When I left you last…

We were sitting in a crooked curbside pizzeria, recovering with cold sprites and hotdog pizza, from the longest walk ever. We were still miles from our hotel and not conveniently located on any metro line. Taking off on foot again, crossing the Tibre River, we realized we had stumbled onto a bit of a shopping street.

Now, shopping was not really scheduled into our trip. I know. Strange but true. I mean, our biggest shopper was not even supposed to have been with us…and yet, here we were, surrounded by store after store of affordable fashionista dreams with a suddenly rejuvenated teen girl. What to do. What to do.

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Well, what could we do? The boys jumped into a taxi to return to our air conditioned, free wifi offering, couch affording apartment and the girls shopped.

Did you know that brandy melville originated in Italy? We discovered this at Via Cola di Rienzo, 136 to be exact, in the neighbourhood of Prati, just north of the Vatican. Tee shirts. Skirts. Bags. Lomo cameras. Everything a teen girl could possibly want. I have to be honest, though, I was hoping for Italian themed  items in the store, but alas, it was California styling only, just like at home. Exactly like at home. But next door at Subdued? Success! An Italian take on teen style served up plenty of happy for my girl. Via Cola di Rienzo street was full of appealing shops, with wide sidewalks and shady trees. It was a great find and so different from the frenzied tourist retail areas we had seen earlier in the day. There are so many incredible shopping areas in Rome, but with a teen, this was the perfect, manageable area for her to shop – not crazy expensive, fashionable and fun. A successful end to a long, long, long day.

Rounding up the troops to go out for dinner that night was not an option. Luckily, the apartment we were staying at, in the shadow of the Vatican,  had a lovely little restaurant down the hill and around the corner. I had already read many great reviews about Goose, so I was ready for some good Italian pub cooking. Pub? The original incarnation of this restaurant was an English style pub…but it is now a veritable pizzeria. We ordered our food to go and were happy to wait with an order of a fresh selection of bruschetta and cold, cold beers. We watched the open pizza oven in action, with the pizza man bustling and laughing with the many regulars running in and out to get their pies. It was wonderful to be able to trundle back to our apartment, get into our pyjamas and eat yummy arancinis ( rice balls!), in the cozy comfort of an ample kitchen. Our apartment at Residence Via Aurelia was perfect for our tired nights.

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Our last full day in Rome flew by, as we finally figured out that splitting up was the key to harmony. While Jake held back to indulge some teenage sleep demands, the rest of us took off on a much easier walk to Piazza Navona. I swear I did not choose this pedestrian plaza simply because I knew there was a toy store there. And a Grom gelato shop. For real. It was for purely historical reasons, with the incredible examples of baroque artistry and the cool fact that the square is built atop the first stadium track in Rome, the Circus Agonalis. Honest. HOWEVER, Al Sogna is a lovely toy store and provided the perfect protection from the thunderous rain storm that opened up on us the moment we arrived at the square. The only rain we saw in two weeks, and it made an impression.

Suddenly Alex found himself in the very same position his sister had found herself the day before!  Everywhere he turned there were toys, toys, toys! Now, from the beginning we encouraged the kids to choose souvenirs that reflected the place we were visiting. So terribly hard when you are a four year old boy surrounded by soldatini di piombos, model cars and anything a young centurion could ever want. Surprisingly, his choice was quick and decisive! The selection of toys in this store ran from affordable toy figures to beautifully handcrafted Pinoccio puppets, and was very closely watched by the owner. Gruff in his Italian with careless shoppers, he turned sweet when Alex handed him his choice, wrapping his soldier carefully and handing him over with  a friendly “grazie”.

The rain continued, so we waited it out, eating more Grom gelato. I need to mention that traveling with a child with serious food allergies is always a little tricky, whether you are trying to decipher ingredients ( in english or any other language ) or having to say no to unsafe but oh so appealing choices. Grom made it very easy for us by providing clear allergy guidelines on their website. My favourite gelato flavour was the crema di groma while Alex favoured the limone and mango sorbets. Yum.

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Oh. That may be a priest in robes holding an umbrella running by as we ate the gelato. Just thought he needed to be shared.

Mark, at this point, left us to join Jake on a tour of the Vatican ( side note: it still blows Holly’s mind that the Vatican is it’s own little country in the middle of a city ). On the advice of a family we met in Venice, we booked the tour – very last minute – through Dark Rome Tours.

Line skipping? Personal guide? Small group? Hell yes. The big boys had a fantastic, in depth exploration of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, along with learning engaging historical facts about the Vatican. We knew that this was right up Jake’s alley, but Mark came away adequately awed and impressed by the sheer beauty and scope of the Sistine Chapel. I get to go next time;).

Another day, another family bagged and ready for sleep. But hungry. Always hungry. For our last Rome supper, we visited every mom and pop shop up and down Via Aurelia, collecting pizza and pasta and salad and drinks and chips and ice cream…because it was too early for a proper supper! None of the restaurant kitchens around us were open yet – so different than home. We taste tested pizza al taglio ( by the slice ) from two different spots – both convinced that their pizza was the best. One might have been better – but the other took it for decor…

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And then to bed…a big day of travel was up next for us. Cruise time!

Just need to mention:

I skipped a few of the sights we saw…there is so much to fit in, every day in Rome. Every corner, something amazing. Following is a quick photo roundup of the rest of our day…”getting skinny” so you do not get squished on narrow Roman streets; the Pantheon; lunch in the Piazza della Rotunda, eavesdropping on randy ex-pats; Piazza Campo dei Fiori; charming alleys and steps, being chased by an Italian grandmother convinced Alex was going to fall…he almost did trying to run away from her!

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