We had a lot of trouble narrowing down a second destination for this trip. There were so many possibilities. We were literally up for anything. Our individual lists had 5 or 6 cities on them. We kept switching ideas and thoughts. And we also had to factor in that we were traveling with more children than adults.
Finally, we literally ended up just going on Google flights and looking at the whole continent of Europe. You can just look at the map of Europe on your screen and see how much flying to each city costs. Ok – so where are the cheapest places to fly on our dates?? Turns out, Rome was one of them. We all thought that sounded great.
So, Rome it is. The kids will like that, right? Why not?
And that’s how we decided. Google flights.
off to Rome
We flew to Rome early on Easter morning. Very early.
Like, we had to get up at 4:30A.M. It was nice though, because there was no one at the airport and we moved easily and quickly through everything. We had some breakfast at the airport and boarded our plane. This flight was the only one out of three that was not delayed. So, maybe there’s something to flying out that early.
The kids did great on this travel leg. Better than the adults, naturally. They just got right up and put on their neon uniforms. None of them were mad at us for waking them up so early, they just went with it. I felt lucky to have happy kids all morning.
The advantage of arriving early on your travel day is that you have a bunch of the day left once you land. One might normally take a short nap in their hotel room, and then leisurely head out to enjoy what is left of the day. And that sounds like a wonderful plan.
Ummm, that’s not really how it works with kids. You will not rest. No.
Nope, no rest for you.
We got lucky with another great rental home. This place was clean, light, modern and spacious. Since it was Easter, all the stores were closed and we couldn’t buy any food for the house. I’d thought ahead to ask, and the owner of the property had stocked us up with a few essentials.
Once we got to our rental, an exhausted Theo laid down for a nap while we settled in. But once he was up, we ventured out. Even though most neighborhood stores were closed, public transit was running, and restaurants and tourist areas were open. We walked down to Piazza de Popolo and then walked from there to the Spanish Steps, which were under construction. We gawked around, took in the sun and the beautiful day. We saw some amazing shopping, and the boys played bubbles in the piazza. We still had on our clothes from the plane, and we were all exhausted. But we were so happy to be here and it was a nice relaxing way to start our time in Rome.
We’d had a REALLY really long day, and at the Piazza we realized it was approaching dinner/bed time for the kids. We also realized that they were all melting at an increasingly alarming rate. If we didn’t get them fed and back to the house and in bed, we would end up with crying heaps of children in the middle of this Italian city. Heaps. Too many to carry. Lots of crying, and lots of children doing the limp noodle bit on the dirty pavement. There were a few restaurants by the Piazza, but they were all nice Italian ones that we knew were going to take waaaay too long for our hungry minions.
So.. we fed them Burger King.
Anyway, after the kids went to bed we found the nearest take out.
And it was fine. Just ok.
Like, not special or great in any way.
Certainly not the best pizza or pasta we’ve ever had.
NOO, uh huh.
The sauce was not fresh. The pasta was not handmade. The tuna was not unexpectedly scrumptious. The cheese was stupid.
The pizza did not have the most amazing crust that you can’t even understand how it is possible to make a pizza crust that exists in the world like this.
The sauce. Like, what happened?
The tomatoes. ugh.
I mean, it was fine. And we were calm about it.
Like, I dunno…. this:
And then, maybe this:
So, I’ll just skip ahead to some of our other eats and talk about that:
Like, I don’t know how to behave myself.
It’s one of those things that messes with your head.
They served us a platter of meat and cheese, which first of all is incredible. Can you imagine going to TGI Friday’s or Olive Garden and them bringing you a meat and cheese platter? It would be so lame… and probably really gross. But the meat and cheese platter you get in Gusto’s in Rome is not lame or gross. Not at all. In fact you feel like you are having the best food ever… and it’s basically a deli meat sandwich without the bread. What is going on?
You think you are tasting the most amazing cheese that you’ve ever had in your entire life. But then you’re like, no, that doesn’t make any since. I’ve eaten a lot of cheese. I’ve lived for however many years… this can’t be the totally best cheese ever… right? It’s just because I’m sitting here in Italy and it’s really pretty. And I want it to be good.
It’s something that I’m just making myself think. How can this cheese be sooo far superior to any other cheese. Cheese is cheese. How good can it be? What are they doing in Italy that they’re not doing in America to make this amazing cheese. How can it be that much better? It’s like all the other cheese is all of the hockey players that have ever played in the NHL, and then the cheese you are currently eating is Wayne Gretzky.
It’s better than all the rest and nobody can ever touch it.
It doesn’t have to make sense.
And then you’re a little bit mad that you’ve not had access to the Wayne Gretzky cheese before. And you also feel a little desperate because you’ll never have the Wayne Gretzky cheese again, after you leave. The Wayne Gretzky cheese in Rome has ruined you for all other cheeses. And then you feel annoyed.
