Well my recommendation would definitely be – do NOT do Rome in 1 day. You need at least a week, minus children, to explore all that Rome has to offer. Preferably go during a colder period when the place isn’t so overrun with tourists.
The kiddies, minus Rohan (who is happy and excited about EVERYTHING) were not happy about the prospect of visiting Rome, after the disastrous trip to Versailles where we had to wait 2.5 hours in a queue and then shuffled around the castle in a sea of excursionists with their selfie sticks poking high in the air everywhere. It was ridiculous and completely unsafe. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of crowds, Versailles was choking to the maximum and any kind of disaster or alarm would have started a stampede which surely would have resulted in great loss of life.
No matter how many times I talked up ancient Rome, the girls were hesitant to go due to fear of crowds. “Do you know it’s thanks to the ancient Romans that we have proper sanitation and hygiene??? Or that they were the first to invent ‘Fast food’ and advertising (two things my children are particularly fond of)? AND they invented democracy the principles of which govern our own country!!! Remember how I told you that the ancient Brits used to throw their waste (poo & urine) out of their windows and on to the streets below? Well it’s thanks to the Romans that we don’t have to walk around in fear of having wee and shit dumped on our heads nowadays!!!” I said excitedly to a 3 blank faces (Kylah, Jazzy and Isabelle) and 1 enthralled face (Rohan).
“They ruled most of Europe for over ONE THOUSAND years!! The ancient buildings you have seen in England, France and Switzerland are babies compared to the Roman buildings!!! In fact, you’ll notice that all the buildings and castles we’ve seen so far have been influenced by these original Roman buildings!” still no response from the girls. “The Pantheon to this day is the largest unsupported concrete dome ever to be built!! When Michelangelo, not the turtle but the sculptor/painter/architect, first saw it he claimed it looked more like the work of angels than humans. AND it is still in perfect condition after 2000 years!!! It is the most well preserved building in the WORLD. We will get to go in it and marvel at it the same as Michelangelo did along with many other famous people over the last two thousand years.” I wasn’t selling it to anyone other than Rohan who was absorbing the facts like a sponge on a dirty kitchen bench (my ‘facts’ may have been as credible as that dirty kitchen bench having been slightly exaggerated in order to evoke enthusiasm from the three girls).
“Fine we’ll go” grumbled the girls. Geez. I’m such a terrible mother. Forcing my poor offspring to experience such history and culture. To be fair, claustrophobia in big crowds is nothing to joke about and is a legitimate fear. We did what we could to minimise the fear in the girls and worked out ways we could experience Rome whilst avoiding crowds, where possible.
The Colosseum, which would have been my first pick to tour, was ruled out due to cost. I want to do an underground tour which would have set us back $1000 for our family and give rise to all kinds of fear/terror/hysteria in my offspring. Selfies from the outside would have to do for now, along with a brief description of it’s history.
Our journey from Pomezia to Rome involved a bus, a train, 1 hour of research the previous night and a 30 minute conversation in broken Italian/ broken English in a tobacco shop to purchase the 20 tickets – 10 for the bus and 10 for the train. The conversation in the tobacco shop about which tickets I needed went on for so long that eventually an English speaking person happened upon the tobacco store and translated my requirements (which were correct – thanks to Ben’s extensive research and despite the tobacco shop owner telling me that I needed different tickets). We received the tickets just in time to catch the bus and begin our hour long journey.
Public transport is such a novelty for my children, as our location in Brisbane and the fact that they have a devoted mother who drives them everywhere, means that they rarely have to catch it and have certainly never been on a double decker bus, as the one yesterday was. Rohan and Isabelle sat up the top deck right in front so they could see directly out the window. Only one of the seatbelt’s was working and Rohan insisted Isabelle have that seat. I could not have been prouder of him. I probably should have moved them both to other seats with working seatbelt’s but I had suspicions that probably 80% of the seatbelt’s didn’t work or would have been ineffective if they did work due to the age and condition of the bus.
After the bus and train we arrived at the Colosseum and everyone seemed happy. Kids and I happily posed for photos and selfies and marvelled at the magnificent structure. We then followed Ben’s well oiled plan to the next item to gape and be entranced by – the Fountain of Trevi. Unfortunately, poor Ben hadn’t factored into his well oiled plan my tendency to stop every three seconds and pretend I’m a photographer trying to capture original images of Rome to wow everyone on Instagram with. He also did not calculate into the time the amount of peering at the reconstructions and excavations which are going on everywhere.
These probably fascinated me the most to be honest. You can view parts of the city that are being excavated and restored after being destroyed during battles or earthquakes. It’s incredulous. The tiny chips of intricate floor tiles are being found and pieced back together one minuscule piece at a time, large columns being resurrected with a plan in place to restore ancient Rome to it’s original beauty. It’s like the world’s most complicated puzzle.
I am absolutely beguiled and enthralled by the history of Rome. The fact that they were able to establish democracy in a time where ruling was thought to be a birthright of the elite monarchy beggars belief. The rise and fall of this powerful Empire is a fascinating tale, which I have no intention of typing out (fingers are getting sore) but is well worth a read. Actually, a lot can be learned from studying what leads to the fall or decline of the worlds once greatest societies. Information that we can probably find relevant in current situations around the world.
