Day 17 – Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy

Surprise surprise! Another splendid day greets my opening of our drapes…at 7 in the A.M.! Here we are in the port of Civitavecchia, Italy. An early hour because our tour begins at 8:30 and a shower and coffee/breakfast are necessary.

This is likely the second most important port for tourism in Europe today (right behind Barcelona). Built in the early 100’s AD, it has survived and thrived. Originally a fishing port (which it still is) it has become a behemoth in the tourism industry.

Today our friends are off to explore Rome itself. It wasn’t built in a day, but they’re going to do their best to explore it in just a few hours. We wish them luck. 🙂

Our jaunt will take us outside of Rome proper, into the countryside and on to two little villages – Tarquinia and Tuscania.

We are on the road right on time. One couple could not join us (regrettably they caught Covid and were isolated in their room) so their will be only 4 (plus our driver) on this tour.

Tarquinia, our first stop, was founded by the Etruscans about 3,000 years ago. It’s Old! It became a very rich city in a relatively short period of time which garnered the attention of the Romans. More money and people to help expansion – let’s take it over! They did and kept it until the fall of the Roman Empire. Once again, now into the Middle Ages, Tarquinia became a very wealthy town. Like so many others we have seen, walls were built around the city (now the Old Town) to help protect against marauders.

Not a normal visit (although we did one similar in Paris), the Monterozzi Necropoli in Tarquinia is somewhat unusual. It is a designated UNESCO site and contains graves of over 6,000 citizens. Two hundred of these (some dating back to 600 BC) were beautifully illustrated on the inside, deep underground. The illustrations were representations of the life of the person entombed. Only 20 are open for public viewing and the paintings have faded over time but can still be seen. The stairs are steep and the tombs themselves are empty now, but modern lighting inside each allow for a glimpse into a different perspective of afterlife perception.

Into the town proper seeing again those similar yet differential views of village life. Ancient cobbled streets with very large trees almost as old. And the venerable churches that seem as ingrained as the land they are built on.

Towers in the village were a sign of wealth and the more wealth you had, the bigger the tower. The towers had some living quarters, but really they were bragging rights. Out of 40 that had been in town at one time, there are now only about 18. These are closed to the general public as their interior stability is certainly not up to current standards.

Our trip into town really must include a stop at the museum where artifacts from the Necropoli are on display. Knowing nothing about what to expect, it proved to be a remarkable bit of time travel.

The building is quite large with 3 floors including ground zero. I made it up to the first floor as there are 4 flights of stairs between floors. Discretion keeps me vertical rather than horizontal. 🙂 Sarcophagi, pottery and jewelry, all rescued from the tombs of the Necropoli, have been cleaned and tastefully displayed.

Back to our mini-van and down the road to the nearby town of Tuscania. The word was coined in reference to the legend of Ascanio, son of Aeneas, finding 12 dog pups on the spot Tuscania was built.

The drive developed into one of our more entertaining as we came up on a sheep farmer and his flock.

Dating back to BC times, Tuscania has seen its share of takeovers and rulers. In 1861, about the same time the New town was being built, it was annexed into the Kingdom of Italy. Fast forward to 1971 when an earthquake of about a 4.6 magnitude struck. Some 30 people killed, many more injured, about 5,000 left homeless and over $40 million (1971 dollars) damage done. Even small earthquakes, in the right location, can do more than their fair share of damage.

The Church of San Pietro, built in the 8th century AD, was part of that destruction. Rebuilt using as many leftovers as were still viable, it now stands firm. Bearing some scars yet remaining magnificent despite its age and onslaught of mother nature.

If we were home now, it would be about lunch time. However, as in Europe everywhere, lunch time really isn’t til 1…or even much later. Our excellent guide/driver suggests a favorite of his for lunch so we make our way down a long street to a marvelous lookout point that holds a couple of different restaurants. But, as was likely, none of these were open til 1:30.

For my wife and I this poses no problem at all. The time to explore this quaint village and then return to this lovely location for lunch fits right into our normal cruising itinerary. But, we are not alone on this tour. The other couple have no desire whatsoever to stay around for an extended time, wander around in a place that holds no interest for them, and then pay for lunch. “We should just go back to the ship where it’s free.”

Hmmmm… Let me understand this. You come from a land where without European immigrants 500 years ago you wouldn’t even exist. You spend a goodly amount of hard-earned money to visit lands you have (presumably) never been to before and take time out of your normal routine at home to do so. When you get there, you’re disappointed in that there seems to be not enough history around you to hold your attention. Top all that off with not being willing to support their local economy and enjoy the local foods and beverages because you can do it elsewhere for free.

Ok, we talk with our driver and he is quite willing to make two trips – one back to the ship to accommodate our tour companions and another, from the ship back to the town of Civitavecchia to give us an opportunity to do as we will. Problem solved.

The trip back to Civitavecchia was as uneventful as it should be. Our driver graciously dropped us off near the shore and off we went. Slowly walking along what could be construed as a beach given the sand and open sea in front of us, we found a number of restaurants that were now open for business. Walking through town, as much as we would have liked, seemed more effort than we wanted to expend at this point. Simply choosing a spot, having some wine and a bite to eat, made for a very satisfactory end to the day.

Tomorrow we stop once more in Livorno. All goes well and the sea don’t rise too much and we will make our way into the little town of Lucca. Talk with you soon. 🙂

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