Now, we can apply this feeling to the whole spectrum of Italian food, including coffee (oh my gosh – I can’t even), and that’s sort of how I feel after eating in Rome.
I don’t know.. maybe it was all the wine.
But, come on, when the AIRPORT CAFETERIA looks like this:
You are bound to be in crisis.
I would like to state that we did our best to get recommendations for good food, from either trip advisor, Rick Steves, or Anthony Bourdain. I imagine there is bad food in Rome, we just didn’t have any. I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain in Rome before we left. On there, the Italian men said “Other people, they eat to live. And Italians, they live to eat.”
I was only in one city for a couple days, and I get that now. There is a importance placed on goodness. There is a respect for quality ingredients.
They are in LOVE with their food. Sub-par is not okay.
Except at Burger King.
This day we went to the Colosseum. It’s old… and huge. It’s just as amazing as you imagine it will be. The boys LOVED it. They loved the story of the gladiators and the animals that used to fight in here. They loved the size of it all and talking about how the building had fallen into disrepair. Of all the things we did – Harry remembers this the most.
After the Colosseum, we took the bus to the Pantheon and Trevvi Fountain.
*** side note on the transportation system in Rome. On the plus side – you buy one card and its gets you on any bus, tram, or train. In Amsterdam that was not the case. You needed a bus ticket, separate train tickets, and separate tram tickets. Talk about annoying. Anyway – one ticket gets you everywhere, so we were excited.
On the negative side – the system is a little harder to figure out. And after this trip I concluded that we are extremely spoiled in London. Our trains run every 6-8 minutes all over the city, and our buses run every 8-12, also all over the city. Things are clearly and simply marked and incredibly clean – for the most part. There are tons of employees everywhere and announcements are made at every stop. Basically, it’s amazing.
In Rome, we found that it was a little dark, and dirty, on the underground. Things weren’t as clearly marked, or announced. You just kinda get on the bus, and hope it goes the right way. Then hope that you recognize where you need to stop, and then hope that the bus that you’re on actually stops there.
The trains don’t run as often, and neither do the buses. In fact, we sat near the Trevi Fountain waiting for our bus so long that we actually gave up. We were waiting for the number 53 and it was supposed to come in 12 minutes, but never did. We waited and waited. So many other buses went by, the 191.. 64… whatever. No 53.
Finally at about 30 minutes, we decided to leave our post and try to find another way to get back. But we knew our options were going to be limited plus we were all exhausted and didn’t want to walk anymore.
As we walked further away from the bus stop, I kept turning my head around just looking to see if a 53 was coming. And you know what? Once we got really far away – almost too far away to see the number on the buses, sure enough, a number 53 comes pulling up. But, we had left the stop and were now halfway between the last stop and the next stop. This meant that we – five adults, four walking children, two strollers, plus purses and backpacks – went running down the sidewalk to the next stop.
Yelling at each other, and the kids. We can make it! We can! Run guys! Traffic is stopped, we have a chance! He’ll let us on, if he sees us! Damn you 53 bus!
And we did – we made it on. Whew.
But, ya, that part of Rome is underwhelming for sure.
We’ll forgive it though, because pizza.
Day three was Vatican day. For this outing, we left the two littlest babies back at the house with Rica and only took the older boys. We arrived at 9 in the morning with our pre-booked tickets and were able to avoid the huuuuuge line.
I’m still in denial about the Vatican.
I mean, we’re not even Catholic.
I went into it without expectations, and it was the most incredible place.
You can’t even believe your eyes. You can’t even believe the quality. You can’t believe the QUANTITY. You can’t believe the attention to detail.. what it must have taken… how much it must have cost. It feels like EVERY SQUARE INCH of every single room, everywhere we were allowed to go, was covered. Covered in painted art or gold or marble or ivory. The opulence is unreal. You can’t even count the tapestries. You can’t count the statues.
The beautiful windows, the doorways, the courtyards. I see why people come from all over the world to visit. It was my favorite place we went the entire trip. You don’t have to be catholic to appreciate it.
We went through the Raphael Rooms, and we got our picture with the pope:
We visited the Sistine Chapel, where you are not allowed to take pictures. And from there we snuck (literally snuck through a “restricted passageway”) from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica.
I can’t believe St. Peter’s Basilica. It just doesn’t quit.
In the afternoon, we went back to the house. We cuddled and rested. Erika braided Viv’s hair for the first time and we began packing up.
Our flight back to London ended up being delayed by almost three hours. At least we weren’t trapped on the plane though. We waited in the terminal, and ate, and played. Then when we boarded, we learned that they had to replace our scheduled plane with a bigger better plane. This meant we had entire aisles to ourselves, and it lessened the blow of having to wait so long.
And then… we were back “home” in London. Back to the land of the full English language and the speedy and easy-to-understand transportation system.
And it felt good. Really good.
where we stayed:
best place we ate: