When J and I decided to start a family, we knew that our willingness to travel internationally with small kids (and ALL THEIR GEAR) in tow would likely diminish, but we also knew that there would come a time when the challenges would be outweighed by the desire to introduce the love of travel to our girls. We set a goal. When all naps were dropped and strollers were no longer needed, we would take the girls to Italy.
In the summer of 2018, we did just that. Big Sis was 7 and Lil Sis was 4. We even somehow convinced some of our best friends to come with us – with their 5, 7 and 10 year old kids in tow too! The 2-week itinerary – Rome, Florence, Siena, Pisa and a beach week at Marina di Pietrasanta.
Our departure day was a Friday the 13th. We should have known better. Our 6:45pm flight didn’t take off until 2:15am. A 7.5 hour delay of which only a small portion was spent in the terminal. The rest of the time, we were on board the aircraft. There was an error with the freight weighing/flight balancing software, then people wanted to get off the plane because they feared we wouldn’t be able to take off safely, then a “conflict resolution officer” came on board to calm down some angry passengers…..and then the delay was so lengthy that the crew was now beyond their regulated flying window, and so we had to wait for a new crew to arrive.
The girls were hungry, exhausted and BEYOND cranky. They refused all food on the airplane…..and also pretty much refused to sleep as well. I personally feel that they have never recovered from the “trauma” of this travel day, and the memory of it has contributed to their less than enthusiastic approach to transatlantic flights ever since.
We finally arrived in Milan at 3:30pm. We rushed through passport control and baggage claim in a mad dash to catch the 4:15 train from the airport to Milano Centrale, the main train station. We knew we had missed our reserved Frecciarosa train to Rome that departed at 2pm by a mile, but unlike our 2019 trip when there were no more train reservations to be found, thankfully on this trip we were able to buy new tickets on the next available train to Rome.
We bought some panini, waters and a beer – our first real meal in 24 hours and headed to Rome.
We made it to Rome by 9:30pm. We happily splurged on a taxi to the delightful AirBnb where our friends were waiting for us with cold white wine and collapsed in bed.
This wasn’t just my girls’ first trip to Italy, it was also the first time for our friends, the E Family. Mom E shared with me her must-sees list during the planning of the trip, and I did my best to work them all into the planned itinerary.
Our first morning in Rome was spent on a self-guided walking tour through part of the historical city center. Piazza Navona – Pantheon – Trevi Fountain – Campo Dei Fiori.
The original plan for the morning was to walk all the way to the Spanish Steps and then to eat lunch at Forno in Campo Dei Fiori on our way back to the AirBnb, but the kids were getting tired and didn’t want to go any further to the Steps. So what did we do? We popped into a nearby Gelateria, of course. Never underestimate the power of a morning gelato to reenergize tired little legs.
When we got to Forno for lunch, it was closed. GAH! We looked around the piazza and settled on Obica. The kids were happy with pizzas, and the adults shared mozzarella in all preparations and the first of MANY Aperol Spritz.
After lunch, we headed back to the apartment for naps for most. Dad E and I went out for a caffè and then to buy bus tickets for the afternoon outing. That afternoon, we all jumped on the public bus down to Piazza Venezia and then walked over to Trastevere for dinner. I always prefer to walk everywhere in foreign cities because there’s always so much to see around every corner, but sometimes the distance is just too far, so it’s helpful to be able to get closer to a certain neighborhood using public transit.
Along the way to dinner at Ristorante La Gattabuia, we just casually passed ancient ruins along with the Temple of Hercules and La Bocca della Verità. I just love that about Rome. We also ended up having a spontaneous pre-dinner aperitivo at Bar 404 Name Not Found along the way to test out its claim to fame.
We were up early the next morning to catch the bus to the Colosseum and the Forum. I don’t normally sign up for guided tours when abroad, but with 5 kids in the group, we wanted to make our visit to this famous site worth it for everyone – with minimal whining and maximum excitement. Mom E did some research and found a private family tour geared towards kids from LivItaly Tours that included NOT waiting in line. Our guide Melanie spoke excellent English and was fantastic with kids. She brought along a bag of tricks to keep them entertained – a scavenger hunt, stamps, activity pages, and cardboard glasses that use an app on your personal phone to turn the Colosseum and the Forum into a Virtual Reality experience.
After our tour wrapped up, the kids were VERY hungry. We strategically did some souvenir shopping on the way to lunch to prevent meltdowns. It’s amazing how a sword, 3 purses and a replica of the Colosseum can instantly boost moods.
We ended up going back to the Airbnb every day after lunch for naps and showers. Rome was VERY hot that week, and we did a ton of walking outside most days. We encouraged the kids to lie down and nap or at least rest because we were often up late each night. This is one of the reasons I love renting apartments when traveling – while the kids napped the adults can hang out in a separate space.
In the afternoon, we descended upon Up-Sunset Bar on the roof of the department store Rinascente to meet up with my Italian sister Maria Pia. The summer I was 17, I lived with Maria Pia and her family as an exchange student. I had last seen her in 2008, and we were so excited for her to meet my girls. There were more Spritz for us and pizzette for the kids while we all enjoyed the spectacular sunset over Rome.
For dinner, we tried to find the Rome location of the famous Neapolitan Pizza joint Da Michele with no luck, so we just stopped at another pizzeria that looked decent. We made up for that tiny snafu with a visit to the Trevi Fountain lit up at night and a gelato nightcap at San Crispino while we waited out a thunderstorm. We got back to the AirBnb around 11pm that night – eek!
On our final day in Rome, the E family set off to do a tour of the Vatican Museums, but we didn’t feel our girls were ready just yet for that. Instead, J and I took the girls to St. Peter’s Basilica, amidst a crowd of people that seems unbelievable now. When visiting St. Peter’s and the Vatican it is important to remember that there is a strict dress code. The Swiss Guards will deny you entry if you do not adhere to them. I always bring along a scarf or light cardigan to wear to cover my shoulders. Make sure your shorts and/or skirt aren’t too short either.
We spent the afternoon exploring Castel Sant’Angelo. In all my previous visits to Rome, I had always admired Castel Sant’Angelo from the outside, but I had never been in. It is well worth a visit, and as a bonus, there are 360 degree views of Rome from the top!
We had a final gelato in Rome at Gelateria del Teatro before we headed back to the Airbnb. I personally think this is the most delicious gelato in Rome, and everyone always loves watching the behind the scenes action from the large window.
We met back up with the E Family at the Airbnb that evening to begin the always unpleasant task of packing. After 3 days in Rome, we were off in the morning to Florence!
Rome is my favorite place in the world, and it’s always so difficult to leave. When the Pandemic subsides, and we can all travel freely again, I do believe Rome will be one of the first places I visit. She has my heart.
What We Say About Rome
Rome is my favorite city in the world. I will never tire of her energy and beauty.Mom
The ancient ruins were cool. I liked to imagine them during Roman Times.Big Sis C
I really liked the ColosseumLil Sis M
Rome never disappoints.Dad