Roman Holiday, pt 2

Well, I started my last post by telling you that our trip to Rome made me realize that I need to dig out my Ergo and revisit baby toddler wearing. The other thing we determined is that we totally need to find a reliable babysitter who wants to travel with us once in a while, even though on the surface that sounds way too fancy for us. But I guess it is pretty common for people here (we know at least three different families who have done this).

Anyway, Mike and Andrea brought their friend/babysitter Melania with us to Rome, which meant that the four of us got to go out on Saturday night while Melania stayed home and had a “pizza party” with the five kids. I love traveling with the kids and getting to see things through their eyes, don’t get me wrong, but man, was it ever nice to get to have a meal and only worry about cutting my own meat. Our hotel wasn’t far from the Trevi Fountain and there were a ton of nice restaurants in that area, so we picked one with an open spot outside and enjoy a couple different courses, two bottles of wine and good conversation. The only food-related mirth was us marveling at Mike’s steak. He said that is appeared to have sniffed the grill on the way to the table, but I doubt it ever got that close.

The Trevi Fountain at night

We ended our evening drinking wine at the apartment until midnight because Chris, Mike and I are apparently all ancient and were tired, but Andrea and Melania went out on the town after the rest of us had gone to bed. I’m still exhausted just thinking about it!

Anyway, to go backward — we decided to take the bullet train between Naples and Rome.The train runs basically every hour and it insanely fast, something like 200 mph. I think it got us there in about an hour, so very easy. From there, our apartment proved to be only about a kilometer away so we just walked there. (We did, however, get busted for not having told our AirBnb host that we were going to have 10 people instead of 4. Whooops). From there, it was on to the Vatican.

So we had bought tickets the night before online because we wanted to skip the lines, but I guess we needn’t have bothered because we got offered “no line” tickets by about 95 different people as we were walking to the Vatican Museum. Once we got there, we also realized that our tickets wouldn’t allow us to go straight into St. Peter’s Basilica, though many of these salesmen helpfully offered to get us in for a bunch more euros each. We’ll pass, thanks guys!

We did briefly consider taking a tour, but ultimately rejected it because with five kids we were very concerned that someone would have a meltdown ten minutes in and we’d have wasted a bunch of money. Instead, we opted for audioguides. I can’t speak for Mike and Andrea, but I ultimately didn’t get to use mine all that much because Fiona was absolutely fascinated by it.

Don’t mind me, Mom, just expanding my horizons. This is almost as interesting as those pigeons I desperately want to continue chasing.

So, after realizing that we were actually a good ways away from the entrance of the Vatican Museum and also that our noon tickets didn’t actually mean we had to enter at noon, we ended up deciding that we should eat something before going in. Given that a) both Sadie and Fiona were asleep at the table and b) we ended up being in the museum and Sistine Chapel for almost FOUR HOURS, this was the best thing we could have done. Especially the part where we had wine to fortify ourselves beforehand. Travel tip: be well fed and watered before beginning long journeys, haha.

The Vatican Museum was amazing, but I think I was more impressed by the structure itself than necessarily the artwork/artifacts/tapestries/etc. Although I’ve read a lot of historical fiction novels where they are working on tapestries so to seeing some did give me a new appreciation for how freaking massive they are. In a lot of places the most incredible artwork was on ceiling (most notably, obviously, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel). I do wonder what inspired them to do that — was it the only place not already covered with artwork? Did they figure no one would mess it up if it way up there? Or was it a “BECAUSE WE CAN” kind of thing? I’ll let you know if I ever get around to actually researching this.

This is from the Hall of Maps, my favorite room other than the Sistine Chapel. (Where you aren’t supposed to take pictures).

The kids actually did quite well for a lot of the visit. Fiona loved any statue of a baby or cherub, though she laughed really hard when they were naked. “He’s gotta go POTTY, Mommy. He’s going to poop.” Owen was also impressed with the ceilings like I was, though walking around with your head craned up toward the ceiling can be a perilous business.

After a couple hours, however, you could tell interest was waning. The one thing about the Vatican Museum is that every sign points you in the direction of the Sistine Chapel, but of course you have to pass through miles of other rooms first. By the end, we started to feel as if we’d never make it.

This was shortly before Owen fell asleep in Andrea’s Ergo, as discussed yesterday.

St. Peter’s Basilica from a spot where we stopped to rest and chase pigeons.

Once we did, however, it was absolutely worth it. It was exactly as gorgeous as you would expect a place painted by the combined efforts of the likes of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Roselli, etc to be. If you only have a few days in Rome, I definitely think the Vatican — and especially the Sistine Chapel — should be on the must-see list.

By the time we got finished with the museum and chapel, it was already getting dark. We decided to walk through St. Peter’s Square and that was a sight worth seeing for sure. I’m pretty sure Chris and I took a million pictures each, but here’s just a couple.

