After months of thinking and weeks of planning, we are finally under way. It still feels a little like we are just on holiday and at any minute will have to return to the work, school routine….
Our 4 days in Rome have been fantastic – despite some pretty atrocious weather at times. And its lovely to be in such a child friendly place (the clichés are true!). Even before we landed Lauren had the Italian gentleman next to her contorting himself and sucking in his not insubstantial belly so she could look out of his window – another gave her half his chocolate bar on the bus in from the airport, and yet another helped her with the bag she insisted she could manage on her own.
There was a certain amount of confusion at the airport when we landed – we bought a ticket for the 4.30pm bus to town inside the terminal, but when we got to the bus we were told it was full. Then it wasn’t full, there were two seats, but there were four people in front of us…. Then it turned out 2 of the 4 people in front of us had booked online and hadn’t turned up… the other 2 in front of us were an American couple who decided the best way to magic up some non-existent seats would be to have a total strop and harangue the young girl taking the tickets. This led to her giving them an earful and sending them back to the airport terminal for a refund, which they stormed off to do… leaving us, who had been waiting patiently to see how this all worked out, to stroll aboard and take the last 2 seats! I guess years of dealing with the confusão of Mozambique and Portugal gives us an advantage at times.
Day One: We knew day one was likely to be the best weather wise, so we really packed it in. In the morning, we visited the Colosseum (only the outside though as I’d organized a special kids-focussed tour for later in the week), which blew Lauren away. As we strolled from there past the forum towards Circus Maximius (the ancient chariot racing ground) Lauren spotted a fabulous Polizei Land Rover 110, all kitted out in interesting looking gear. She wanted a photo but by the time I found my phone in my bag, it’d gone. These guys happily stepped in as substitutes…… and she is a well brought up kid so thanked them and posed, although clearly its not quite the same 🙂
At circus Maximus, we had a picnic in the ’spectator area’ imagining the chariots racing by below.
After lunch, we walked down to the river Tiber, and crossed over onto the tiny island imaginatively named Tiber island. There’s not much there other than a couple of restaurants and a couple of churches (of course). We then jumped on a bus to the Vatican, where we agreed that we weren’t interested in standing in the enormous queue to access St Peter’s (I’d been there before and Lauren, who was already convinced there are more churches in Rome than Pizza places, declared ‘it’s just another big church’ so I googled the inside for her and we went for ice cream instead!).
Then we jumped on the metro and got off at the Spanish steps, and spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering with the throngs through the small alleyways, stopping off briefly at the Trevi Fountain along with a million or so other tourists, and ending up at the Pantheon.
I love the Pantheon. Its the most preserved building from ancient Rome, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome. It was built between A.D 118 and 125. The ceiling is a perfect dome and beautiful in its simplicity, especially compared to the gaudiness of many of the churches. I can’t help feeling though that it’s a shame it has been converted into a church today, rather than left as it was.
After that, we felt we deserved an early dinner, so we wandered for a while through back streets until we found a suitable looking pizzeria, where Lauren declared the pizza “better than mundos”. Hi praise indeed.
Day Two: With severe thunderstorms and flooding predicted, we dedicated the morning to schooling, although at ‘break time’ Lauren decided to check out her new waterproof shoes and coat….
After lunch we braved the rain to visit the Palazzo Massimo archaeological museum. This was surprisingly non-dull and Lauren really enjoyed the collections of Roman ‘everyday objects’ and coins, as well as the mummified body of an 8-year-old Roman girl found near Rome. The mummy of Grottarosa dating from the 2nd Century.
On the top floor, an entire Roman house Villa Farnesina has been re-constructed using the original frescoes and mosaics. Each room has been reconstructed to the same dimensions as the villa, and it’s really quite something. There is also a video simulating what the original looked like. Lauren found it fascinating.
Day Three: Colosseum tour day! We dedicated the morning to long division and reading/writing about Pompeii before a picnic lunch in front of the Colosseum and then the tour. Lauren was beside herself to get inside, but once inside she quickly made friends with a couple of Australian kids, and the wonders of the ancient world paled into insignificance against real life fun and games and comparing who had the most mean mother (mainly based on whether they were allowed phones and other devices, their ears pierced and other similar criteria). I think I came out middling mean.
The tour guide was excellent and brought various gifts for the kids and also kept them interested with games such as ‘Roman Bingo’ and guessing the modern-day versions of Roman words. Lauren, with two romance languages and English under her belt and a love of all things maths, had to be quietly told to pipe down and let others answer occasionally! Unfortunately, due to the rain the previous day they had closed the Forum, but we had seen plenty of it from the outside on day one, and it was really the Colosseum that Lauren had wanted to see in Rome, so we went home happily to pack.
It strikes me that it must be quite frustrating to be a modern-day Roman, with half the city containing ancient ruins of one thing or another, and the city constantly thronged with tourists. The security situation is obviously also fraught – there were large numbers of army and police at metro stations and all the main tourist sites, and a number of streets have been closed off. Rome also seems far more multicultural than when I last spent any time there (many years ago). I have always loved the energy in Rome, and that hasn’t changed. Crossing the road remains a constant but quite exhilarating game of chicken. It was different being there with a child – best travel accessory ever, at least in Rome! She had old women getting up so she could sit down in the metro (much to her chagrin as she would far rather stand), old men in the supermarket queue telling me how beautiful she was, and waiters fawning over her.
Rome was a wonderful, easy start to our trip, and we managed to do it without completely breaking our budget, despite the eye-watering prices. We self-catered mainly, and stayed a little out of the centre, in a mixed residential area on a cute little commuter tram line that trundled along at just over walking speed into Termini station.
Next stop – Naples for Pompeii, Vesuvius and (more) Pizza!