(Skip to itineraries here)

The Memories

Sometimes travel happens alongside less laudable things, like tantrum-ing toddlers (your own) or the stomach flu (yes, yours too) and so you just make your peace and adjust. There were two other variations of this 4 day itinerary that were equally ambitious and, under different circumstances, completely doable. If you’re interested in those ideas, see bottom of this post. But if you’re here for the memories, keep reading.

After our first family holiday in Rome, our knowledge of the city rests neatly into these categories:

#1 Gorgeous everything: Going for a walk down the beautiful streets and past larger-than-life architecture, the kind that stop you in your tracks and make you feel like a teeny tiny plebe as you stare up, jaw agape… yeah, you will never get bored. Everything from the buildings to the uses of space and the elaborate detail made an impression. At this point we thought we were old pros when it came to viewing ancient European cityscapes, but Rome still found ways of leaving us speechless.

#2 Lines. Even with timed tickets, you will not escape waiting in lines. This is not so fun with an impatient toddler, but what is fun is realizing how many other couples are also traveling with toddlers and you just might strike up conversations as you wait to enter the Colosseum or exchange “ay, qué guapo”s at the Maderno Fountain. A whole new world is opening up to us: brief moments of foreign parental bonding.

#3 Fooooooood. From the outrageously overpriced (here’s a tip, don’t order something based off a picture the waiter shoves in your face with no price disclosed. This isn’t a language barrier thing, it’s a sales move) to the moderately priced (we didn’t really come across any inexpensive prices that compare with Southern Spain), we ate well. From the beer and pub food at Brew Dog near the Colosseum (2 visits for us) to gelato and to-die-for foccacia and vegetable soup outside of the Pantheon, our palettes were never disappointed.

#4 Street hawkers. Age old profession. Everybody needs to make a living and one of those ways in Rome is to try to sell you chargers, toys, and football tickets. The price of being a tourist in Rome is to be propositioned about two hundred times a day to purchase a selfie stick or offered a group tour. My advice is to be courteous but firm and when you’re feeling especially irritated, remember you’re getting a valuable cultural experience in the process. Instead of snapping, maybe consider how tiring it must be to ask a thousand different people who look at you in contempt the same question each hour? They’ve probably got bosses they’re answering to too.

Also, for your general consideration, we heard many tactics to get our attention or to simply to take our hands out of our pockets, like, “Do you have the time?” and “Nice shoes, are they from Africa?” so be aware of how many people have eyes on you as you stroll around monuments taking photos. You’re never inconspicuous.

#5 Toddler’s playground. Giant fountains and massive open spaces and generous human beings…what a boon to an exploring toddler. James had so much fun being carried to new places and rolled down unfamiliar streets and then pure delight when marched back to a familiar restaurant for nachos or pasta. We wouldn’t be back in our hotel for more than an hour before he’d search out his shoes (“napatos?”) and drag his carrier to us, telling us he was ready to venture out again.

I think we’ve hit this magical period in his age where everything is fun and new and worth commenting on. He’s naming four-legged things (everything with short ears is a “gato” and everything with long ears like our dog Penelope is “Nana”), waving at any motor-flown thing in the sky (“Adaaaaaah!” to the airplanes and helicopters and birds) and gesturing rapturously to oversized, artful fountains, like the one in St. Peter’s Square. Even the smallest things lead to the happiest exclamations, like in the cutest moment of realization ever when he took my hand and Cody’s, laid them next to each other, and then pointed out that we were both wearing rings. The only downside right now to this stage is that he has a penchant for running into big echoy places, like the Trinità dei Monti church or the middle of the perfectly-acoustic Pantheon and immediately shouting “ADAAAAH!” into the ceiling.

The Itineraries  (a.k.a. how my crazy travel brain works)

When I plan our travel, my brain usually sorts out what to do in degrees of overly ambitious to still-quite-busy but at least you have time to sleep. The ambition is achieved only when we’re feeling completely healthy and energetic and luck is on our side. The actual lived itinerary is what’s parsed out after general travel sickness, life, or lameness.