We had a bit of a slow start Sunday, just kind of bumming around until Andrea, Melania and the kids headed out to catch their train home. Mike was staying because for Chris’ birthday (Monday) I was buying him tickets for a Roma soccer game. We ended up heading out to the Spanish Steps, with the intention of trying to take some pictures and then going to the Colosseum. We did ultimately make it to the Spanish Steps (which, if you are interested, were completed in 1725 and originally built to link the Bourbon Spanish Embassy and Trinita dei Monti church) and just kind of hung around relaxing for a while. Chris flirted with the idea of taking a carriage ride since there were a bunch in the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom of the stairs, but when a driver offered to take us around for a mere 150 euros we realized that horses look just as nice from the ground and also that our feet still worked.

Pictures didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped (at least in terms of a Christmas card image) but c’est la vie.

Chris looks like he’s telling them a story

Owen hanging out with “Mr. Mike.”

Lately Owen has taken to laying down on the floor like a corpse in random places — this is one of several pictures I have from this trip. Sometimes he insists he needs a kiss to wake him up.

Some of Rome’s most expensive shops are located on the streets leading up to the Piazza di Spagna, so we ended up taking a walk down that way to see how the other half lives spends. (Answer, in my humble opinion: foolishly). Fortunately, the shops post prices for items in their windows so we could discuss how insane you’d have to be to pay like 5,000 euro for an ugly dress/shoes/bag/whatever. Or even a beautiful one, because come on. Having prices listed was also fortunate because each shop had a burly doorman waiting just inside — presumably to keep riffraff like us from coming in and touching the merchandise — so we didn’t have to risk getting tossed out of a posh shop in an effort to satisfy our curiosity. Whew.

After a fun (/sarcasmfont) stop at Vodafone so Chris and Mike could each deal with some phone issues, we ended up having a leisurely lunch back in the Trevi Fountain neighborhood. I seriously can’t recommend that area highly enough.

Sunday night, Chris and Mike went to the Roma soccer game. That, however, is a post all on its own.

Monday was Chris’ birthday, and we decided we finally wanted to see the Colosseum (which we hadn’t gotten around to the day before) and that we wanted to do a tour. Mike left fairly early, so we headed out the door to find a tour in the morning. Chris followed a ticket seller to a tourism office, and the next thing I knew we were signed up for a comprehensive tour of the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine and all the other stuff in between. And it was four hours long. I’m going to be honest here and say that for a moment, I did wonder if Chris had lost his damn mind. However, it ended up being awesome (minus the part where we had to carry the kids for miles. Good news — Chris found my ergo yesterday!). The main reason was that while it was supposed to be up to a 25-person tour, the four of us were the only ones. This ended up working out great for us because when one of us had to run off and chase a kid, she could repeat what the other one had missed. She was also totally fine with our random stops (for snacks, the potty, pigeon chasing) and even ended up holding Owen’s hand at one point.

Fiona was very interested in the story of Romulus and Remus

This is the spot where they cremated Julius Caesar’s body after his assassination. Apparently, the many women in the city who were in love with him stripped off their jewelry and tossed it onto the pyre. Now, people still throw coins onto the rock in memory of this. Our guide took pains to assure Chris he shouldn’t be jealous if I left some coins.

The Palatine — the original site where Rome was founded, later turned into Papal Gardens.

We heard all about various temples, victory arches, the home of the Vestal Virgins and all manner of history along our tour, which appealed to both me and my history nerd husband. As for the kids, the key seemed to be a) stuffing their faces with snacks frequently and b) allowing them to chase pigeons and run around where possible. Since it is the low season, it was not overly busy and that really worked out for us.

Our last stop ended up being the Colosseum — otherwise known as the Flavian Amphitheater — which was fascinating. I know I was there once (possibly just outside?) with my parents during the 2001 trip, but I either had forgotten or never grasped the sheer scale of the place. It is incredible to me that the thing was built in only eight years.

Both kids were asleep at one point while we were there, but once Owen woke up he was very interested in gladiators. No big surprise there.

Hours of walking and holding kids had us pretty tired, so we ended up having a pretty quiet dinner in the neighborhood near our AirBnb and heading to bed early since we had to be at the airport by about 7:30 a.m. And just like that, our Rome visit was over.

We had a go-go-go three days in Rome, but I’d say the most surprisingly thing is how much we didn’t see. It’s a good thing that Rome is only a cheap plane ride away, because we’re going to need a lot more trips before we’ve even properly scratched the surface of everything there is to see. This past weekend was a great start though.

*I would like it noted for the record that this post has now taken me like four days to get around to finishing because of the insane amount of things we STILL have to do. Are things ever going to slow down? Maybe by spring?

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