If Rome’s traffic puts you off taking sightseeing by bus, how about a peaceful cruise down the river?
The Tiber River, or Tevere in Italian, is the third longest river in Italy and is famous for being one of the defining characteristics of Rome. Because of its historical importance and worldwide fame, a Rome river cruise could be a fantastic idea for those who want a break from touring this stunning ancient city on foot.
The Tiber River
The river has been part of some of Rome’s dramatic moments of history. Romulus and Remus were found by the She-Wolf by the Tiber, and at least one emperor and pope were disposed of in her waters.
Until the 19th century, the river was a major feature of the city, flooding annually and filling the city with water. You can still see signs around the city showing the level the water reached in different years – there’s a beautiful Medieval one from 1277 on Via Arco dei Banchi, close to Castel Sant’Angelo.
Then high embankments were built, and the river today is mostly seen from the bridges above.
But at each bridge, there are stairs down to the river. The Vatican side is popular with joggers and cyclists, and in the summer, bars and food stalls line the riverbanks as part of the Estate Romana. The other side is less well-kept, and few people use it.
Rome by Boat
Taking a cruise down the river is a great way to escape the crowds for a while. In summer, the cooler air can be a welcome relief from the heat and traffic of the city streets. The boat is also a quick way to get from Piazza del Popolo to Trastevere.
Types Of Cruises
If you don’t want to be on your feet all day, the boat is a great transport option. While there are lots of buses in the center, there’s also a lot of traffic, and moving can be a slow, sweaty process. With the boat, you can get from Piazza del Popolo to Trastevere in about 20 minutes.
There are audio guides available in different languages, but my booking confirmation didn’t explain that you have to bring your own headphones (none of the other passengers had been told this either).
There’s also a single trip option which will save you a few euros and take you once in each direction.
Daily from 10.00 to 17.00
Boats pass every 30 minutes.
When in Rome, you will quickly learn to love the Italian habit of an aperitivo before dinner. Instead of having dinner at the usual time, book a cruise down the river with a glass of wine and traditional snacks. You’ll appreciate the cool air and quieter atmosphere away from the city traffic while you float down the Tiber.
The ticket for this cruise includes a 24hr ticket for the boat, so you can spend the next day hopping on and off to visit riverside monuments like the Ara Pacis, Campo dè Fiori or do some shopping on the exclusive Via Giulia.
18.00 Thursday – Sunday
From Castel Sant’Angelo pier
For a more international drinks experience, the Sushi Cruise comes with fresh sushi and the cocktail of your choice. The leisurely trip down the river takes 75 minutes and also includes a 24hr ticket so you can come back the next day.
18.00 Monday – Wednesday
From Castel Sant’Angelo Pier
Reaching The River
The Tiber has a very high embankment. There are steps down to the river close to each of the bridges. Most of them are very steep, though the ones in Trastevere are easier to walk down.
The steps to the Trastevere boat stop
If you aren’t able to walk down the steps, there is a ramp on Lungotevere Ripa, near Porta Sublicio, about a 10-minute walk from Tiber Island.
Most of the steps to the river are steep and not always well kept
Where To Get The Boat
The main stop is at Trastevere. Here you’ll find a ticket office in case you haven’t bought your ticket online. This is the only stop on the Trastevere/Vatican side of the river.
To reach the stop, you can cross the river at Ponte Garibaldi or Ponte Cestio (the island bridge). There are steps to the river next to both bridges. Take either of them, and you’ll find the departure point is almost in front of you when you get to the bottom.
The Trastevere stop
There are 3 other stops, though 2 of them are request stops. If anyone is waiting or asks to get off at Ponte Sisto or Castel Sant’Angelo, the boat will dock. Otherwise, it continues until it reaches Ponte Cavour.
After picking up any passengers, the boat turns around and heads back to Trastevere, this time without stopping. The direct journey takes about 20 minutes.
If you want to get on at any of the other stops, be warned that the signposting to find them is almost non-existent. There are no signs at street level, and the signs are so small you can’t see them from the other side of the river.
Signs at the stops are minimal
What To See
You don’t actually see much from the river because of the high embankment and the many trees that line the roads on either side. There are no real sights until the river bends close to the Vatican, then you’ll see St. Peter’s at a distance (it’s not next to the river), Castel Sant’Angelo, and the angels on the bridge outside.
The real joy of taking the boat is moving quickly through the city and not having to wait in traffic. This gives you more time to explore when you get off the boat.
Don’t expect to see a lot of sights from the river
Experience On Board
The experience is very relaxing. The crew collects your ticket or takes a photo of your online booking form and provides you with a receipt, then you are free to sit inside or upstairs.
The boats are not modern. There are benches at the side upstairs and downstairs and additional plastic seating (and tables downstairs).
The seating options upstairs
The multilingual audio guide is built into the benches, but headphones are not provided. If you want to bring your own, you will need headphones with a jack connection.
Bring your own headphones to listen to the multilingual guide
There is a small restroom on board.
The restroom could be a bit of a squeeze
- Don’t expect a sightseeing tour. Most monuments aren’t by the river as it used to flood a lot. However, it is a nice way to move across the center quickly and calmly.
- Bring headphones with a jack connection if you want to use the audio guide.
- The steps to the river at Trastevere aren’t too difficult, but be warned they are steep and quite narrow at other points. Particularly if you have a pushchair or heavy bags, you might struggle.
- Stop at the kiosk between the steps and the bridge to Tiber Island to try the best grattachecca in the city. These summer drinks are the Roman version of a Slushy. A massive block of ice is shaved by hand as you wait with a special tool, then the ice is covered in syrup and topped with fruit.