’s cooler. Take the express, high speed train from Civitavecchia to Rome Termini station (60-90 minutes), then the metro to the Colosseum (7 minutes).

The most important thing to know is that the Colosseum ticket also includes admission to the Forum and the Palatine Hill, and vice versa. They are adjacent to each other, and once you’re in, you can go from place to place freely.

How to skip the line at the Colosseum: To save time, one shortcut is to book a guided tour. They will always have pre-booked tickets and will take you directly to the Group Entrance (short line). These would work well:

If you don’t want to book a tour, walk from the metro station to the Roman Forum entrance (Foro Romano) at the end of Via Cavour. Clear the security line there, then head toward the Forum’s internal entrance to the Colosseum.

Added bonus: You get to see the Forum en route and it’s a lot of fun walking amid the excavations!

Roman Forum

How to see the Sistine chapel

The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums. You can’t get a separate ticket for the Sistine Chapel alone.

If you ONLY want to see the Sistine Chapel, make a beeline for the chapel. You will need to walk through the entire museum to get to the Chapel; it’s the final room. Depending on the crowds, once you get inside it will take at least an hour to navigate from the front of the museums to the chapel.

TIP: This world class museum complex is full of famous works of art. It’s so massive that it would take days to see it all. You can take virtual tours of many rooms online.

Also, as you exit the Sistine Chapel, you’ll be at St. Peter’s Basilica. You can avoid going through security again if you enter the Basilica directly from the Chapel. This is where Michelangelo’s famous Pieta statue is located.

How to skip the line at the Sistine Chapel. I’m repeating myself here, but the only way to avoid the ticket line is to buy skip the line tickets to the Vatican Museums beforehand. You’ll still need to go through the security line.

How to get to the Vatican from the Colosseum. Take Line B towards Rebibbia. At Termini station, switch to Line A towards Battistini and get off at Ottaviano. The trip takes 15-20 minutes. Then stop for lunch before entering the museums.

TIP: If you have extra time, you can either use our article 7 Things to See at the Vatican to look around or head back to the ship early and check out Civitavecchia.

Vatican museum

I hope this helps you finalize your plans. Please let me know how your cruise goes and what you end up doing.

Have a great trip and a happy anniversary!

Linda

p.s. Here’s our photo gallery for more inspiration.


How to see Rome in a day on a cruise

Let’s begin with options for visiting Rome from the cruise ship and how to see Rome on your own from Civitavecchia.

1. Take a cruise ship shore excursion

The obvious: Book Rome excursions from cruise ship choices. It’s plug-and-play convenient because they make all the arrangements and there’s one bill. Plus, if a cruise tour has a delay getting back to the ship, the ship will wait for you.

Disadvantages: This is the most expensive option, and you will be with a busload of other tourists.

2. Make your own arrangements

Book your own transportation and use a guidebook to decide what to see in Rome. It’s your responsibility to be back to the ship in time.

3. Book a guided tour of Rome

Many people choose to avoid cruise line excursions and book their own guided tours. If this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, it may be worth the added expense for the priceless memories and selfies.

Among the countless tour companies that offer Mediterranean cruise excursions, we can recommend Get Your Guide and Take Walks (Walks of Italy) from personal experience. You’re bound to find one or two Rome tour options that work for you.

Tours range in price. Some pick you up at the port, while others begin and end in Rome.

  • The ones that depart from Civitavecchia are used to cruise schedules. They will make sure they get you back to the ship on time because their reputations depend on it!
  • The tours in Rome are more varied and suited to a range of interests.

TIP: If you’re traveling with a few people, some tours charge one flat fee for your group, not per person. HERE IS ONE WE LIKE. If not, go to cruisecritic.com and find your Roll Call to see if anybody wants to join you to form a group and split costs.

photographing the Roman Colosseum

How do I get to Rome from cruise port?

1. Car

We don’t recommend renting a car for a day in Rome. Driving in Rome is a nightmare, parking is expensive, and you’ll waste precious sightseeing time if you don’t know the streets. However, if you want to do it, you can check prices here.

2. Train

If you opt for the train, purchase your train tickets in advance so that you can bypass the crowds and be on your way. Take the high speed train to Rome and back; the regular one takes much longer. You don’t want to spend your precious sightseeing hours traveling to and fro.

3. Coach transfer from Civitavecchia Port

These offer round-trip transfer between Rome and the Civitavecchia cruise terminal, with 6-8 hours to explore the “Eternal City” as you please. The trip will take 60-80 minutes each way, and this one from Civita Tours is far cheaper than the cruise’s line transfer service.

How much time to spend in Rome from cruise ship?

As you select your activities, plan for an hour and a half to get to Rome from the cruise ship. Plan 2 hours on the way back, factoring in the typical Roman delays and strikes plus the security line at the port. You’ll end up with 6-8 hours for sightseeing.

Regardless of when your ship docks, you likely won’t get on a train in Civitavecchia till 8:30 or later (factoring in time to catch the port shuttle and walking to the train station. We’d anticipate that you’ll be sightseeing by around 10:00.

The primary concern is getting back to the ship in time – you don’t want the ship to leave without you! Assuming your Back on Board time is 6:00, We recommend heading back no later than 4:00 pm. Agree ahead of time when to head back so you avoid the temptation to see just one more thing and lose track of time.

TIP: Your daily planner will have a phone number of who to contact in an emergency. Take it with you every day. If you are delayed or something happens, you can let them know your status and find out what to do.

Thoughts about seeing Rome on your own from Civitavecchia

Should you decide to focus on one sight, the Cruise Port guidebook we recommended will be super helpful. It has maps of the major tourist attractions in Rome so you can plan your route.

