“Rome is the most wonderful movie set in the world,” Italian film director and screenwriter Federico Fellini once observed. For cruise passengers whose ships call at Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, the Eternal City is all theirs to enjoy for a day via a variety of tours and transfers offered by cruise lines.
Here are some must-see sights—the ones your friends and relatives are sure to ask you about when you return.
The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is not only the most famous fountain in Rome but arguably in the whole world. Located in the heart of the city, it is an 18th-century Baroque creation by Nicola Salvi. It’s the largest fountain in Rome, made of travertine stone with statuary in Carrara marble, the same marble sculptor Michelangelo used for his own sculptures. The statue of Neptune, god of the ocean, is a focal point of the Trevi Fountain. He is dramatically carried in a chariot pulled by two seahorses handled by Tritons.
The statue became world-famous after serving as settings for several movies, including Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” in which actress Anita Ekberg wades into the fountain, and Jean Negulesco’s “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Negulesco’s film features a popular Frank Sinatra song of the same title. It tells the story of three hopeful secretaries who throw coins in the fountain to make wishes for love, romance and a return to the city. This movie is credited with making more well-known (and slightly altering) the cherished tradition of tossing coins into the Trevi Fountain and now few leave Rome without doing so. I always do, throwing with my back to the fountain over my left shoulder, like in the movie. Luckily, it has worked for me!
The Colosseum, an iconic oval amphitheater on Piazza del Colosseo, is a symbol of Imperial Rome. Construction of the Colosseum began circa 72 A.D. under Emperor Vespasian. It is famous, or more accurately infamous—due to the gladiator games held here. Thousands of men and animals died in this arena for the entertainment of the Roman aristocracy and populace. An inside visit is a must to see the impressive arena that accommodated more than 50,000 spectators and reportedly could be flooded for mock naval battles.
St. Peter’s Square & Basilica
St. Peter’s Square is an enormous square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, the papal enclave—a different country—located within Rome. The plaza is often filled to the brim with people who come to listen to the pope’s addresses and receive his blessings. The square has two dramatic colonnades, four columns deep with a total of 284 columns, designed by the Renaissance artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, that look like the arms of St. Peter’s Basilica as if open in a welcoming embrace. One hundred and 40 statues of saints stand on top of the colonnades. An ancient Egyptian obelisk was erected in the middle of the square in the 16th century and two granite fountains also adorn the space.
St. Peter’s Basilica is an Italian Renaissance church begun by Pope Julius II in the 16th century. It’s one of the holiest sites for the Catholic church as the apostle St. Peter is believed to have been buried here in 64 A.D. Its impressive dome was designed by Michelangelo, who also created one of its many art treasures: The Pieta, a marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary and Jesus—the only piece of art Michelangelo ever signed.
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is the pope’s private chapel and the room where the College of Cardinals convenes to elect each new pope. Outside the chapel, you can see the chimney from where white smoke issues when a new pope has been elected, black smoke if the Cardinals have not yet reached a majority. The Sistine Chapel is home to a considerable number of art treasures, including Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes created from 1508 to 1512 with the famous work “The Creation of Adam.” Among the other masterworks is “The Last Judgment,” also by Michelangelo, located behind the chapel’s altar. It depicts Jesus Christ as the central figure judging humanity with the saved ascending to heaven on the left and the damned descending to hell on the right.
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum, located between the Colosseum and the Piazza Venezia, was the center of daily life in ancient times. Temples, government buildings and markets stood around this central square where meetings and other events took place. The ruins today attract more than four million visitors annually. Highlights include the Arch of Septimius Severus from 203 A.D., with bas-reliefs to commemorate a victory over the Parthians, statues from the House of the Vestal Virgins and Corinthian columns for the Temple of Vespa.
The Pantheon on the Piazza della Rotonda dates from the second century and is the best preserved of ancient Rome’s structures. It is dominated by an “oculus” (circular opening) in its dome. The name Pantheon means “all gods” and it was a temple dedicated to their worship. In modern times, it has served as a house of worship for the Catholic Church. It’s also the burial place of several members of the Italian royalty as well as the Renaissance painter, Raphael.
The Piazza Navona is a lovely, elongated square built on the site of the ancient Stadium of Domitian. It has some of Rome’s most beautiful fountains including Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), commissioned by Pope Innocent X, and adorned by an obelisk and statues representing the four great rivers: the Nile, the Platte, the Ganges and the Danube. The two other fountains in the square are the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Moor.
The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps are the most photographed flights of stairs in Rome and justly so. The garden terrace design of the steps rises from the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom, to the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. In the springtime, lovely azaleas adorn the steps. The Keats-Shelley House of the famed British poets is to the right as you face the steps.
If your cruise embarks or disembarks in Rome and you want to spend more than one day in the most wonderful movie set in the world, your Cruise Specialists agent can make it easy for you by arranging for a package including hotel, transfers and flights.