ah Roma – bellissimo! Our highlights…
Roma – capital of Italy and home to rich culture, history and… food! Coming to the end of Ramadan in Dubai and completely oppressed by the excruciating summer heat of 45deg+, we decided to take our little family (minus Miss Sparky who is relaxing in Aus) to explore some of this fabulous city and restore our belief in the joy that comes from good wine and good food shared with good friends. There are so many highlights in this fabulous city, I’ve tried to pick a few of our favourites to share…
a dodgy start
The trip didn’t start out on a high note – a typical note for our family but not a high one. Having endured a particularly long week of travel, for lovely hubby, and work for me, we got to the night before we had planned to leave and were lying, virtually comatose on the couch. Not looking like two people about to head out on an exciting adventure to Europe, I’m sure I remember mumbling to Lovely Hubby “maybe we should look at taking the earlier flight tomorrow rather than leaving in the afternoon”. To which he promptly mumbled a reply of “nah”. The extent of our evening conversation.
So then when Chubs awoke at 5:30am the next morning, we were lying there debating about who would get up to get him out of bed and I merely mentioned that “there may not be places open for breakfast given it’s a public holiday”. I’m not sure what about this sentence stirred hubby into action, but next thing I know, we are madly running around the house grabbing stuff to shove in a bag and logging on to change to the 9:30am flight in the morning. By the time we got moving we had exactly one hour to pack, shower, eat and mobilise the Chubs to head to the airport.
Fast forward a couple of hours and there we are, leisurely sitting on the plane enjoying a coffee and high-fiving each other at our exceptional rallying to make it to the flight with our bags, baby and mental health firmly intact. No-one looking at us would know the drama of the morning and we were on such a high, we were ready for anything!
Colosseum – late afternoon is the key
Due to our unexpectedly early arrival, we were well placed to sit for a moment and enjoy some much needed Italian red wine and yummy cheese before we headed out to start exploring – we were open to anything the city wanted to provide us.
And provide it did…we wandered past the Colosseum and noticed that there was absolutely no line out the front. This is completely unheard of in summer so we jumped straight on the chance to get into this amazing building without having to endure a soul-sapping lineup that stretched over hours and kilometres. A good tip for anyone wanting to visit this amazing monument is to go once the crowds of tour buses and gypsies have dispersed and the sun has lost some of its sting. Perfect lighting for photos as well!
As always, the Chubs was tough to impress. As a 2-year old, he has little to no interest in anything other than his next meal and his favourite Ferrari car and the Colosseum, a truly monumental 3-tiered Roman amphitheater, was no exception. All it was to him was a series of hidey-holes for his little Ferrari car. Who knew there were so many holes in the walls anyway!
Trevi Fountain – what the???
Once we had exhausted the supply of holes in the walls of the Colosseum, we walked down to explore the city and wandered aimlessly until we stumbled across the Trevi fountain. In the process of being cleaned, this icon was looking truly fabulous but unfortunately was covered by fences and scaffolding as the work was ongoing. It also strangely had a plastic platform set up across the front. Dismissing this as some dodgy attempt at making something iconic into some weird attraction we took a couple of shots through the fence and kept walking, all the while shaking our heads in disappointment.
We’ve since discovered Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld ran an iconic fashion show that night from this very spot. The show even had the IT girls of the moment, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. If only I knew at the time I would have had more reverence (or something), but I guess this sort of thing happens all the time in Europe and being too impressed is not cool!
food in the alleyway complete with drive-bys
We were so hungry by this time that when we stumbled across a restaurant in an alley way it only took one look to check that there was wine and pizza on the menu and we were sold. The hot, overworked waiter built us a table in the alley and we sat to enjoy some amazing pasta, pizza and wine – the first of many.
What was interesting about this ‘restaurant’ was that we were literally sitting in a narrow alleyway that the restaurant owner had clearly not managed to get blocked off to traffic. So, as I was innocently spooning massive forkfuls of spaghetti in my mouth, I was nearly shocked into a choke by the taxi that went zooming behind my chair on the way down the street. I was glad I didn’t have my hair in a bun at the back of my head as it quite possibly could have been taken off, such was the proximity of the vehicles. Somehow, it just added to the crazy Italian-ness of the setting though and our immense hunger combined with the fact that the term ‘piccolo’ in Italy translates to ‘half bottle of wine’ everywhere else, helped make a fabulous start to the evening for us teetotalers.
gatherings in the park
The next morning, the Chubs delightfully awoke again at 5:30am, this time loudly singing “the wheels on the bus” while mummy and daddy slowly rolled over to grasp at glasses of water and try to focus on the clock having enjoyed a few too many ‘piccolo’s’ the night before. Not wanting to further disturb the household, we took the opportunity to go for a walk and soak in the city as it was waking up and still feeling cool and fresh.