Free sights near both the Colosseum and Vatican City include the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Plaza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, as well as many wonderful churches. What’s best of all, they have no lines.

For both sightseeing and a tour, these from Take Walks will fit into your time in Rome:

No matter what you decide to do, don’t forget to grab some gelato along the way!

TIP: For what it’s worth, we visited the Forum/Palatine Hill/Colosseum on our own and regret not booking a guided tour. Yes, we’d read up on it beforehand, but a guide brings everything to life. We would have gotten more out of it had someone been there to answer our questions.

Lasagna served in Rome during our DIY Rome tour
Here’s a photo of Dan’s Lasagna Romana to get you in the mood.

Priorities vary. Some people are happy with visiting just one sight, while others squeeze as much as possible into one day. In, out, back to the ship happy.

You might want to check Rome off your Bucket List or look at a one-day visit as a sampler and immediately begin planning a return trip.

Romans think Rome is meant to be savored and spend hours eating a simple meal. And no wonder… With 28 centuries of history, there’s no end to the things to see in Rome. No matter how much you manage to see and do, you’ll leave wanting more.

RELATED: 10 Adriatic Cruise Ports You Need to Visit

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to around 60 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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20 thoughts on “How to See Rome on Your Own from Civitavecchia Cruise Port”

  1. Hi Linda! We are scheduled to cruise at the end of May and will be stopping in Civitavecchia. I’ve done a one day tour of Rome before and visited St. Peter’s, the ruins, and the Coloseum. They were definitely not to be missed when visiting Rome. Having said that, I, however, missed seeing the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel then so this time I would really like to see them, as well as the Pantheon. You said that we can take the train from the port and should only take 45 mins, that’s great! Is there a way to get from the Vatican to where the Pantheon is located?

    Reply
  2. Great advice! In our experience, the best time-saving (and sanity-saving) advice is to book ahead and skip the lines, especially when time is short. I do think seeing just the Sistine Chapel is a mistake. The Vatican Museum and St. Peters are amazing, and worth every minute you can spend there, so a tour can easily fill more than a few hours. We did both by starting a cruise in Rome, but if I had to choose and time was limited, I’d go for the Colosseum – even with the Forum and Palatine Hill, we felt satisfied with our three hour tour.

    Reply
    • The problem with Rome is that there are so many wonderful things to see! How much time did you spend in Rome before you began your cruise? Do you think that was enough?

      Reply
  3. It would be nice to have an unlimited time in any travel stop we make but this is just not realistic and what we do with the time we do have depends on our personalities. Thank you for giving the tips how to enjoy both the slow and busy travel days in Rome:)

    Reply
  4. This is great advice! Especially about booking tickets online in advance. There was nothing more satisfying during our time in Rome than to skip right past the looooooong queues with our pre-booked tickets. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • You’re right, Fairlie. I’ve often thought that the time savings more than offsets the few extra dollars it might cost to buy a ticket beforehand — especially when you’re only in the area for a short time. Every moment is valuable! An added bonus: You won’t have to endure any possible bad weather.

      Reply
  5. This is such a wonderful, comprehensive answer to her question. We were fortunate to have a few days to explore Rome on on our own, and I still feel like there’s so much we didn’t see. I also wondered if it was doable as a one day port excursion. I’ve always been a little bit worried about a DIY port excursion for fear that the ship would sail without me. Do they ever depart before everyone is on board?

    Reply
    • We usually do tours on our own, just plan to be back in plenty of time. They cynic in me can’t help but wonder if they might threaten to leave passengers behind so they will be more inclined to take a cruise-run tour. πŸ˜‰ We don’t like big crowds so those tours aren’t for us. There are plenty of private guides and tours available, both online and at the ports, and they promise to get you back in plenty of time to sail. We had an especially great experience with our first private tour, a cave tubing tour in Belize.

      Common sense says to arrive back early just in case, but it’s reassuring to know that cruise lines have check-in systems to ensure all their passengers are on board and will wait for quite a while to make sure everyone makes it back. That said, at some point they will have to set sail if it gets too late.

      Reply
  6. Great advice and options! I haven’t been to Rome yet, but you gave me some great things to remember when I do go. I definitely want to see both places. I was trying to decide which traveler I am. haha I’m a see as many as possible, check it off, but leave an option to return in the future. Thanks for the insightful look into visiting Rome!

    Reply
    • Well, take it from us, three days in Rome is definitely NOT enough. We kept seeing more and more things we wanted to see, and that’s without all the day trips to places like Pompeii!

      Reply
  7. I hate to hurry through things, but sometimes it is definitely a necessity. Nowadays, you can buy almost all museum tickets online before you go and you will not regret it. It’s worth taking a few minutes when planning, to decide which museums you want to go to!

    Reply
    • You’re so right, Corinne. Hurrying through things is definitely a necessity on occasion — for instance, if you want to spend layover time in the city.

      As for buying museum tickets online, spending a few extra dollars is a worthwhile investment if you want to ensure you don’t waste precious vacation time. Planning ahead is absolutely essential, as you said. We were especially glad we had the Paris Pass when we saw the ticket line snaking all the way around the Louvre. Being able to enter right away saved us enough time to see the Rodin museum as well! Worth every penny, that.

      Reply
    • We are as well, Paula. Glad you agree. We’ve found that HOHO buses are vastly underrated because they are “touristy.” Crazy, that. Their itineraries not only include most “must-see” sites but the narration in between offers a lot of insight into the city and culture.

      Reply
    • You’re so right, Lyndall. Luckily for our reader, she knew which two sites she really wanted to see. On the other hand, Dan and I spent 3 days there and the more we saw, the more we realized we were missing! πŸ™‚

      Reply

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