Ninth Adventure: Rome

4 Mar

You choose to go to Rome for New Year’s, driving all the way with 5 people in the Ford Focus, and without any knowledge of parking availability.  Surprisingly, the drive is totally uneventful.  Except for a slowdown in the mountains, you get there as planned, and on only 1 tank of gas.  The tolls are only about €30 and the trip takes just about 5 hours exactly.  You aren’t too cramped at all in the small car (it’s considered large in Italy!), and you find the hotel quickly after just a couple wrong way turns.  The hotel is definitely good for your needs, and it’s situated right outside of Vatican City.  The clerk directs you to a nice parking garage 2 blocks away, which you keep the car in for 2 days at €25 a day, then move it to the street for the last day at a cost of only €4.  The best part about this hotel is that you have enough credit card points to pay for it entirely, making your stay in Rome cost only about $100 a day!

You and the family are fairly tired after the drive, but the hotel has an easy-to-read map that seems to indicate some historical sites that are within 10 blocks.  So you set out at about 5 in the evening to check out the surroundings.  You are right next to a huge castle – Castel Sant’Angelo – and a beautiful large palace (Palazzo di Giustizia).  You cross the bridge over the Tiber river and head toward Trevi Fountain with Nicole as guide.  She is an excellent pathfinder when she has her bearings, but in Italy she has no sense of direction, and so you end up first at the Spanish Steps, a few blocks away.  There are a couple thousand people in the square and all up the steps tonight, and you & Lexy opt to walk up all 178 stairs to the church while Nicole & the boys hang out at the boat-like center below.  You reconnect at the bottom and walk about two blocks before the boys are dying of hunger.  The streets are all lit up, so you pick the prettiest one and start walking.  You choose a fancy outdoor restaurant for dinner, and Kirby makes animal faces from the slim breadsticks while you and Lexy enjoy the copper pinot grigio Contelucio wine (your new favorite). Next you head just a few blocks to the amazing Trevi Fountain.  You follow the map quite well, but seem to just be down a side street until you turn the corner and are blown away by an 8-story high fountain and sculptures just hanging out on the back of a building. There are hundreds of people gathered around, and below you near the water, a couple has just gotten married.  You vow to attempt to convince all your unmarried friends and family to have their future weddings at this magnificent site (ahem).  After leaving the fountain you pass by an ancient temple, the Tempio di Adriano, but all that remains are the massive 50′ high columns.  It is very close to the Pantheon, a church that was once a temple for the gods, which towers over the plaza around it.  Frankie enjoys running around the porch portion of it, disturbing a few sleeping beggars, and looking remarkably tiny in comparison to the humongous doors.  A tour is just about to head in, but it is getting late and chilly, so you head home.  On the way is a market selling food and knick-knacks at Piazza Navona, but you choose to survive another day without the whistling flying disc and Pinocchio pencil.  You arrive at the hotel just after 10 o’clock, and your legs could not be happier!

Breakfast at the hotel is cold, but filling & delicious, and you set out with the family for the hefty walking portion of your trip.  You decide to nix plans for the San Callisto Catacombs (they are beyond walking-distance and probably not appealing to the boys), but you figure you can get in plenty of other sights on the first of your full days.  After crossing a different bridge on the river, you stop in San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, a large church with a beautiful nativity scene still set up.  The majority of churches are open all the time and have different candles set up with collection boxes for saying prayers.  Each boy lights a candle and you have them say a quick prayer (Kirby prays briefly while Frankie just says “Amen”).  You eat an early lunch, walk past another street market, and stop at three old palaces – Palazzo Farnese, Campo de Fiori, Palazzo Spada – that have all been converted to consulates and other government office space.  A very amusing fountain sits outside one, and the boys play in the water streaming from the statue’s bosom.  Finally you approach the first of the ancient ruins, the Area Sacra – the remains of four 2200-year-old temples sitting in the middle of a busy shopping area.  You get the feeling that modern Romans must pass by these ancient sites as unaffectedly as we walk by grocery stores.  You literally cannot travel more than a few blocks without seeing a centuries- or millennia-old building.  Two of which you did not even plan on viewing, but just happened to come up as you walk toward your next destination are the Chiesa dei Gesu & Palazzo Venezia.  They are gorgeous, architectural works of art that sit on the street as simply as the surrounding brownstones.  Just around the bend is the Altare della Patria, an over-the-top (as is all of Rome) marble monument to the first king Vittorio Emanuele II.  Outside are huge sculptures of horses, lovely fountains, and most interestingly (to the boys at least) a gravel pit.  You decide to explore the war museum inside, while Nicole watches your sons play with the rocks, and Lexy scouts ahead.  Inside are beautiful views of the Campidoglio (Capitol Hill) and surrounding area, extravagant statues & sculptures, and many paintings & historical artifacts.  You are most struck by the pen and inkwell that were used to sign the armistice ending WWI.  You rejoin the family outside and continue on to walk up the stairs to Capitol Hill and back down a windy road to the Forum ruins.  The ruins take up blocks and blocks, and as they are an active archaeological site, they are squared off in strings for different digs and refurbishments.  After walking past the end of it, you pass by the simple (yet towering) Arco di Giano, then stop at a little park before heading to Circo Massimo.  Here they used to hold the famed chariot races, but now it is just a massive dirt pit.  The size is very impressive, but you are disappointed to see that such a classic site in history has come to such disrepair.  You walk the length of the track, then pass along the other side of the Forum, which leads to the superb Arco di Constantino that sits in the shadow of the Colosseum.  The Colosseum itself is half-ruined, but still spectacular.  It is more impressive in “real life” than you imagined, and you jog the perimeter admiring every part of it.  The weather and sun are perfect for taking postcard-like photos, and since some of the walls have come down, you have a perfect view from near the arch to see into the fascinating ruins.  Everybody is tired from a very long day of walking, and the Colosseum is right near a Metro stop, so you decide to ride the subway back to the hotel.  It is only €1 per adult, and your connection to another train is quick and simple.  You choose to get off at the stop before yours, and visit Piazza del Popolo, a terrific plaza with roads leading out to all the various sites you’ve recently visited.  After a quick dinner you walk home, more exhausted than the day before, but very pleased with a productive day of sightseeing.

