I can think of many reasons why I never visited the zoo, the main one being I don't particularly like seeing animals penned up in small spaces nor spending time in places that attract throngs of children. Having said that, being the mother of a small child has completely changed my willingness to visit and have a complete blast at zoos. I am sure I am not the first mother to say this! In fact, this is the third zoo I have visited in the last year and as my son gets older the experience just gets better. I have become a huge supporter of zoos for the pure joy they give to kids. It is truly amazing to see little ones overjoyed at the direct experience of witnessing fascinating creatures do the things they do.
So while my three days spent in Rome were not only spent at the zoo, it sort of felt that way. This was in part due to the 'a-ni-ma-li' chant the little guy developed after our day one excursion to the zoo. After that, the 'animali' chant was heard every time we walked out the door and many other times throughout the day. It was so persistent (my oh my can two year olds be persistent!) I took him back for a second visit to the reptile area which required its own ticket and we had skipped the day before. And then found additional animal fun not at the zoo (thank goodness for me!), but at a temporary butterfly installation in Villa Borghese's elegant Uccelliera (just behind the Galleria Borhese--lovely building and gardens, with a cup of tea and biscotti included in the ticket price). And even our attempted effort to do something 'more adult'--a visit to the Capitoline Museum's permanent collection as well as the wonderful Beato Angelico show which we were really keen on seeing--ended up being about looking for animals in the painted or sculpted depictions as that was the only thing that would keep toddler's cries for animals at bay!
(As I am writing this I am wondering out loud if zoos really are a blessing or a curse?)
In any case, Rome's zoo has an impressive entrance way (a detail of which you can see in the photo up top) and is better then I expected--meaning decent spaces for the animals, a well-maintained structure, and even a sweet little kiddy section with a cool bridge to cross, a slide to slide down, and a rabbit hole to tunnel through. The reptile area was a mostly enclosed space and with the cool weather and no crowds was a great area to let toddler explore on his own two feet at his own pace.
So here's to my newly discovered 2 year old vision of Roma: A-NI-MA-LI!
Since there are no zoos in Sicily that I know of of, we will be back to getting our animal fix from our immediate environment--fortunately we have a garden and an abundance of sea life to keep us busy! Let's hope toddler agrees...