After our lovely days in Venice, we trained to Rome. Train travel is so romantic to us, as a family. It offered room, comfort, wine, good coffee, internet and an exciting way to see where we were going. Crossing the tracks out of Venice, across the water, was a highlight for the littlest one and the tunnels through the Italian countryside was thrilling for the rest of us. We like tunnels, I guess. And getting places fast.
Pulling into Rome, it was dark and late and we realized that we would need to split up in order to get us and all our children and bags to the hotel successfully. It is always in moments like this where I wish I knew 42 languages. Racing off in our two cabs, me with Jake and Mark with the younger two, I momentarily wondered if we would wind up at the same place. We did, of course, fifteen minutes later, standing on a steep hill, too much baggage in hand, tired 4 year old in arms and we were at our new home in Rome, within touching distance of the Vatican walls. Incredible.
Waking up in our huge apart-hotel, the next morning, we planned out our day. I was probably the most organized for Rome – itineraries, bus routes, schedules planned with parks for the little one, the Vatican planned for the big ones and shopping planned for the middle one. I should have realized that this would never go according to plan.
The good about Rome?
So much. You can walk this incredible city, finding beauty around every corner. You hear this all the time, and it is true – everywhere you look there are incredible testaments to art and history and the development of western civilization IN YOUR FACE. It was overwhelming and fantastic.
The bad about Rome?
It was fantastic but overwhelming.
I have to be honest…I think Rome defeated us. More specifically, Rome defeated the littlest of our family. This was totally my fault but what resulted was a very good lesson in how not to travel with a young child. No matter how prepared you are, no matter how many great books you have read, no matter how you think you need to “see” a city…ultimately you need to listen to the needs of your family. Our time in Rome was amazing…but it was memorable for different reasons for each of us, not all positive.
Day one started with a quick tour through St. Peter’s square, minutes from our hotel and then we hopped on a double decker tour bus. Having read that this was “the” way to see the city with kids, we realized quickly that it wasn’t for us. The initial wait for the bus ( they do not run as posted ), the crush to get on, the heat on top, the extended waits at random stops…too much for a little kid. He fell asleep for most of the tour but awoke cranky and uncomfortable. We jumped ship…I mean bus, halfway through, deciding that walking would be the new plan. Refreshing sips from the lion fountains were enjoyed ( with 2500 drinking fountains offering cold, fresh water throughout Rome, we were never far from water ) as was mysterious cold air emanating from some unidentified ancient ruins on an unidentified road ( so much for detailed sharing) as the heat was near unbearable.
The Trevi Fountain, an impromtu lunch of seafood pastas and oh so good caesar salads ( with free wifi!) and The Spanish Steps made up for the too quick glimpses of the Colosseum from the bus. We were fortified on pasta and made it up the Steps in record time, with Alex leading the way.
Our goal became the Villa Borghese. This park promised a luscious green space in the middle of the city, ideal for children to play and adults to recline and relax. We should have realized that in 40 degree heat, nothing is lush and nowhere is relaxing when you are that sticky. Not even multiple gelatos and an arcade could make the park what we so wanted it to be. We admitted defeat and turned to head back to the hotel…only to realize we were clueless on how to get back, maps be damned. Up a hill, down a lane, through the park we went, passing the now closed zoo and then the fall…you know the kind…the exhausted, “icannotgoonestepfurther” cry followed by a tumble off of a curb. Alex was finished. And only steps away from civilization, here we were now bleeding and hysterical. A true Calgon moment in a country far from home.
And then the respite we needed. Do not tell me that pizza is not a cure all.
A tiny restaurant, perched awkwardly along a busy road offering refreshingly cold sprite, the always cure all for scrapes and bruises, and HOT DOG PIZZA restored vacation hope in our family. Yes, hot dog pizza. Thank you, Italy.
It was from this point that we realized that all my itineraries and plans needed to be scrapped. It was a pizza epiphany. When you know what works for your family, you need to work with this, no matter what you think the prescribed tour should be. And from that moment on, we split up.
Rome, the good, the bad and the ugly to be continued…
Does Holly get to shop?
Does Alex smile on day 2?
Do Mark and Jake make it in to the Vatican?
All this and more!