The next day is New Year’s Eve, and you walk through the crowded and impressive Saint Peter’s Square on the way to the Vatican Museums.  You are stopped by numerous “helpful” tour guides offering to get you to the front of the line and show you the hidden treasures inside, and they all tell you that the museums are closing early that day (starting at closing at 2 o’clock and progressively getting sooner until it supposedly closes at noon).  You choose to wait out the 45-minute line to discover that the last entrance is at 1:30 and the museums don’t close till 3:30.  It is currently 11:30 and you have plenty of time to view all the exhibits you want.  The museum is incredible.  You take the path toward the Sistine Chapel, but take no shortcuts, so even while constantly moving it takes a full 2 hours to view all of just the one set of galleries.  The tapestries, paintings, maps, sculptures, carvings, and artifacts are beyond description, so you take lots & lots of photographs.  Kirby takes the camera for a while and snaps photos from a child’s point of view.  There is artwork from many time periods in the museum, and although the modern pieces are interesting, you are most fascinated by the Renaissance-era art.  The Sistine Chapel ceiling is enormous and very detailed, but you have seen so much intricate and beautiful art leading up to it, that it is almost just another painting to you.  However it is amazing to spot the most popular sections and see them up close.  It is very crowded inside the chapel, and the peaceful atmosphere is interrupted every few seconds by a security guard shouting “No foto” to the dozens of rule-breakers.  You decide to cut the visit short with just the one route in the museums, and head outside to a delicious lunch across the street.  Together the boys devour an entire pizza, a sign that they were truly hungry!  You attempt to stop at the local USO, but it has closed just minutes before (early for the holiday), so you head back home for a rest.  Your attempt to find an inexpensive restaurant for dinner is fruitless, so you stop at a panini truck for a simple meal.  At the hotel the boys fall asleep long before midnight, but you and Nicole muster the energy to go back to Piazza del Popolo, where all the fireworks are ignited.  The square is abuzz with people, but nothing is happening aside from many vendors of wine and roses, and the paramedics preparing for the inevitable injuries.  After a few firecrackers go off much too close for comfort, you head back to watch the fireworks from your hotel.  You, Nicole, and Lexy count down to midnight, and suddenly the city is alight with fireworks and cheers and flying paper lanterns everywhere.  You watch and listen out the hotel window, then crash in bed!

Your last morning is back at St. Peter’s Square to hear the Pope’s New Year’s Day blessing. Down the street from your hotel a marching band from Nebraska is gathering and practicing for the event, so you stop to listen for a while, and Kirby eagerly takes a flyer to post on his bedroom wall.  The boys each get a blue balloon with Picasso’s dove of peace printed on it, and as you approach St. Peter’s, Frankie’s balloon tragically escapes.  He is devastated beyond consolation, so Nicole & Kirby approach a group of nuns to ask for one of their yellow balloons, but they hold tight to them and do not share.  Frankie calms down when  Kirby lets him play with his balloon, and you gather up front at a big fence with a perfect view of the central window of the basilica.  Just as you wonder why the nuns and so many other groups have not moved from the back of the square, another tourist shouts that it’s the wrong window, and you turn to see that the Pope is speaking from a tiny window on the side of the building, apparently selected at random to fool you and other tourists.  He speaks a kind message of hope for peace in the new year, in several languages, as Kirby feeds pigeons leftover sandwich from last night’s dinner.  The blessing is over within 15 minutes, and the nuns release their balloons into the air, so you figure there is nothing left for you to do in Rome and drive back home.

After Lexy leaves, you have less than 2 months till little Daisy’s due date.  You and Nicole expect she’ll be a little early (although you learned from Frankie’s birth not to really expect subsequent children to be sooner), but you are certain that she will be a natural birth just like the others.  Nicole starts to feel steady contractions of increasing discomfort on February 18th.  You know how to time her labor properly and you feel it is probably time to go in to the clinic.  If you choose to wait it out for stronger contractions, go to The Never-ending Adventure Begins: Parents of 3.  If you keep decide to go to the clinic to check in a week before the baby is due, continue reading below.

You choose to go to the clinic, so you wake the boys up to drop them off at a friend’s, and check in at about 6:00 a.m.  Nicole is barely dilated and you are sent home for at least a couple hours.  You collect the boys just before noon, spending some time with them until Nicole is quite certain that it is time to have the baby.  You drop the boys off again, and check back into the clinic at about 5:30 p.m.  Nicole is sent home yet again.  Now go to The Never-ending Adventure Begins: Parents of 3 to read all about new little Daisy’s entrance into the world.

2 Responses to “Ninth Adventure: Rome”

  1. Dejah Mocabee March 4, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Such an incredible adventure.

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