The family and I spent a our spring break in Italy this year, flying directly to Rome from Athens, spending the weekend sight-seeing, then taking a four-hour train to Venice to stay for the week. We finished back in Rome for a day to catch our plane home.
Rome and Venice are such incredibly different cities, I’ve decided to devote two separate posts to our vacation. First up, Rome!
Let me start off by saying I was told by many that Rome and Athens had similar traffic and crowd issues, but this was not what I found. With far fewer motorcycles buzzing about, I found Rome to be refreshingly absent of the typical traffic nightmare that is Athens. Of course, we were there for the weekend, so it’s very likely that, like in Athens, traffic is much better on weekends. Still, the streets seemed wider and more accessible, at least where we were staying. Our two-bedroom apartment was near the Borghese Gardens, coincidentally just down the street from the US Embassy.
Staying in apartments in Rome and Venice, which I found on booking.com, was probably the best choice I could have made for this vacation. We had a lot more space than in a hotel room, and for just about the same price. Plus we could heat up our leftovers (in theory — microwaves don’t seem to be a “thing” in Italy), plus we could feed our picky kids from the grocery store rather than repeatedly eating in restaurants.
We started Saturday morning bright and early with pastries from a nearby bakery, then a walk over to the Borghese Gardens to see about getting a timed ticket. We’d be here the whole weekend, so we figured we’d get a time later in the evening or in the morning on Sunday.
For. To. Laugh.
We were greeted with a sign that said, “Tickets for the museum are sold out until April 19. That was a week and a half away! I guess that’s what you get at spring break in Italy.
We did have a lovely time wandering around the gardens, vaguely headed toward the nearest Metro stop at the Spanish Steps.
Refreshingly (and relatively) free of tourists for a Saturday morning, we stopped to snap some photos.
Liam was already in a mood.
Next up, St. Peter’s Cathedral! Which was a complete circus. The line stretched all the way around the square, easily a three hours’ wait.
The kids quickly tired of walking around the square and dodging tourists, so after a not-so-brief and embarrassing meltdown, we went on to Plan C…
Castel San Angelo fortress! Which was so much better. The line was reasonable, and there was plenty of space for the kids to run around. Plus, the views of the surrounding area were spectacular. Violet especially thought so — she wanted to peer into every single port hole we passed.
Liam particularly enjoyed spying the secret entrance for the pope, though he was disappointed we couldn’t walk through it. The kids also enjoyed the playground in the moat — a welcome, kid-friendly respite from all the sightseeing.
That evening we had a wonderful dinner at Pizzeria San Marco near our apartment. The fried artichoke appetizer…I’m seriously drooling just thinking about them again. My pasta was excellent, and while the pizza was a bit too greasy for my tastes, James thought it was really good.
Of course we had to visit the Colosseum while we were here! The lines were unsurprisingly long, just a week before Easter Sunday, so we sprang for the “skip the line” tickets. Liam actually did pretty well on the guided tour, but once Violet woke from her snooze, she wanted nothing to do with the group. Our tickets also included Palentine Hill and the Roman Forum, but with kids ready to mutiny, we decided to skip it. It pained me to have had paid that much just to walk around the Colosseum, but we’ve discovered that unhappy kids=unhappy parents.
Time for gelato! For lunch! Yes, parents of the year!
Refreshed, we mosied around Trajan’s Market, and as we came upon the impressive Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, Liam pointed up and asked, “Can we climb that?”
Hell yeah, son! Let’s do it! And by god, he climbed every step without complaint. Apparently climbing is ok, standing in line incites fury. Noted. Violet enjoyed running around the broad marble veranda at the top. And it was free.
No embarrassing outbursts from Liam, mostly due to our promise to take him to Hard Rock Café for dinner if he was good. He was so good, we even bought him a shirt. Violet, on the other hand, was a handful. I can’t wait until she’s bribable.
The next morning we caught the train to Venice. Liam was so excited to ride the train! For, like, the first hour. Then he was like BOOOORING! Time for the iPad! We bought lunch on the train, an expensive and largely unsatisfying experience. We resolved to brown bag it on the way back.
Next stop, Venice! Stay tuned!