Does the word “vacation” conjure up images of white-sand beaches, fruity drinks with umbrellas in them, and hours spent lying on a chaise by the ocean with a stack of books next to you? Nothing to do, nowhere to be, and the hardest decision you have to make is what to order for dinner? That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well that is not what happens when you vacation with your children—anywhere, really, but certainly not when you travel abroad with them. And so, I will refrain from calling our Italy adventure a vacation, because the only thing vacation-y about it was that Chuck and I sorely needed one after we got back.
That said, we knew this going in, and armed with the correct mindset (more of a warrior approaching the battlefield), our trip to Italy was so worthwhile and even, dare I say, fun. We took off from Paris on a Tuesday morning and were in Rome a mere 2 hours later—no long flights, no jet leg, Europe is awesome! We took a taxi from the airport to our apartment, although the taxi could only get within 3 blocks of the flat before having to stop because of pedestrian traffic. Our address was merely the name of a tiny square off a small road near the Campo dei Fiori, but we pulled our suitcases trustingly down the narrow street and found our AirBnB contact waiting there for us (phew!). Once again, AirBnB did not disappoint! We were in a very unique apartment with a small kitchen tucked away under the eaves and a loft bedroom for the girls (it was reached by way of a ladder, and adults could barely stand up there, but the girls loved it).
It rained on and off our first afternoon in Rome, but nothing could stop us from our first taste of gelato at a little ice cream shop near the Pantheon. We marveled at all the twisty and turny streets and the fact that you could walk around the corner and find some pile of old rocks or half a tower dating back to Ancient Roman times!
Piper was very excited since her 2nd grade class is currently studying Ancient Rome, so on our first full day in Rome, we set out to find the tour guide we had hired to take us around the historical sites. We met at the Colosseum, and got to skip the lines to go in, which was a huge bonus. The kids loved learning the history of the Colosseum, and had fun finding the places in the walls and stairs where iron brackets had been removed by ancient thieves when the Colosseum was first abandoned. We moved on to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, picturing what it would have been like to walk those cobblestone streets two thousand years ago. Amazing.
We covered a lot of ground in our three days, taking a bus tour of the city, visiting St. Peter’s Square, playing and napping in the Villa Borghese park, and checking out the Spanish Steps. The Trevi fountain was closed and under construction unfortunately, but the rest of Rome was in fine form. We had a running game throughout our visit, trying to spot specific creatures on the many Roman crests all over the city: lions were the most obvious, but we also saw eagles and dragons—finally, at St. Peter’s Square, Chuck yelled out “bee! bee!”, which I’m sure freaked out any English-speaking crowds around us, but as that was his creature to find, and we were starting to think that bees were actually not commonly found on Roman crests, I could forgive his enthusiasm.
We also ate well, and I think the pizza we had our very first night in Rome may well have been the best of the vacation. Piper certainly thought so.
Another night, we walked close to a half hour (dragging the kids as it was close to 8pm) down an extremely narrow street teeming with tourists and people trying to sell you things in order to get to a recommended restaurant. By the time we got there, the kids were losing it, we were all starving, and it turned out that our reservation had not gone through. For a moment there, it was all I could do not to walk out by myself and find a quiet street to scream with frustration. But the restaurant found us a table, we had a very nice meal, and we took another way home. Still, for our last night in Rome, we decided to avoid the fact that apparently no respectable restaurant opens for dinner before 8pm, and eat in. I went out to the Campo dei Fiori market in the morning, and bought fresh gnocchi, parmagiano cheese, fresh pesto sauce, proscuitto, fresh peas, artichokes, and stuffed peppers. We had a couple of pizzas to go with it (though I shouldn’t have worried—we had plenty of food), and sitting out on our beautiful terrace eating together (before 8pm!) is one of my favorite memories of Rome.
The terrace was definitely the best part of our Roman apartment as well, unlike, say, the strange birds roosting on nearby roofs that began making sounds like very loud dying cats early in the morning, the razor-sharp cigar clipper (is it a thumb guillotine I wondered?) the children found and started playing with, and the church bell chimes that went off at random intervals starting around 6am, with no apparent regard to actual time. Ah, Roma! Friday morning we were up and out of our apartment, and headed out to the train station. Next up, Venice!