Fontana delle Tartarughe
It already feels like our trip to Rome was a lifetime ago. But I still remember all the details and continue to glow in the aftermath (pushing away the melancholic nostalgia) of a meaningful and fun-filled visit with my sister and her family.
First: Our four days in Rome were H*O*T. Yes we arrived smack in the middle of the heat wave, land locked with no chance of jumping in the water to stay cool. But we got up early, smeared on our sun block, put on our hats, pocketed our water bottles, and managed to spend our mornings and evenings engaged in adventurous activities meeting up with my sister and company as much as possible. We ran for shelter from the sun during the mid afternoon stretch, following the eating/napping rhythm of our toddler and also benefiting ourselves from the excuse to sit in a cool environment --air conditioning never felt so good! Heat + Toddler = good time management.
Second: August in Rome means that half the city is shut down. On the down side that meant most of our favorite restaurants were closed. On the plus, no traffic, wide open avenues, a feeling of calm serenity in a normally vehicle-chaotic city. And the tourist-heavy centro storico was for the most part open.
Third: Activity-filled mornings and evenings. We picked a few kid-friendly activities that couldn’t be missed: the zoo and the children’s museum. We attempted to take the toddler on a couple of visits to archaeological sites: the Colosseum (note: the ticket is also good for the Palatine and Roman Forum, we waited on line for circa 30 minutes!) and Trajan's market; no surprise, he was mostly interested in trying to keep up with his older cousins, and fortunately they enjoyed giving him the satisfaction for the most part! We wandered through favorite neighborhoods, stopping for refreshments, lingering in vehicle-free piazzas so the kids could run wild. We ate dinners out as a family every night, breaking records for late nights out (with a toddler, that is!).
Four: and the winner is…! From my slanted point of view I would have to say that our son wins the prize for most fun had. He has become such the little traveler and enjoys the concept of ‘going on an adventure’, from the plane ride, to the chance of being in a big city, out and about, on the move. And all of this toddler joyfulness was amplified by the presence of his big cousins.
Five: Top toddler highlights. Other than playing with the cousins and visiting the zoo and children’s museum, I would have to say the unexpected toddler highlights of the trip were riding on buses and discovering sources of water—in Roma that would be its many flowing fountains--often to the chagrin of Mamma. I had to pull the little guy off the sculpted rocks of the Trevi Fountain for fear he would topple in the water head first! I had to disinfect his hands after he flashed that ‘I know I shouldn’t be doing this smile’ and fished around in Bernini’s four river fountain in Piazza Navona anyway. The Turtle fountain in the Ghetto neighborhood of Rome was more manageable than most, possibly due to a low railing the surrounds it. But the newly constructed fountain in front of the Richard Meier designed Ara Pacis museum gave me the most fright—as his attempt to jump in from a low wall was stopped mid-air!
The most entertaining and least potentially dangerous were the drinking fountains. For anyone who has never been to Rome, Roman drinking fountains consist of a continuous flow of water running freely from a faucet directly connected to a freestanding water pipe. To properly drink from the fountains you have to block the flow completely with your hand, causing a fine stream of water to shoot out of a little hole on the top of the faucet (click here for a photo). Hubby was thrilled to have the opportunity to teach this technique to toddler. You can imagine that meant a lot of stopping, sort of drinking, but mostly getting wet. With the heat, it wasn’t such a bad thing. On one late afternoon stroll the little guy spotted a drinking fountain, got the big cousins involved in the water play, and before we knew it they (and especially he) were sopping wet! I considered taking off all his clothes to dry but reconsidered and let the heat slowly do its job.
Six: what I would have done if there were more time.
-Castel Sant’Angleo seemed like a great monument for a toddler to visit. Love crossing that bridge!
-A boat tour of the Tevere river. Could have been fun, but given the fearlessness of our two year old, he might of wound up overboard! We didn’t want to take the risk. Maybe next time!
-Trastevere neighborhood stroll. The vehicle free zones of Trastevere would have been pleasant, and I love the large fountain/piazza in front of the Santa Maria in Trastevere basilica, not to mention the church itself.
-A visit to the small mosaic decorated chapel of Santa Prassede in Esquilino. This is among my favorite jewels of Rome, and I think the small scale of the room and bright colors of the mosaic would be accessible even to a little guy.
-Basilica San Clemente: Another favorite jewel. This church also has wonderful mosaics decorating the apse, but more interesting is a whole network of underground levels to explore including underground water sources. I know the little guy would have loved it.
-The biblioteca centrale ragazzi: This children public library branch seems like an amazing place, with books in many languages and a section dedicated to little kids. Unfortunately it is closed the whole month of August.
The wrong way to drink from Roman drinking fountains!