Civvit, Civitta, chiv... the port of Rome!!


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April 28th 2013
Published: June 26th 2017
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Genoa to Civitavecchia


After a very comfortable night in the Comfort Inn I have decided the name of the hotel only tells half the story! They should rename the hotel the 'Comfort but sometimes noisy especially if we let families with small children who let them run riot along the corridors stay here'hotel

It was raining when we left London. That is a given. I can't remember a holiday that hasn't started damply. The weather upon our arrival in Genoa was very pleasant but that was only a blip. We woke up about 8am to what I'd hoped were only locals throwing stones against the shutters of our widow. That, I could handle (I'd just throw stuff back at them!) However, to our dismay, when we drew back the shutters, the rat-tat-tatting was not the expected volley of youth projected missiles but sheet rain. The dilemma that confronted us now was: do we walk the 15 minutes to the cruise terminal? Or ‘Do we pay the extortionate €15 for the 3 minute taxi ride? We don't have to be out of the hotel until 11am and can't check in with MSC until 12 so there was plenty of time to decide.

At check out time the rain was still persisting but not as heavy. My back was feeling somewhat better so I had to move my own case this time. (I am too honest for my own good??) At 20 past 11, we decided to chance our luck, as there seemed to be a break. It was still warm despite the inclement weather. Amazingly the weather remained dry while we hauled our luggage the ½ mile or so to Ponte Mille.

The short time it took us to check in, get our customary welcome photo taken then through security, the weather had hit back with a vengeance. The hills that surrounded Genoa had all but disappeared in cloud. If this was the start of the second great flood, I thought, we couldn't be in a better place! As long as we don't have to share our cabin with a couple of gnus!! The anteaters are OK. They're useful. You can hold them by the rear legs and use them as a vacuum cleaner but the gnus. They tend to hog all the duvet!!

We were both really excited as we passed along the walkway that led on to deck 7, Verdi deck. MSC name all their decks after famous Italians. Our cabin was on Bellini deck 10. I'm surprised they haven't named a deck after the most famous Italian but then I don't this Mussolini deck would be a popular choice by the locals!!!

Another reason why we were excited is that a few weeks earlier, Roisin had been told by a psychic that we were going on holiday at the end of April to the beginning of May. She also knew we were going on a cruise. The intriguing prediction is that she said we would meet someone on board that we know. Who could it be? Francesco, the deputy cruise director from the Arabian Gulf Cruise? Donny and Marie? The Psychic hadn't been wrong so far. We will have to wait and see.

On boarding the Lirica ‘that' distinct smell hit our nostrils like an old friend greeting you with an aroma that brings back so many pleasant memories. This smell is specific to the MSC fleet. As we have mentioned many times before, MSC ships are among the most spotlessly clean fleets available. The smell must be something in their cleaning agents or maybe it is an MSC air freshener that wafts unashamedly from lounge to lounge.

She seems smaller somehow. We walked past the atrium and within a few yards we had hit the Broadway theatre at the front of the ship. It's not how we remember her. Maybe Mike and Myra were right (they were our dining companions the last time we were on the Lirica) It does seem like the middle is missing. Or have we just been spoilt by sailing on larger ships? The Lirica holds about 1800 passengers compared to out last ship, the Island Princess with 3900 passengers.

Our cabin, 10002 is the first cabin forward on the starboard side. The door next to ours leads to the bridge and senior officer accommodation. I never thought that we would have the Captain of the MSC Lirica as a next-door neighbour. I wonder should I knock and be friendly? Maybe ask for a bowl of sugar??!

Our cabin steward soon appeared and introduced himself as Carlos from Honduras.

We decided to attend the welcome talk by Kathleen (Schmitt), our English-speaking host. On board there are hosts for the Germans, French, Spanish and Italian. Then come the ‘others' This is made up from all the other nations and groups them under the banner of English speakers!! Kathleen did a head count and identified attendees from England, Norway, USA, Japan, Netherlands. There were even a couple from Namibia. Kathleen went on to say that even the Ukrainians and Turks are badged as English speakers although not many do!!

Kathleen, a South African by birth but now lives in Oregon, USA explained the tours available and when she will be providing useful info on each destination. She also advised us that there are only about 20 Brits on board. So at least there will be enough HP sauce to go round!!

