My husband and I will be in Rome 1 day each pre and post cruising. Just got our flight arrangements and will arrive in at 8:30 am the day before our cruise leaves at 5:00 PM and flying out again at 10:00 am the day after our cruise which docks at 5:00 am according to the itinerary. Our hotel is about a mile from the Vatican. Keeping in mind that we have arrangements thru the cruise lines for all transfers to and from the airport as well as the pier. I personally would love to try to get Rome done on the front end (but I want to see all the big sites like the Coluseum, Vatican,etc.) and perhaps rent a car on the back end and see a little of Toscana. This is a once in a lifetime trip for us and we want to get the most out of it. Am I being unrealistic and overzealous? I don't want to fly so fast that we don't enjoy the sites and cultural aspects. I'm currently thinking about doing as much of Rome as possible and see how it goes and if there is time when we get back try to rent a car then but I am afraid we will have trouble getting a car if we wait till the last minute.
I hate to say it, but you are being totally unrealistic in your expectations as to what you can see and do in Rome. Devote both pre and post cruise visits to Rome. When you consider travel time to/from airport, to/from hotel, to/from the port; there isn't a lot of time to do Rome.
Radiance of the Seas - Nov 2006
Legend of the Seas - Jun 2007
Costa Fortuna - Mar 2008
Legend of the Seas - Oct 2008
Celebrity Constellation - July 2009
MSC Orchestra - Jan 2009
Navigator of the Seas - March 2009
MSC Poesia - November 2009
Jewel of the Seas - June 2010
Wow! We have been to Rome and the nearby regions about 6 or 7 times (multiple days on each visit) and haven't been able to accomplish what you are trying to do in 2 days. If you are not comfortable driving in large hectic cities (and traffic) I would not recommend renting a car in Rome to drive out of town. Driving in Italy is fine (we have driven thousands of miles throughout the country) but we like to avoid being in Rome with a car. I think your approach of seeing Rome and than making your decision on the rental car at the last minute is a good idea. Your hotel should have no problem arranging a rental car if you decide thats what you want to do that 2nd day. Italian drivers are very good, but they are also crazy. If you do rent in Italy, make sure you get CDW with a very low (hopefully zero) deductable. You mention Tuscany and you need to keep in mind that this region is several hours of driving from Rome (can be longer depending where in Tuscany you plan to visit). There is an excellent high speed train line that connects Rome to Florence (with stops at places like Siena) that might be another option. We often go to Tuscany pre or post cruise, but on those trips we tend to spend 1 - 3 weeks in the country. 1 Day is a bit ambitious.
Well, it does seem a bit ambitious. But looking at your schedule again, it seems you have about 2 half days before the cruise and one full day after. Figure on the pitfalls, you arrive at 8:30AM at the Rome airport, but this last June when we arrived in Rome it took more than an hour waiting for our luggage. Best way, I think, to get to downtown, via the express train 11 euros per person. Of course, that means you have to haul your own luggage and boy was it crowded. But a taxi could run into traffic. Anyway, by the time you get to your hotel I would say it could be noon. Remember getting to the port of Civitavecchia, you have to allow time so you probably don't want to leave much later than noon from your hotel depending on what method of transportation you are taking (they'll probably want you aboard before 4P). I would recommend reading a few good guide books (Rick Steves is a good one) and decide what is a MUST MUST and what you can skip for now. Then look at the maps and plan your attack. Have your day trip from Rome planned after the cruise as well, but I think you should see what you can get in before the cruise and decide if you still want to do Rome after the cruise or go somewhere else. I too think the train to go outside of Rome is a good bet. I think you will enjoy yourself more if you plan well and go with the mindset that you just can't do it all, otherwise you will stress yourself out. Have a good trip.
You should be able to see most things in your limited time. You just won't be able to sit around and soak up the history of each site. First of all, given your time frame, Tuscany is out. That will have to be an adventure in itself for another visit. Yes, once you visit, you WILL return to Italy. It is a most captivating country. Let me explain something about the Vatican museum. The only way to see it is to get there as early as possible. If you don't get there until noon, it is likely that you won't see The Origin of Man until 6pm. You will waste half a day in a slow-moving seemingly endless line. You can visit St. Peters to view the Pieta, then walk the Via d. Conciliazione to St. Angelo's Castle. At that point, cross over the Ponte (bridge) St. Angelo. It's a relatively short walk to the Piazza Navona. Campa dei Fiori is to the south but I would suggest continuing east. From the Piazza, it is a very short walk due east to the Pantheon. A few streets later you will come upon the Trevi fountain. Then follow the Via del Babuino for a straight shot to the Spanish Steps. It's easy to walk around Rome if you know where you are going. A good map that shows all of the streets is essential. The map that the cruise ship will provide you is woefully inadequate. If you are tired after the walk. You can take the red line train from Spagna back towards the Vatican. I would save the Colosseum for after the cruise. There is much to see there besides the colosseum itself. You have the beautiful Arch of Constantine and the Forum next to Palantine Hill. You can still view the House of the Vestal Virgins and Caesar's tomb amongst the other ceremonial buildings. (people to this day still lay fresh flowers on his tomb daily) Let me know if I can be of anymore help.
Thanks so much for all the responses. Exactly what I needed to know even if it isn't necessarily what I want to hear. I am so incredibly excited and have been doing so much studying that I guess I got overly caught up in trying to do too much. I especially do not want to miss "soaking up the history" - that is such an important piece for me.