Adventures in Rome
Rome is a bustling, hectic, metropolitan city. Cars whiz by without stopping for pedestrians and are parked on sidewalks, curbs, in cross walks and anywhere they can fit. Despite the modern chaos and noise, history is everywhere you turn.
The day we arrived was action packed. We pulled up to our hotel, La Meridian, and were greeted by my German sister, Frederike (Fred). She had flown in the day before to tour the city with us (I originally told her we would be there Sunday, but in typical Kate fashion I was off by a day)! Andy had to go potty, so Brian took him while Fred and I caught up a little. Then suddenly people were running, and there was an alarm going off in the distance. I thought nothing of it until I saw the look on Brian’s face as he walked up the marble staircase toward me, carrying a laughing child. Apparently, it was my wild child that pulled the alarm. OOPS. Not quite how I imagined started off this adventure!
Once we finally settled in and Andy had run around tormenting everyone in the lobby, the outdoor patio and the bar area with his jumping, swinging, running and singing at the top of his lungs – we were off.
We brought a stroller with us, and it was good to contain our little monster while walking down the busy streets and corridors, across cross walks and in crowded places. However, the stroller was a nuisance at the Colosseum and not allowed in the Vatican or in St. Peter's church. (image: stroller.jpg)
The first day we walked around the city, found some parks to run and play in, saw the Spanish Steps and went to the Colosseum. If Andy didn’t want to do something, all we had to do was suggest a race or gelato and we had agreement. Of course, gelato wasn’t always the best choice on our part since the sugar fueled more terror!
We booked a private, guided tour of the Colosseum through the tour company “With Locals” because we didn’t know how Andy would do. It worked out very well because our guide was able to be more flexible, could change what she was showing us based on our interest and we could go at our own pace. It was also nice because I can’t go through metal detectors with my defibrillator (ICD), and she was able to explain to the guards so I could go around.
Once Andy learned about the gladiators, he kept asking us where they were and wanted to go find them. So we snuck around “looking for them” among the ruins. Finally, our tour guide, Ceclia, said, “Andy let me call them and see if they are coming to work today.” When she told him they were not because, “They were out eating pizza,” he was slightly disappointed but seemed satisfied.
The next morning, we got up early and met Fred for cappuccino and some breakfast at a little café around the corner. As we negotiated the cobblestones, squeezing through the cars parked too closely together, I could hear Italiano everywhere. I didn’t know what everyone was saying, but I understood bits and pieces. When we got to the restaurant, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have a lot of options, but I was wrong. There are plenty of vegan and gluten free options available if you pay attention to the signs outside the restaurants. I did not adhere to my typical diet (dairy free, gluten free and 80% vegan) most of the time, but when I could, I did. Andy mostly wanted tomatoes and salami - so he ate the tomatoes off of the bruschetta and pulled the salami out of the sandwiches! I think most kids would be happy eating in Rome since spaghetti, pizza and gelato are everywhere you turn.
We spent the next several hours walking around the city in markets and around fountains. We had lunch in the piatteza and made our way to the Vatican. We had another private guided tour through the Vatican. We met Francisca at 3:00 p.m. at the museum gate. We had asked to go in the morning, but luckily she suggested we go later. The Vatican closes its doors at 4:00 p.m. (but is open until 6:00 p.m.), so the later you go, the fewer people there are: perfect for a child.
The Vatican was harder for Andy and for us than the Colosseum because in many places you are expected to be quiet and not touch anything, plus there is a lot of walking. Brian and I took turns carrying Andy through the long, decorative halls and past the beautiful mosaics. Eventually, he fell asleep in our arms and remained so for about an hour!
Next, we went to St. Peter's Square and church. WOW. It was incredible. I have never seen anything like it. I was so tired and sick of being around the crowds that I almost wanted to go home, but Brian urged me to get in line. Once again, Andy was asked to use his “inside voice,” and it was difficult, but he did fine.
We did not climb up to the dome because it was 800 stairs, and there was no way I could make it – earlier in the day I could feel my irregular heart beat and maybe even some VT as I climbed up a small/moderate hill to see a view of the city. These are the moments I still get frustrated. I am 36 years old. Two years ago, I was training for a half ironman, and today I couldn’t climb the stairs.
The moment we got back outside, Andy was crawling around on the ground pretending to swim and be “a sack of potatoes” while he laughed loudly. He had had enough of being quiet. So, we proceeded to St. Peter's Square to let him run off some energy. That evening both he and I fell asleep before the lights were out.
Now we are off to Venice....
**A few tips for people traveling to/from Rome for the first time:**
Don’t let too many people help you, especially at the train station or in tourist areas because they all expect money. I unfortunately fell for it not one, not two, but on three separate occasions, to Brian's dismay. Sometimes, I am a little naive when it comes to trusting people.
At the Rome train station: there is great food upstairs, so don't bother with the food when you first get in.
Get business class seats on the train, especially with a family. It is so much easier to spread out and enjoy the ride.
Book your tours ahead of time. The private tour with "With Locals" of the Colosseum was well worth it, and so was the private tour of the Vatican.