Civitavecchia Travel Guide

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Civitavecchia was almost completely destroyed in the second world war, but it has been rebuilt since. Certainly the recent constructions have made the urban layout rather difficult to appreciate, but if you take your time there is plenty to discover.

The most important sights are the sixteenth-century Fort Michelangelo, built to the order of Pope Julius II Della Rovere. Begun by Bramante and continued by Sangallo the Younger and by Giuliano Leno, it was completed by Michelangelo, who was responsible for the imposing keep, during the papacy of Paul III. In regards to its power and grandeur, it was one of the greatest of the period. Archaeological findings have been discovered inside the fort, including the remains of a Roman villa and the crypt of St. Fermina, who was persecuted by Diocletian and is a favourite saint of the people of Civitavecchia.

Around the fort lies the port itself, partly following the layout of the one of Trajan's time. Here you find the old city walls built under Pope Urban VIII, as well as a fountain designed by Vanvitelli.

A bit further on there is fish market, the remains of Porta Livorno, or the Leghorn Gate, what is left of the Horrea (the big Roman warehouses) and then the Roman harbour, the refuge of the finely equipped fishing fleet. Leaving the harbour behind and crossing the more recently built Corso Marconi, you come to the Medieval part of the town where we find Piazza Leandra, with an attractive fountain and the church of the Stella, which houses the "Sacred Mysteries" that are carried in the Good Friday procession. From here a short climb takes you to the entrance to the old town, the "archetto" or little archway; passing through this and turning to the left, you come to the Baroque church of Orazione e Morte, headquarters of the Confraternity of the same name. Inside are interesting frescoes by G. Errante from Trapani.

Moving on towards Piazza Vittorio Emanuele you come to the Baroque Cathedral and, a little further on, after the plaque indicating the house where Stendhal lived when he wrote "La Chartreuse de Parme", you find the eighteenth-century building that once housed the papal garrison but is now the National Archaeological Museum. Here, on three floors, are displayed the items found during the work on the reconstruction of the harbour and the excavations on the archaeological sites in the vast hinterland. These include a Roman copy of the portrait of Socrates, a statue of Apollo, Fidia's Athene, crockery and instruments made of ceramics, glass or bronze as well as a fair amount of gold jewellery. Leaving the Museum we take the broad avenue that runs by the sea, adorned with a fountain, the statue of Garibaldi, the war monument and various busts of famous people. Unique in its kind is the Church of the Holy Japanese Martyrs (dedicated to 26 Franciscan who suffered martyrdom at Nagasaki in 1597), completely decorated with frescoes and mosaics by the Japanese artist Lucas (Luke) Hasegawa.

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July 04, 2007 change by lpx

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