So for winter half term (I gotta break in here and say HOLY SHIT YEAR ROUND SCHOOL IS AWESOME. You get a break every six weeks!!!) we headed to Rome.
Let's get the logistics out of the way first, on the off chance that someone stumbles on this post looking for actual direction. Hey, it could happen!!
We flew Easy Jet again, which is how we got to Prague. We flew into and out of Gatwick, parked our car there for the week. They have a free bus from the parking lot to the terminal. Of course, we used Home Away to find this apartment in the Campo dei Fiori neighborhood. Two bedrooms, pull out couch (we just stuck the boys one on each couch) good wifi, tiny but functional kitchen, washing machine, drying rack. No bathtub, and not enough hot water in the shower, but we were a ten to twenty minute walk from the Vatican on one side and the Colosseum on the other, and everything else in between, and we paid probably a fraction of what you'd pay for a tiny little hotel, so what are you gonna do, right? I will never understand why anyone would EVER stay in a hotel when you could use Home Away instead. Cray.
We flew in on Sunday night, the owner had set up a van to come get us, and as soon as we dropped of our bags, we headed to the square to eat a quick dinner before we went to bed.
Monday morning we got dressed with no long johns, no undershirts, no hats, gloves, or scarves, just our light jackets and SUNGLASSES, and walked to the Vatican. I'm not a hundred percent sure why we did this. We are NOT museum people. I got confused booking the tickets, and I think if we'd gotten into the Basilica, maybe we would have been more impressed? I don't know.
We spent a few hours fighting the crowds, looking at all of the famous artwork and sculptures, all that cultural stuff, then we got lunch and bailed. I felt like such a stupid American tourist, but it just wasn't happening. I'm sorry!!!
After that, we walked down to Trevi Fountain, which became our favorite hangout for the rest of the week, then wandered around the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was everything I'm looking for in life. EVERYTHING. It was built two thousand years ago. It's a dome. It's magical. How did they do it? How does it stay up? Why doesn't it fall down? How is it STILL staying up? Two thousand years later? Seriously, how did they get those stones up so high? Into a dome? HOW?!?!?!
Then we ate a lot more pasta and a lot more gelato and went home to watch Gladiator and rest up for Tuesday. The best day of my life.
The Colosseum. The Flavian Amphitheater. I wish I could put into words how absolutely breathtaking it was.
I understand that I'm a slightly tacky American tourist who watches too many movies and makes up too much history. But Gladiator is like the best movie EVER. EVER. And the scene where they first come up on the Colosseum and Juba says "I did not know men could build such things." That's how I feel TODAY. Today, with the internet in my phone and things like cranes and math and cement mixers and stainless steel rebar and all that shit- I don't understand how TODAY men can make such things.
And men made this nearly TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO. No iPhones. No electricity. Hell, no smallpox vaccine!!! I mean, seriously, HOW DID THEY DO IT!?!?!
We used Real Rome Tours and booked the Colosseum Underground and Forum tour. I've never done a tour before, and let me tell you right now, this made ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Our guide was some sort of student, or maybe he'd just graduated, I dunno. But he did his PhD thingie right there in a hole in the Roman Forum. So that dude knew his shit.
It was our family of six, and a family from Yorkshire of four. It was just amazing. I cried twice. And the kids were great, and the sun was shining, and the skies were so blue, and the guide just knew SO MUCH about the history- it was basically my dream come true. I seriously could have died happily that afternoon.
The Forum was a little harder for me to imagine. I mean, it doesn't look ANYTHING like the movie, it's ALL ruined. The guide did a decent job explaining it, but the kids were getting hungry and it was just so ruined, so that didn't blow me away quite as much as it might have otherwise.
Then we ate a lot more pasta and gelato, wandered around, ate some more, and headed back to the apartment.
Wednesday we did our open top bus tour. I don't recommend this for normal people, but for people with kids who need a break for a few hours, do it. The commentary was fine, I'd heard that a few companies have AWFUL commentary, but ours was fine. I don't even know what tour we took, that's why I'm not linking to it. We rode around the whole route, then got off and explored a lot more before dinner and gelato. We hit the Spanish Steps (they're pretty lame, but right across the street was the best cookie I've ever eaten.) and wandered back to the Trevi Fountain because we really did love it there. It's contained, it's loud but not too crowded so the kids can be wild and run around, plus I rented a badass 10-24mm lens, so I could get the ENTIRE fountain in the frame standing like six feet in front of it!! WINNING.
Thursday we explored Palatine Hill. I am ashamed to admit that I didn't really know what this was. In my defense, the tour guide from the Forum never mentioned (he probably did but I wasn't listening?) and when I saw it, I just assumed it was part of the Forum. But it's not? Or it is? I don't know. It's a whole bunch of ruins. SPECTACULARLY GORGEOUS ruins. Unfortunately, the weather was crap (but still warm!!!) by then, so my pics didn't come out that well :( After the Colosseum, this was my favorite part about Rome.
Down there on the right hand side of the page, but in the bottom left corner? Those white stones? They're pretty sure (definitely sure?) that that's the foundations of the huts where Romulus lived as he was founding Rome.
Mind. Fucking. Blown.
Then on Friday we left at like eight in the morning and were back in our own homes by like three. Pretty cool.
For normal people, I'd say you definitely need more than four days to REALLY enjoy yourself in Rome, but for us, with four kids, it was PERFECT. Iceland and Prague we stayed a week each, and it was just TOO MUCH, but last year when we went to Scotland for a long weekend, that was way too short. So four or five days is PERFECT. Five would have been better just because then we could have taken an entire day to lay around the house and let the kids play and sleep, but other than that, this has hands down been my favorite holiday yet. Nick still picks Bruges. Weirdo.
Let me know if you have any questions, I feel like it should be my mission in life to get as many people to Rome as possible!!