Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Joel and Caleb at the Colosseum
We decided that our next city to visit would be Rome.  We had the kids figure the difference between driving and taking the train.  They compared cost and time, also taking into account parking and ease of travel.  The overall conclusion was to take the train, so that's what we did.  We also decided to book a place for a couple of nights in Rome, so that we could visit for a few days.  Everyone was excited to take the train.  The journey itself was only 1 hour and 45 minutes and it was quite pleasant. We arrived in Rome and dropped our bags off at the apartment and headed towards the Colosseum.  Once there the kids were amazed about the size and also surprised to see how much was still intact.  We wandered around the Colosseum for over and hour looking at each of the different areas and had a few discussions about what it would have been like to be a spectator, merchant, or gladiator.  It was interesting and cute to hear each kid's perspective on what it might be like.  At one point, I placed Eden on a pillar and asked her to growl like a gladiator. She totally got into it and soon had gathered a crowd who egged her on and took a few pictures.  Everyone was tickled by her show.   Also, quick interesting fact, merchants in the Colosseum sold seat cushions to spectators.  We all thought that was funny that even back then seat cushions could be purchased at a stadium.  After the Colosseum, we headed towards the Arch of Constantine, it was built to commemorate the victories of Constantine I over Maxentius.  We were approached by a group of middle eastern men that asked if they could take pictures of themselves posing with Eden.  So a few of them got around her stroller with one holding her hand and click, off went the cameras.  The kids thought this was hilarious.  I explained that they probably don't see many blue-eyed, blondes in the middle east so for them is it a novelty.  After Eden's photo shoot, we headed over to visit the ruins of the forums around the Colosseum.  Some were recognizable and some had disintegrated into almost nothing.  We had a guide book that contained drawings of each of the areas and is was very interesting to see what each structure would have looked like back in the time.  I was astounded by the shear size of each of the stones, how they had been cut and placed without the use of modern machinery.  It is truly amazing to see and I am again impressed by the ingenuity of people.  We continued our visit and headed to the Piazza del Campidoglio, which was designed by Michelangelo.  We headed down the grand stairs and around to Piazza Venezia, to see the Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument.  This immense building was built to celebrate the unification of Italy, and also holds the monument for the unknown solider.  It is so incredibly huge and gleaming white,  that it is astounding to see.  We wandered from here and found a gelateria and got some gelato.  Now for those of you not familiar with Italy it is very easy to "find" a gelateria, so lucky for us we can always "find" one.

Eden posing on a pillar like a gladiator
Colosseum Panoramic
Arch of Constantine
Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument

We headed over to the Pantheon and walked through it.  One thing the kids noticed was that 
there is a hole at the top of the dome.  We asked a guide what happened when it rained and he said that the rain comes in but that there are 22 holes in the floor that collect the water and funnels it outside.  We also found out that originally the dome was lined in bronze and that the bronze had been removed to be used at St. Peter's Basilica.  We walked over to the Trevi Fountain and as luck would have it, it was not on and there was maintenance work happening.  So for now I am 0 for 2 on the Trevi Fountain.  The first time I saw it 25 years ago ( when I was 3, haha), half of the fountain was covered in scaffolding.  At this point, we were all hungry and stopped at a restaurant for a bite to eat.  All of it was delicious.  It was really hard to pick so we got a few things and shared.  Everyone got to try some of everything and we loved it all.  We had pizza, seafood risotto, lasagna, and osso bucco. Yum.