We found a lovely park on the hill overlooking the city and as the Chubs ran off towards the treehouse we noticed the remnants of someone’s house set up on the platform. It was then that we looked around and noticed various little camps of people dotted around the perimeter of the park and realised, this is where the homeless people hang out. They weren’t menacing in any way really, but it did make you feel a little vulnerable as there quite a lot of them, all at various stages of dressing, undressing or sleeping. As you don’t see this in Dubai, Chubs was quite fascinated and kept staring at the inhabitant of his treehouse, probably wondering why the guy wasn’t going down the slide. Needless to say, we made a reasonably quick exit.
walk… wine… walk… wine…
The rest of the day was fabulous – alternating between drinking wine in snazzy restaurants and bars to walking around the cobbled streets and taking in some of the amazing buildings – the Pantheon being the most famous and one of the most spectacular. There’s so much to see just wandering around the centre of Rome and in summer, when the days are long and the sun is hot, it’s very easy to lose track of time.
Our day ended with a couple of hours in a chic little wine bar trying to make sense of the world’s strangest cocktail menu and comparing weird things we can do with our eyes, ears, limbs and tongues. Who knew my talented nephew could impersonate Donald Duck with flawless precision. There’s something about just sitting and people-watching, enjoying good wine and yummy nibbles that makes the trials and tribulations of life worthwhile.
get your guide on
The next day was Vatican time. I was a little dubious about this expedition having seen previously how crazy the lines can get and concerned about the ability of the Chubs to really appreciate the art(!) We were saved from a day of whining and sooking by this amazing company, Get Your Guide.
With many tour companies, you pay lots of money and then you have to walk around getting lectured for hours about every nook, cranny, painting and sculpture within the place you are touring. Not Get Your Guide. You can purchase a tour like that if you want, but what got us all excited was their tour that is -not really a tour. You meet them like a normal tour group, then follow them into the building, they take you through security and then they cut you loose. The biggest bonus being that you completely skip the massive, horrendous line up that, on the day we were there, was estimated at a wait time of over 3 hours. The PERFECT scenario for us.
We were then free to take the Vatican at our own pace. The Chubs obligingly fell asleep just as we entered the museum. Working on his standard pram nap duration, we knew we only had about 30-40 minutes to make our way around the whole thing and through the Sistine Chapel before the calm, serene atmosphere of prayer and contemplation could potentially be ruined by the unsettling wail of one bored, hot and frustrated Chubs.
A little bit of creative queue hopping between tour groups, the odd elbow, muscle and smiling leap and we were through the main bits and ready to enter the famous Holy Door. Chubs deigned to awake for this incredible moment as we crossed the threshold of the door that the Pope only opens every 25 years or so. Once inside, feeling cleansed and pious, we wandered this amazing structure.
The Chubs, once again, took the opportunity to try to locate all possible resting places for his favourite Ferrari car, loudly objecting in an otherwise quiet place when he was asked to stop running his car over the foot of the Saint. We thought it best to move on at this point and enjoy some slightly more kid-friendly pursuits.
sunset over Roma
As we frolicked at the base of the Colosseum again, having enjoyed yet another amazing pizza/pasta/wine event, the sun began to set and the sky turned an amazing pink and blue. It suddenly hit me that here we were in Rome for the weekend – a pursuit completely unheard of when you are from Australia! Rome was only somewhere you went if you could dedicate a significant period of time to make all the travel there worthwhile.
I think, if we’re being honest, the only thing Chubs took in was the fact that his car can fit in lots of places in Rome and that food is very hearty. And yet, I love the fact that he’s getting to explore all these different places with us and experience some of the amazing times you have travelling, especially with family. Such special moments that I’m certain will be embedded within his memory, even if only subconsciously.
Good times, great wine and great company – a fabulous weekend adventure!
Have a great week everyone