Jump-start your Mediterranean cruise with a couple days in Rome, where you can travel through two millennia worth of history, art, and architecture. The Eternal City is a sprawling open-air museum, with some of the most iconic buildings and works of art spread throughout the city. Here are our picks for the top things to do in Rome. Be sure to stop along the way to restore yourself with gelato or espresso as needed.
One note: Since Rome isn't right on the ocean, cruises depart from Civitavecchia, about an hour away. If you are just in port for the day, you'll need to narrow down the list in order to get back to the ship on time.
1. Tour the Colosseum.
This iconic Roman amphitheater was home to many battles, though it's been hundreds of years since the last such “show.” Despite the passing of time, the Colosseum is remarkably in tact, and when you walk through the arches to get a full view of the scene, it's easy to imagine the days when gladiators took to the ring and tens of thousands of wild onlookers packed the stands.
2. Stroll through ancient Rome at the Forum.
Head to the sprawling Forum and wander down the Via Sacra to take in the romantic ruins of statues, temples, and arches. Once the center of Rome — therefore, the world — the crumbling stones are all that remain of the grand main square of a mighty empire.
3. Attend mass at the Pantheon.
This architectural marvel, the best-preserved ancient building in the city, has been in use since it was built nearly 1,900 years ago. It is also shrouded in mystery — the architect remains unknown. Large Corinthian columns support the pediment at the entrance, while the main body of the church is topped with the largest unreinforced dome in the world. The temple is dedicated to all the gods of ancient Rome, and daily masses still take place (admission is free).
4. Go to the top of St. Peter's Basilica.
Rome has many beautiful churches, but they all pale in comparison to St. Peter's Basilica. Inside the massive church are masterpieces, including Michelangelo's Pietà and Bernini's elaborate baldachin. Michelangelo also designed the soaring dome, and you can buy tickets to take the elevator (or the stairs) up to get a closer look at the medallions and mosaics. There is also an exterior walkway lined with statues that offers spectacular views out over the Vatican and St. Peter's Square.
5. Be amazed by the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican Museums hold a breathtaking collection of Western art on earth, with monumental works of art including paintings and sculptures packing the palace galleries that make up the behemoth complex. The grand finale is the iconic Sistine Chapel, where you can crane your neck to soak up Michelangelo's masterpiece.
6. Throw a coin in Trevi Fountain.
Yes it's touristy, but yes, you must. The lovely (and massive) Baroque fountain was recently restored to great splendor in a renovation funded by Roman fashion house Fendi. So make your wish and toss that euro to ensure your return to the Eternal City. Wondering what happens to all of those coins? They are collected daily and donated to charity — totaling about a million euros a year.
7. Have a leisurely passeggiata.
After a long day of sightseeing, do as the Romans do and take a leisurely passeggiata, an evening stroll around Rome's piazzas. This enduring pre-dinner ritual is all about seeing and being seen while lingering in some of the city's most beautiful public spaces. Each neighborhood has its stroll, but join the most fashionable of them all along the Via del Corso before taking a break at the Spanish Steps to people watch.