P&O Azura 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise – Day 9: Rome

Day 9 sees us in the Italian port of Civitavechia which is best known for being the port from which to visit Rome.

Myself and Mr FFF have been to Civitavechia twice before but had opted not to visit Rome for two reasons: 1) there’s so much to see a few hours wouldn’t do it justice; 2) we wanted to avoid the summer heat and crowds. This time around, MIL said it was one place she really wanted to see so we agreed to go with her.

We opted for an excursion booked through the ship for peace of mind because of the long distance between the port and Rome itself and because the roads in the area are renowned for traffic jams and the public transport is about as reliable as that at home (ie not very!).

We chose a completed guided option that also included a couple of river cruises as we thought this would be a good way to rest our feet and get out of the sun on what we were sure would be a long, hot, tiring day.

Our tour left at 8:45am and we drove for about an hour before stopping at a service station on the outskirts of Rome to use the facilities. About 15-20 minutes later, we reached Rome itself and picked up our tour guide. We began with a panoramic coach tour of some of the outlying sites including the Baths of Caracalla, Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus. It was breath-taking to see the scale of these paces, especially when considering how long ago they were built.

We were then dropped off on the edge of the trastevere district – the ‘old town’ area full of narrow, cobblestone streets and traditional tavernas. Here, we stopped at a quaint little place where we were fortified with a small snack of fruit, cured ham and smoked cheese. This was an unexpected but welcome surprise. The fruit was really refreshing and the cheese was particularly delicious.

We wandered through the old town some more, taking time to look at the magnificent architecture as we made our way to the river Tiber where we boarded a small boat to take us to the next part of the tour. It was a welcome relief to rest our feet and sit in the shade, even if it was extremely hot – 29°C according to Accuweather.

The boat took us to the Castle of Angels and after a climb up 57 very steep steps from the riverbank to street level, we made our way through the city towards the Pantheon, stopping the very majestic Piazza Navona. At the Pantheon, we were given 1hour of free time for lunch and as it was such a short time and so crowded, we decided it would be easiest to eat at the restaurant which had been booked for our tour group, although lunch was not included as part of the tour. We had lasagne, a pizza and a salad along with 3 soft drinks between the 3 of us and the bill came to €22 per person. The food was fine but I’m sure we could have found better and cheaper if we had had time to explore off the beaten track.

After lunch, it was back out into the heat (by this time, 41C was showing on local signs!) to walk to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. The found in particular was magnificent but it was extremely crowded. People were 3 or 4 deep and you had to wait to be able to get a spot to be able to view without anyone in front of you. The Spanish Steps were not as crowded although I imagine they would have been if they hadn’t recently stopped people from sitting on them. I did hear police blowing their whistles a few times to tell people to get up.

The Spanish Steps are on the edge of the very expensive shopping district and Mr FFF was glad that we didn’t have time to stop in any of the designer shops as we walked back to the Tiber for the next boat portion of the tour.

This was where the tour became a bit bizarre: All 47 of us on the tour, plus 2 guides, plus another group of about the same size, walked down another 57 steps to the river bank and got onto the boat. The boat then sailed about 100yds down the river before turning around, sailing back past where we’d got on, and then on for another 100yds to the point where we’d got off the boat earlier in the day. We then had to get off and climb the same 57 steps we’d climbed earlier in the day, to come out onto the road 200yds from where we’d just climbed down 15 minutes before!! Nobody could understand the point of this. Then we walked to St Peter’s Square where we were given 10 minutes to take photos AND use the toilet before heading back to the coach to go back to the port (which would not be stopping at the services). We decided that taking pictures of this iconic place was more of important than going to the toilet and that we’d just cross our legs and hope for the best on the way back!

Also, our tour guide wasn’t the best. Although he guided us safely around Rome and pointed out the sites, I felt that he didn’t really give much information about them or the city itself. It was my first time in Rome and I came away feeling I hadn’t really learnt much about it which was disappointing.

All in all, I was impressed with the sites that I saw. However, I stand by my previous assumption that there is too much to see and do in Rome than a day’s tour can do justice to. I would like to go back for a few days in the spring or autumn and spend time seeing the sites properly.

Back onboard, we showered and went up to the Planet bar at the back of the ship to enjoy sail away with a drink before dinner in the MDR.

Dinner tonight was Dressed Asparagus with Egg Mayonaise and a truffle dressing followed by Monkfish wrapped in cabbage leaves with Ponzu Sauce (I didn’t think the monkfish needed the cabbage personally but I just unwrapped it and ate them separately. For dessert, I chose the Cranachan. It was my first time eating this dish so I’ve got nothing to compare it to IRL but I have seen it prepared on a number TV shows and as is often the way with cruise desserts, the chef had gone his own way with it. The oats were in with the cream and were soft and a piece of shortbread was serve on the side (rather than the oats and shortbread mixture being baked together to make a crumble to sprinkle over the top of the cream). The texture of the cream and oats was a bit weird (it put me mind of my breakfast which I must make again) but it was nice enough and happened to be the low sugar option on the menu so I can’t complain.

There was some entertainment on that sounded good, but we were exhausted from the day’s expedition so decided to have an early night before a well needed sea day tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

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