It means sometimes at the end of our trip, I look at the ideal, overly ambitious itinerary and at what we ended up doing and I feel a bit badly that we didn’t maximize the potential of our time. But then I remind myself that there’s no one right way to enjoy your trip, whether all you do is eat or sit outside a park staring at the Colosseum or positively fly through every monument in Rome spending only enough time to snap a picture of each. What we accomplished was still a dream-come-true, especially when thinking back to little ol’ high school me who fantasized about what walking through the Roman Forum or viewing Trevi fountain would be like in person.

As I mentioned, we suffered from 24 hour-esque flu-like bugs on this trip whose onset were staggered, first me on Saturday, then Cody on Sunday, and probably James on Friday to a lesser extent (thank goodness). So that slowed us down and led to more naps than we’d planned and no day trips outside of the city. But overall, we had a fantastic, lazy sort of weekend in Rome where we still accomplished a lot. So in ascending order of madness, here are three itineraries for you to choose from, starting with what we actually did and ending with the dream plan:

#1 The actual itinerary:

Thursday: Arrive late to CIA airport and car service to our hotel
(the airport shuttle to Termini station then metro to Manzoni stop would have been perfect transportation to our hotel if not for the late hour and thus we opted for a car service)
Friday: Walk to grocery store for supplies, followed by a walk to the Colosseum where we picked up tickets (FYI I don’t think the visual guides are worth it as you can barely make out the screen in the sunshine, but the audio was interesting). Then Brew Dog for lunch and Parco del Colle Oppio for some strolling in the sun. Next, we saw how long the line was for the Forum and chose to hold off until the following day. Instead, we did souvenir shopping along the streets back to our hotel, then back out to grocery store for dinner supplies.
Saturday: Palatine Hill and Roman Forum in the morning (S.U.P.E.R. tickets include two days of entrance to Palatine Hill and entrance to monuments like the Santa Maria Antiqua). That afternoon, Cody and James do Spanish Steps, the Trinità dei Monti church, and pizza for dinner while I remain curled up in hotel room in a feverish ball.
Sunday Walk from the Trevi Fountain, to the Pantheon where we had lunch, then to the Spanish steps. That afternoon, off to St. Peter’s Square, followed by dinner outside the Vatican walls (ate delicious pasta but waaaay too overpriced)
Monday Keats-Shelly Memorial House (be still my Romantics heart) in the morning, followed by gelato and chocolates at Venchi, tour inside of the Pantheon (yay no entrance fee), view the National Altar (jaw agape) on our walk back to Colosseum for a stroll and rest at the Parco del Colle Oppio again, then to Brew Dog for lunch, followed by evening flight home.

#2 The planned itinerary:
(totally doable if you’re completely healthy and time everything right)

Thursday: Arrive late to CIA (Valentine’s day) and car service to hotel
Friday: Colosseum in the morning, Forum in the afternoon
Saturday: Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Spanish steps in the morning, St. Basilica’s Square in the afternoon.
Sunday Day trip via public transport to Ostia Antica for more ruins, back to Rome for souvenir shopping.
Monday Day trip via public transport to Lake Albano and the town of Castel Gandolfo. See this helpful blog for description of town and how to get there. Evening flight home.

#3 The wishful thinking itinerary:
(doable if you plan your time accordingly and have the health, energy, and money for it all)

Thursday: Arrive late to CIA and car service to hotel
Friday: Colosseum in the morning, Forum in the afternoon
Saturday: Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Spanish steps in the morning, St. Basilica’s Square in the afternoon.
Sunday early morning flight from CIA or FCO to Bucharest, Romania. Day trip to Pele’s Castle by car. Evening exploring Bucharest.
Monday Early morning flight back to Rome. Rent car (as fastest/cheapest transportation) to Palazzo Chigi di Ariccia. Drive back to airport for evening flight.

Yeah, that third itinerary looks a little crazy. I mean, a 24 hour trip to Romania? But that’s what my panic-stricken brain feels knowing that we’ll be moving away from Europe soon – must fit in every opportunity to make our time count. And I’ve heard of plenty of people taking a 3 hour train trip to Venice for an overnight from Rome so I don’t think a 2 hour flight to another country is completely ridiculous. So, happy planning!

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