OK, most of you will come to Civitavecchia by ship, and if you're not coming by ship, you're leaving by ship. Civitavecchia is one of Italy's major ports, and the closest one to Rome, an obligatory stop on most cruise itineraries and the terminus of many a ferry heading over to Sardinia, Sicily and Tunisia. An ancient port, Civitavecchia fared badly in the Second World War with most of the city bombed to bits...nowadays, it is a port and a centre of industry.
The VT forums on Civitavecchia are filled with questions about transport to Rome. Can you get there by train? Anyone want to share a taxi to the airport? Should I take the train or go on a tour? nobody asks about Civitavecchia itself.
Now, I'm not one to follow the herd. Never have been, hopefully never will be. How I was dragged on to a cruiseship in the first place is a long and disturbing tale of woe, but I was on one and it was stopping at Civitavecchia. The idea of a hot August Sunday in Rome with the family didn't appeal...2 hours there, cramming in a few major sights while constantly checking the time, then 2 hours back...no, not for me. I'd been to Rome before anyway.
Staying on board in the port was not an option either. Well, it was an option, but not one I was willing to entertain. Butlins-at-Sea versus a day in Italy?! Haha, I couldn't wait to get off that ship, even just for a few hours!
So, Civitavecchia...can it really be as bad as it sounds? Surely there must be some positives. Searching on the net, it didn't seem like there were. I looked into alternatives, and Tarquinia with its Etruscan tombs and hilltop medieval centre popped up, just fifteen minutes away. More about that on my Tarquinia page...but inconvenient train times meant I had a few hours to kill in Civitavecchia.
First impressions weren't great. The ship's shuttle bus dropped me off at the gates to the port, where a long line of travellers were streaming towards the train station. Past Forte Michelangelo, a museum which was unfortunately shut that day, signs for McDonalds must have been welcome for some, but I was thinking "oh God, maybe Rome wouldn't have been so bad...". The procession went straight on to the station. I turned left and climbed onto the old city walls, where suddenly tourist-ville ended and Italy began.
Walking around what remains of Civitavecchia's historical centre, which is admittedly not much, I don't think I saw another tourist, even though I was just metres away from seven gigantic cruise ships, each with over a thousand passengers. Sights may well be thin on the ground, but what does that matter when it is a nice place?
Moving towards the station, I still had soem time to kill before my train to Tarquinia, so I had a wander along the coast. Another surprise...it was actually quite attractive. A sandy beach with clear water just down from a busy port...a strangely picturesque pier...a yellow waterfront church...a pedestrian promenade. It wasn't deserted, but for an august weekend, it was hardly heaving with people either. The buildings weren't ugly...they were historic, grand, newly painted. Statues and street art everywhere. A seafront market. And no signs of any heavy industry obscuring the view...which all seems to be the other side of the port.
Civitavecchia...I liked it.
I guess what I'm trying to say with this page is that you don't have to do what everyone else does and go to Rome. Be controversial and give Civitavecchia a chance...at least for half a day, and maybe spend the other half in Tarquinia, Tolfa or Cerveteri. Looking at the tired and weary passengers stomping back on ship after their tours of the Italian capital, I can't say that I didn't feel just a little bit smug.