We have opted for the early sitting for evening meal which starts at 6pm. We find that with choosing the late sitting (at 8:30) we tend to snack in the early evening. The early sitting gives us the flexibility and we don't feel like we're ‘hanging around' waiting to be fed. It seems to be a more economic use of time. We were shown to a table for 4. No one joined us during the meal. It doesn't mean that we will not have company for the rest of the voyage. Tomorrow is Civitavecchia, Porto di Roma which is an embarkation port. We will have to wait and see.

Civitavecchia is a town of the province of Rome in the central Italian region of Lazio. It is a sea port on the Tyrrhenian Sea and is located 80 kilometres north-west of Rome, across the Mignone river. From our balocny I could see that the harbour is formed by two piers and a breakwater, on which stands a lighthouse. The name Civitavecchia means "ancient town"

As Aqaba is to Petra so is Civitavecchia to Rome. Both are big crowd pullers so we weren't surprised when we were greeted by a half empty buffet when we strolled in to breakfast at 9am. It takes about 90 minutes to travel from Civitavecchia to the Eternal City and not, as I called it the Emerald City. Roisin asked me if I would expect to see thousands of little green leprechauns wandering around the forum and the Coliseum shouting ‘Has anyone seem me pot o' gold??' All tours had left at 7am and weren't due back until mid afternoon.

Today is Sunday, The Pope's busiest day. We were told that he would be holding a mass in St. Peter's square so to expect large crowds. Roisin and I have both visited Rome and feel no excursion could do the city justice in only a few hours. We decided to go ashore to see what Civitavecchia had to offer. We had also been told that there is nothing around so if we kept our expectations low, we wouldn't be disappointed!

The storm had passed and the sun was shining. Happy days!! We took the free shuttle bus to the port gate where we walked the kilometre or so through the city gate (build by Pope Urban VIII) and headed for the Cathedral. The city wall was well constructed and despite its age still in excellent condition. Pope Urban VIII was obviously good at building walls, but ironically, being Pope and all, he was pretty crap at building churches!!

The cathedral of San Francesco d'Assisi was built by Pope Clements (who happened to be useless at constructing walls!) over a pre-existing small church from 1610. Only small in comparison with other cathedrals, the façade is of Baroque-Neoclassical design and was not completed until the 18th century.

We ventured inside to a packed congregation. Standing at the back of the nave I just had to take a photo of the alter but I have too much respect for the mass that is in progress. Will they mind if I take a photo? No, surely not, maybe if I take it while they are heavily engaged in singing a hymn. Everyone will be preoccupied. Here goes. Point. Zoom to ensure the alter and surrounding frescos are filling the frame. Focus. now press the shutter. At the same time I was executing this final action the hymn finished. The seconds in between the silent congregation and the start of the priest you could hear a pin drop. The acoustics in this compact but magnificent chamber were surprisingly clear. It made the ‘click' of my camera echo around this great hall like a bullet ricochet from a spaghetti western. Those immediately in front of me turned disapprovingly to see who had disturbed their moment of reflection. I quickly hid my camera behind my back and in true Mr Bean style I tutted and rolled my eyes upward. While shaking my head I tilted it to one side in the direction of an elderly Japanese tourist with a bigger and better SLT than mine. The half dozen or so parishoners followed my glance and scowled at the unsuspecting onlooker. He looked at me puzzled and I looked down at him, tutted so the perturbed church goers could clearly see my disdain, then quickly shrugged my shoulders at the Oriental 'patsy' as if to say: ‘ I've no idea either!!'

Making a hasty exit, we noticed a few men dressed in medieval attire with chainmail and colourful tunics. We asked a nearby photographer what was the occasion. Apparently every year the twinning of 2 towns, namely Civitavecchia and Amelia is celebrated by a pagaent of locals from both towns dressing up as characters and professions from 12th century. I'm guessing it was the 12th century as many of the characters looked like they belonged in the Forest of Sherwood. We were lucky to be around on the 1 day per year this spectacle takes place.

