Ahh, Bella Roma! It is as wonderful and rich a city as everyone says. Five days is hardly enough time to even take in all the piazzas and fountains. Though I was there over twenty years ago, it felt both new being there with my husband and children and also familiar with the warmth and charm of the Italian people. My maternal grandfather was 100% Italian, and it’s the part of my ethnicity that I most relate to. Though my skin is not olive, olive oil runs through my veins. I talk with my hands, I love a good meal, and mi familia is the most important. And my face has been known to get red when angry. But I will forgive you and forgetaboutit two minutes later.
For this trip, we decided to go broad instead of deep. With over two thousand years of history and more churches than days of the year, we decided we would skim the surface – see the sites but not tour them. Quinn just finished doing a paper on ancient Rome and so we promised that we would save some of the touring for another trip when he can join us. Plus, given that our six and nine year old boys can’t even stand at the Trevi Fountain without tackling each other or competing for “longest coin throw” – we decided that touring the Vatican Museum would be a risk not yet worth taking. But you bet your Roman artichokes that we stepped into Vatican City so that the boys could log their ninth country visited.
Stationed at a wonderful rental apartment (the best!) between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza de Spagna, we loosely followed the Doris Kindersly Eyewitness Travel Rome Guidebook (a must have if you are going to Rome) and diligently followed my friend Gretchen Harmon’s day to day itinerary, restaurant and shopping lists. Gretchen and her family lived in Rome for two years and following her tips and recommendations helped to make “big Rome” feel more like “neighborhood Rome.” We knew where to find the leather goods (boots have been added to the collection), the cashmere (too rich for my olive oil blood), the hip teen clothes, and the best bakery in all of Rome (which we frequently often enough that they knew us.) Watching Brett hold court with a group of high school boys who were practicing their English (who he is now friends with on Facebook) was worth an admissions price under the heading of “Experiencing Rome.” Our apartment is owned by the delightfully charming Giacomo who invited us to dinner in his home on Friday night with his wife Betta and three children (of similar ages to ours.) We had such a grand time that we spent Sunday morning again together, but this time touring the National Etruscan Museum on the outskirts of Rome to learn more about the pre-Roman civilizations. Nothing was broken.
We ate and ate. The food was consistently good and fresh if not spectacular. I have high expectations when it comes to pasta. We lingered over meals and played “Would You Rather:”
“Would you rather be roommates with Damarcus Cousins or Metta World Peace?” (Colin)
“Would you rather be teammates with NBA Player 1 or NBA Player 2?” (Colin)
Sub in different NBA player names, and repeat ad infinitum. But wait for the gem.
“Would you rather be famous and an overrated knucklehead or really talented but poor?” (Colin)
And then there’s Lawton who was trying to get the hang of the game.
“Would you rather eat the rottenest blueberries or rottenest apricots?” (Lawton)
“Would you rather eat broken glass or knives?” (Lawton)
“Would you rather jump off a roller coaster or apartment building? Both landing on pavement.” (Lawton)
“Would you rather marry a shark with sharp teeth or a snake?” (Lawton)
Would you rather sit on a snake or a porcupine?” (Lawton)
“Would you rather see a gross giant or Zombie?” (Lawton)
Brett responds: “Gross giant, but would you rather smell a Gross Giant’s smelly feet or swanus?”
It did get better.
“Would you rather have two great teachers and two bad teachers or four average teachers?” (Kate)
Okay, that was a little abrupt.
“Would you rather tour a church or a castle?” (Kate)
Lawton responds: “Are there knights in the castle and dragons in the church?”
“Would you rather have hops or speed? (Kate)
Rome is a wonderful walking city and public transportation is not its strength (we Seattleites empathize), so we experienced Rome by walking. Like crazy walking considering we have a six year old. Fueled by at least two gelato stops every day, we estimate that we walked a cumulative of close to thirty miles. There is a phrase in Latin called “Solvitur Ambulando” which means “it is solved by walking.” We heard it first from our interim Pastor, and have since adopted it as a family mantra. It proved very useful in the decision of moving to Europe, and even more useful in the times when things got a little hairy. When things are breaking down, we keep walking – both literally and figuratively. Some of us are better at adapting to new surroundings than others, and some need a “break in period” – so forward progress is the thing we do to hasten getting to the other side. It also helps when you turn over the map and let someone else lead for a while. We did that with each of the boys, and I’m pretty sure that the “follow the leader” game is perhaps the thing they will remember most. The Pantheon was on the former side of the break in period, and our nine year old lead us back there for a “do-over” before taking us on a circuitous but outstanding route to the Colosseum. I know having him walk us around -- revisiting the place where we needed an olive branch extended -- in deep love with his new favorite city, was the thing I will remember most. I will try not to remember that Brett used the word swanus at the dinner table.
(See all Rome Photos)