I found the little, cobbled streets with the charming buildings (whose ages and history I was desperate to know but had no way of finding out) as inspiring, if not more so, as the big tourist attractions. I must have taken at least a thousand photos of the little streets, much to the disgust of my troop who kept complaining that I had stopped AGAIN!!!
Our second major tourist stop, the fountain of Trevi, was reached after a short stop off for lunch in front of an excavation site (much to my delight!). Lunch was tiny pre-toasted breads with ham and cheese on them. I took a photo for your viewing pleasure. I am wanting these pre-toasted breads to be introduced to Australia – along with many other European delights.
The fountain of Trevi was so crowded it was almost impossible to get a photo of the kids in front of the water without having tourists block the water. We couldn’t even get anywhere near it to be honest. No chance of tossing a coin or sticking our hand in.
The route from Trevi to Pantheon seemed to be a popular route as we shuffled along with millions of others. Every second person was trying to sell you an umbrella, bottle of water or worse still – slap a bracelet on you (that you can’t get off) and then demand payment. In Australia it is illegal to sell things in a public place without a permit. I sure wish Paris and Italy would adopt this policy. Rohan was terrified as he had been warned by so many people about scammers. One man holding bracelets tried to shake Rohan’s hand and he immediately shook his head and clung to me. The man said “Hey! What’s wrong? You don’t like black people?” Which horrified Rohan as he loves people of any colour. I was very annoyed at the man and then the kids and I watched in fascination as another man had a similar encounter with another boy. He did this kind of handshake with the boy then demanded payment for the bracelet. I could see the father trying to get the bracelets off the boy and his brother, who had also fallen prey, and despite Kylah’s hope that a fight would erupt, the boy’s father eventually handed over money and went on his way. Seems easier not to fight it.
I kept my “Paris face” on the whole time and didn’t even speak to anyone who tried to give me or offer me anything. It really is a shame because it certainly does affect your experience of the place. I’m sure some of them are trying to make an honest living. But the warnings of locals not to show any attention or even entertain smiling and saying hello to people walking around selling things stuck fast in my mind. We were told that if you stop to talk to them you could be distracted and then this time is then used to pick your pocket.
En-route to the Pantheon kids decided they needed the loo. Seeing a Macdonald’s we all felt relief. Surely they would have a toilet. They did indeed but according to the kids, the queue snaked right around the restaurant. We pushed on towards the Pantheon but didn’t see anywhere else. By this stage Isabelle was doing the “wee wee” walk so I decided to enter a restaurant, order the kids gelato, so that they can all use the restaurant bathrooms.
The girls were now over it. It was hot, mid afternoon and there were too many people. Girls were done, over cooked and ready to head back to our breezy apartment. Ben had a chipped bone on his foot and was struggling to get around so agreed that we could go home. But I wasn’t done and asked if anyone would mind if I continued on by myself as there were things I wanted to see still. Ben and girls didn’t mind (or so they said) and Rohan wanted to come along so we excitedly skipped off together.
My first purchase was a selfie stick so Rohan and I could still obtain awesome photos. We wandered from the Pantheon to the Vatican City via little back streets full of antique stores. One store had a plate in it for €350,000. I quickly removed Rohan from the store having seen him wandering around swinging his backpack (I could just imagine him smashing something that was worth more than our house) and from then on only viewed antique shops from the outside. We crossed the bridge and made our way to Vatican city. Despite my deepest fear, that Rohan may use this opportunity to spruik his Atheism, reminiscent of a missionary bringing Christianity to communities that are not Christian. I was sure that was the only reason he agreed to join me on my venture to look at churches and places of worship.
Thankfully Rohan was really respectful and did not make any loud inappropriate comments. After viewing the Vatican, Rohan and I decided to head home. I had been making mental notes of all the places/tours I wanted to do when I return. The only thing that I now remember of this list is that it is LONG and I will need at least 1 week to stay – in Rome and not in peak tourist season.
Our journey home took two hours. Rohan was knackered and fell asleep, standing up on the crowded train and then again on the bus. Ben had messaged me and asked me to get pizza for dinner so I obliged and dragged Rohan off the bus into a pizza store and then over to a grocery store. After getting groceries and pizza’s I realised that instead of being 200m or so from the apartment, we were 1.5km away. That 1.5km felt like a marathon whilst lugging 4 pizzas, souvenirs, groceries and making sure Rohan didn’t sleep walk on to the road. Poor Rowie was still half asleep and kept asking me where his mummy was.
Back at our apartment I collapsed into bed, having had a MASSIVE day. Rohan and I distributed souvenirs (earrings for Jazzy and Isabelle, a necklace for Kylah) and then showed off the photos we’d taken on our selfie stick. I told Ben we needed to return to Rome soon, just the two of us, before drifting off to sleep.
Rome in a day is too much for me.
Thanks for reading!!