The port of Civitavecchia has long been the most important hub in Italy, and one of the most important in the Mediterranean in terms on the number of cruise passengers that reach its banks each year. Today there is 4 medium-large cruise ships docked in port, with another 3 small cruise ships docked at another wharf.
We opted for a reasonably quiet day and took the port shuttle into town. Walking along the ocean promenade enjoying the soft sea breeze keeping us cool. It is 9.30am and the temperature is around 34°C with 80% humidity; just a tad uncomfortable. The promenade is littered with cafes, various market stalls, with large umbrellas shading tables and chairs in amongst the tall palm trees. We found a café, bought some colds drinks and sat and soaked up the ambience of the beach. Sparkling blue water, a soft ocean breeze, bright sunshine and friendly locals; just perfect.
The construction of the port began under the Emperor Trajan who commissioned the building of the Roman Dock between 107-108AD to the famous architect Apollodoro di Damasco. Unfortunately, little remains of the original imposing buildings with their statues and quays – only one remaining part on which a fortress ‘La Rocca’ was built during the middle ages, and a contagious disease hospital ‘il lazzaretto’. Both were seriously damaged during the Second World War bombardments.
In the 16th Century, Pope Giulio II ordered Donato Bramante to construct a new fortress opposite the medieval one. Work began in 1508 and was completed in 1535. The central tower was designed by Michelangelo Buonarrotti after whom the fortress is now known. Many architects including Antonio Da Sangallo and Guiliano Leno were involved in the building of this magnificent work. It has a rectangular design with large corner towers dominated by the central keep and for some years now the city has been using is as an imposing and atmospheric setting for important exhibitions and cultural events.