Since studying abroad in Rome in 2001 I’ve always loved the city. It’s probably that experience that contributed to my wanting to move abroad again as an adult. We took the kids to Rome for 5 days over Patrick’s half term break. He wanted to spend his birthday in Italy and we couldn’t think of a better place to spend a birthday.
We decided to try Ryanair for the first time (and most likely the last) so we had to travel out of Stansted airport about an hour and half from our house. It seemed like what could go wrong would go wrong that day. We ended up sitting in 2 different construction projects; luckily we did leave early but after 2 ½ hours we were getting nervous. We finally got to the airport to find out even though our luggage met the size requirements it didn’t meet the weight requirement. Our options were to pay a £260 charge or go buy a new suitcase and pay for another bag. We ended up running like crazy around the airport, splitting the luggage up, weighing the bags and then trying to through security and the terminal in order to make our flight. We did make it and could finally take a deep breath and we were on our way.
We spent the next 4 days walking, walking, and walking. The plan was to take it easy and not push it too hard with the babies but the city is so beautiful and there is so much to see that it was constant. It seems like you are always just a few blocks from the next sight so might as well keep going. Each morning we would head to a piazza buy some pastries and coffee and just sit. Kellen is now an expert bird chaser and Patrick would wander and take it the sculptures. Our favourite ended up being Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon.
Patrick was in awe of the Colosseum, I don’t think it gets much better than that for a 13 year old. To see where the gladiators and animals were kept and fought was so much fun. We used a book called Rome With Kids and it ended up being great, at each fountain or location it was full of fun little facts about what we were seeing. For example the fountain in Piazza Navona depicts the 4 major rivers in the world but at the time they didn’t know where the head of the Nile was, so the figure depicting the Nile has its head covered. Through reading the Percy Jackson series of books Patrick is actually quite familiar with mythology so going through the Villa Borghese and seeing the stories depicted in sculpture was a lot of fun.
The biggest surprise of the trip was the overwhelming response the kids got from the Italian people. I’d like to think our babies are just exceptionally beautiful but I think it probably also has to do with the low birth rate in Italy. They are crazy for babies and toddlers. We were literally stopped in the Metro station by a woman just wanting to tell us how cute the babies were, in the Forum a woman was all over them even joking she’d like to babysit. Just walking around people would smile and give the kids a lot of attention but nowhere did we see it more than in the restaurants. The waitresses would take Ella, walk her around the restaurant and take pictures of her. In one little restaurant the owner was an older Italian woman who immediately called herself Nona (Grandma) and then took Ella off our hands for the majority of our meal, I would look around and see her back in the kitchen being passed around. Kellen had a unique ability to have free food and drinks sent to him. He got 2 free desserts and one night a restaurant owner sent him a glass of coke, it was his first time having soda and I told him it was special juice so he doesn’t get any big ideas that he can now have soda. He also toured kitchens and hammed it up for the waitresses that fawned all over him. For Jamie and I it made the trip so much easier and more enjoyable. The hardest part of traveling with the kids at this age is trying to go and sit in a restaurant, make sure they eat and at the same time don’t act up and bother everyone else. The food is so wonderful that I think Kellen ate more in those 5 days than he ever has. Pizza, pasta, good fresh mozzarella and gelato he didn’t stop eating, and then to have free range of the restaurants and plenty of attention made meals not only stress free but actually enjoyable! If anyone is looking for kid friendly travel destinations I would say Italy so far has been the best.
Overall it was an amazing trip. I have an emotional attachment to the city so could not have been happier to be back. The weather was beautiful each day. The kids were happy and it felt like they were being exposed to art, culture and food while having so much fun. The one thing I wanted to make sure and do was go to the Trevi Fountain, not only is it beautiful but they say if you throw a coin in the fountain you will return. I have pictures of Jamie and I throwing coins in 10 years ago that are some of my favourite. At the time I don’t think we would have imagined we would be back again together, 10 years later, as a family of 5. We threw in our coins and are hoping it doesn’t take another 10 before we’re there again.