We stayed outside the cathereral for another 40 minutes until the mass had ended. We were so grateful we did. There then folowed a parade out of the cathederal. It was led by a squad of drummers then followed men, women and children bedecked in the costume of the era. The Gentry were represented as were the clergy and peasantfolk. The armed forces made an appearance in the form of lancers and cross bowmen.

The procession lasted for about 25 minutes. The final troop to make an appearance were the flag wavers who were preceeded by the trumpeters.

When the show was over we headed back toward the port in the direction of Forte Michalangelo.

We noticed a brotherhood who I assume were Francescan monks head for a car parked adjacent to the city gate. Roisin posed that aged old conundrum of how many monks can you fit in to a Fiat Punto.? We counted 8!! Before the last one disappeared he turned and handed me a card with a picture of Mary and a small metal charm held within the laminate. I wanted to ask him if, on presenting this at the pearly gates, would this entitle me to a free upgrade!! Likewise, if I found myself on the ‘down' escalator could I use this as my ‘get out of jail free' card!! By the time these thoughts had crossed my mind, the Punto was already labourig down the street indicating to turn left. And then it was gone.

One of the main landmarks on entering Civitavecchia is the impressive Fortress Michelangelo. It was first commissioned by Pope Julius II, to defend the port of Rome, and was completed in 1535 by Giuliano Leno and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, under Paul III. The upper part of the "maschio" tower, however, was designed by Michelangelo, whose name is generally applied to the fortress. The fort is of a simple design with a tower at each corner of the building. The walls have a thickness of 7m and was built over an ancient Roman construction, probably the barracks of the classiarii ("mariners") of the Imperial Fleet. *but don't quote me on that!)

Across from the fortress and we took a stroll around a Sunday Market. This was just like any other market you would expect to find in the UK except everyone was speaking a foreign language. I stand corrected. Like I said. Just like any other market in the UK!!

Heading back to the shuttle bus stop we were caught up in hundred of tourists with suitcases. It was pandemonium. We learned later that there were 9 cruise ships in port today and all seemed to be taking on new passengers. No ship more unusual than the ship aptly named wind surf. It has the body of a cruise ship but protruding from her decks are 5 masts that are taller than the ship is long. It wasn't long before the Lirica shuttle arrived. It pulled up slightly away from the madding crowd. It's amazing how one can shift without the added burden of a suitcase It was at this stage I suddenly realised my back wasn't hurting!!!

We passed the Seabourn Legend and the Seabourn Oddysey where the passengers are greeted by their personal butler! We drove past the Wind Surf and spied the Navigator of the Seas across the bay. It was just after 2pm. We had been ashore for a little over 3 hours. It had been a very satisfying day considering Civitavecchia supposes to be a ‘nothing' town.

That evening, sitting at our table we were joined by Maureen and Peter. Straight away there was no mistaking that scouse accent. They have both lived in Angelsey, North Wales for the past 30 years but Mo was originally from Birkenhead while Peter is a born and bred Welsh man, so he is!!

They had been on one of the Rome excursions but felt there was too much walking involved and the highlight of the trip, a visit to the Vatican, was cancelled due to the shooting of 2 policemen by an angry young man who was voicing his disdain at the newly elected Italian Government. Thankfully the shootings weren't fatal but the Pope decided to cancel his appearance. It sounds like Roisin and I had the better deal!!

Maureen is a very lively personality and I would imagine easy to get on with anybody. She strikes me as a very funny person without knowing it!! An example is that she was getting our Indonesian waiter to explain the menu. He recommended the Ravioli to her but she turned her nose up, said: ‘Oh no! I don't like pasta!' and decided to plump for the Greek salad. After the waiter had taken our order she then turned to me and said: ‘He tried to palm me off with the Ravioli. I bet he thinks I'm a fussy bugger!!!'

Back in our cabin, there was a strong smell of smoke. Not the smoke mixed with diesel kind of smell (Thank God!!) but the cigarette smoke kind. This is something that will have to be nipped in the bud if it persists.


Additional photos below
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28th April 2013

Why is there a picture of Chris wearing an orange cap and holding a bunch of Italian flags ?
29th April 2013

Ha! ha! Nice one! I posted these photos in advance of the blog. I didn't realise they were published at this stage!

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