Entrance to Pantheon
Trevi Fountain - Under repairs

The following day we had devoted to the Vatican City.  We took the metro and walked towards St. Peter's Basilica.  We were constantly bombarded by people telling us to get tickets to skip the line, or go to the Vatican museum first, because the wait was 3 hours long. We ignored them all and continued towards St Peter's.  We got in line and waited a full 5 minutes to go through the security check and dropped the stroller off into stroller parking and walked right into the Basilica, no special ticket needed.  Once inside we just all stood there for several minutes not moving, but just looking all around us at the immense size and beauty.  Both Justin and I had been to St Peter's before, but it still took our breaths away.  The kids took a hold of our camera and stated clicking away at what they thought was photo worthy.  I think we have over a hundred pictures of just the inside.  Danielle even commented that it was so pretty she couldn't decided what to look at first.  We walked around and headed towards dome and looked up.  It is so amazing to see the scale and grandeur of this dome.   We all just stood there for some time looking up and were dazzled by the beauty.  I was trying to imagine how each stone was placed with such accuracy. We stayed in the Basilica for about an hour walking around and enjoying its splendor.  The last thing we saw before we left was Michelangelo's Pieta, the sculpture of Jesus' body on the lap of his mother Mary.  This was a highlight for me.  We ventured back outside into the piazza, took a few pictures, and took in the view.  Then we headed towards the Vatican Museum.  On our way we stopped for my mandatory gelato and I got my new favorite flavor cioccolato arancione (orange chocolate), man this is soooo good.     We knew that with the 4 kids it would be impossible to be at the museum for an extended period of time, so we had decided to hit some of the major things to see.  We headed first to the Sistine Chapel. Well, this is a much harder place to get to then we had expected. They wind you through room after room of the museum and with the massive amount of tours going on it is very difficult to navigate. I had Eden in her stroller and I was surprised at how many people jumped, bumped and pushed the stroller just to get themselves one inch forward.  I finally lost my politeness and started to reprimand some of these rude people.  Most looked sheepish and apologetic once I said something to them, but not all.  Some people just blew past like it was normal. By the time we got to the Sistine Chapel we had seen a lot more of the museum then we had previously expected, which was very nice.  Once inside we stood in the middle  and looked at the paintings.  Joel noticed his name one one of the paintings.   He was very excited about that.  Danielle found the name Daniel and that pleased her.  We all had our favorite parts but by far we enjoyed "The Creation of Adam" the most. You see so many pictures of it and to be able to see the original piece, in its original setting it truly amazing and beautiful.  We even saw a security guard approach a couple who had taken a photo, watch as he had them delete it, and then ask them to leave.  After being in the chapel for some time, we headed back through the maze of the rooms and saw the rest of the items on our list.  We ended with Bramante spiral staircase.  I was told by security to take the elevator with Eden while the rest of the gang took this interesting staircase down.

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's
Ceiling in the Vatican Museum

Custom Magnum Ice Cream
The next day we headed to Piazza de Spagna and walked down the main corso towards the Castle Saint Angelo.  It was quite hot, and along the way we found a Magnum store(as in the ice cream bars).  They custom make your ice cream bar.  Well, Justin is a huge Magnum bar fan, so we stopped and got him a custom ice cream bar.  It was great and it was fun watching him eat this treat.  We walked along the Tiber River and took in the sites.  We headed over to the Piazza Navona and watched a few artist and street performers.  We picked up a few souvenirs and walked towards the train station.  Along the way we had some lunch and again stopped for gelato, orange chocolate, yum.  Before getting to the train station we had one last stop at St. Maria Maggiore.  This church is the 4th largest in Rome and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  The entire ceiling of the church is gilded in gold.  We were all surprised to see how ornate the church was.  Not only is it gilded in gold but the artwork is all brightly colored.  It was so beautiful.  Once we finished our tour of the church we headed over to the train station to catch our train back to Ficulle.  We had a truly amazing and wonderful time in Rome.

In front of the Spanish Steps
Fountain in the Piazza de Spagna

Street Performers signing Opera

Castle Saint Angelo

Piazza Navona

St. Maria Maggiore

Couple of side notes:  There are a lot of street vendors in Rome selling anything from selfie sticks to flowers to these gooey balls for kids.  It is very annoying to be harassed every few steps.  Anyway, why would I need a selfie stick, I am traveling with 4 kids that could take a picture of ME in front of anything.

Also, I have discovered a new European diet, eat as much croissants, pasta, pizza, gelato, paella you want and walk 30 miles a week and you too will lose weight.  I have dropped an entire dress size and a few inches from my waist!  Woo hoo!

Lunch at Mami's enjoying pizza and calzones

Caleb next to his dream bike;  the Ducati Monster

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