Not many know that inside the Port of Civitavecchia there is one of the most suggestive and old monuments of the  city: we are talking about Fort St. Peter, better known as Molo del Lazzaretto (Lazzaretto Dock).


The structure, initially formed by a small tower that worked as an internal lighthouse, was part of the majestic project conceived by emperor Trajan for the port of Civitavecchia and directed by architect Apollodorus of Damascus (107 AD).

The dock was crossed by galleries that constituted a system of continuous replacement of water, useful to keep the sea bed clean and to avoid the dock to be filled in with sand. The Lazzaretto is a clear example of Roman engineering abilities; a system that carries out still today its function, being only in the world.

Presumably the authentic lighthouse, visible from a great distance, had to be placed over an advanced breakwater, while in the docks were some lanterns. Working together with the lighthouse, lanterns allowed safe approach and entry of ships during the night.

Lazzaretto Dock - Picture by Sabrina Delogu

Lazzaretto Dock - Picture by Sabrina Delogu

Over the centuries, the Lazzaretto underwent some restoration works and in the seventeenth century an adjacent building was built (and destroyed after the war). It hosted crews of ships that were kept in quarantine. Papal interventions in the dock date back to the first decades of 1600 under the papacy of Urban VIII, but were only completed in December 1755 by command of Benedetto XIV who realized the last section of what must have been warehouses, the central part with a saddle roof, ornated with a big commemorative stone with sculptures and the Papal coat of arms.

Molo del Lazzaretto - Port of Civitavecchia

Molo del Lazzaretto - Port of Civitavecchia

In 1656 an outbreak of the plague spread and the fort was transformed into a quarantine station for those contagious until 1800. That's where the name Lazzaretto comes from (lazzaretto = leper hospital). In order to isolate it, it was also thought to dig a canal to separate it from the dock.

Fort St. Peter partly resisted the bombings in 1943, while unfortunately no traces remain of its twin, the fort located over the East dock, called del Bicchiere.

We can surely say that with its 2,000 years of history, the Lazzaretto dock is genuinely unique in its kind: there aren't, in fact, today old docks as extraordinarily well preserved.


Recently, thanks to the involvement of the association "La Civetta di Civitavecchia", that has led several events to promote the safeguard of the Molo and to launch a new requalification project, the Lazzaretto has been admited by the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano, National Trust of Italy) on the occasion of the 7th census of "I Luoghi del cuore" ("Places of the heart").

Unfortunately, due to exhaustion of funds, at the moment the project can't be funded, but Fort Saint Peter has already reached well 8113 subscriptions and it will nonetheless remain under the attention of the FAI, which will supervise what happens and will happen around it.

We sincerely hope that this important monument will get the recognition it deserves as it has managed to attract the attention of Hollywood, becoming one of the locations of the famous comedy Zoolander 2. Read our news about the filming at Lazzaretto Dock and watch the trailer!

If you liked this post find out more about the itinerary about the Historic Port of Civitavecchia.

Useful information

Molo del Lazzaretto


The old Molo del Lazzaretto is located in the opposite side of the Rock, close to molo San Teofanio.

To reach it, enter the Port of Civitavecchia and at the big roundabout with the statue of emperor Trajan in the middle, continue along the walls on your left towards Loc. Prato del Turco. Continue straight towards Molo San Teofanio and not long after you will arrive.

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