I am finally getting around to this trip report, sorry it's taken awhile.
This was our first trip to Italy, second to Europe. Our family traveled to London, Paris, and Normandy two years ago.
We are a family of four, me, DH, son(DS1) age 17 and son(DS2) age 14. Both of our sons love to travel and have been wonderful to travel with, flexible and adaptive which is a big help. They both love art and history, especially DS1. It's really insightful to travel with your children and watch them experience new places, different cultures and delight in meeting people from all parts of the world.
We made the decision to travel to Italy last fall after realizing this might be the last extended family vacation before our older son goes to college next year. I started making reservations(apartment Rome, villa Tuscany, flights, and tours) in November and had everything reserved by early January.
First, a big thank you to everyone who responded to my questions and offered insights. There was so much valuable information I gleaned here. If you are planning a trip to Italy, LISTEN to the people who have traveled there extensively. You will be glad you did, or wondering why you didn't
A few lessons we learned along the way:
In Rome, location is key, especially with kids. Being in an area where it is easy to walk places, with a "neighborhood" feel was a plus for us. Also, we like apartments as we have more room to spread out and we can have breakfast and snacks from local markets. Plus the cost versus a quad room or renting two rooms in a hotel is a savings. We rented an apartment through VRBO on Via dei Governo Vecchio. This was a wonderful location with restaurants right down the street, and an easy walk to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, etc. I researched this apartment as much as possible and found several favorable reviews. Nur, the owner's assistant was professional, prompt, and friendly. It consisted of two bedrooms(one with queen bed, one with two twins) a kitchenette, two bathrooms, one with shower only, one with tub only. It was clean and fairly well maintained.
Indy-Dad had recommended a good map(its on his trip report)....this is where last minute planning failed me. With weddings, graduations, and the beginning of a house renovation, this was one of the things I failed to order. We ended up using a map from a guide book(Eyewitness Rome I believe) and while it was accurate, it was really really small and therefore hard to read while walking down streets or stopped on street corners. Let's just say we got lost or confused more than once. Which is very easy to do in Rome, even for those of us who think we have a superb sense of direction
Most likely you will not see everything you planned to see. It's okay! There were several sights that we did not get to see and I felt a bit disappointed, but there is a balance between really enjoying what you ARE seeing and experiencing and just checking things off a list. These will go on the list for next time! It became apparent that our boys really wanted to experience and soak in what they did see, thus we limited what we attempted each day.
People in Italy are fabulous. Kind, helpful, patient and they take such pride in what they do whether in a restaurant or a small shop. I honestly can't remember one rude person. We tried to learn a little Italian, which was met with patient smiles and sometimes English. I think my Southern accent mixed with Italian threw everyone off a bit.
DS2 speaks Spanish so he was actually some help in reading signs and translating for us(he is a natural at language)
Figure out the public transportation system(bus/subway).. We did not and it probably cost us in seeing some things, at times we were just too tired to walk to another place. This was another victim of my hectic month before the trip, but I think it really would have helped.
I'm sure I will think of more thing as I write but that is a start.
We flew Delta from Atanta direct to Rome. We used FF points for two tkts. and bought the other two.. We flew Comfort class which was worth the $89 upgrade. Seats are a tiny bit bigger, a little more leg room, and the flight attendants seemed more attentive. The flight was uneventful, we slept a couple of hours. We came to the first desk in customs where our passports were looked at (sort of) and handed back to us. We expected to proceed to another desk for them to be stamped but that was it, so no stamp for us. We were met by our driver, Andrea, arranged through our apartment. He helped us with our luggage and 30mins. after landing we were in the Mercedes and on our way to Rome!
Nur met us at the aprtment which was still occupied(it was 9:00am) and locked our luggage in the front office of the apartment where there was someone in attendance during the day. She directed us to a nearby cafe and said we could come back at 10 to put the luggage in the apartment which we did. Then we headed out to explore, a little jet lagged though. We were amazed how close we were to so many sites! It was really exciting to round a corner and there is the Pantheon. There is an interesting street which runs to the side of the Pantheon (Via dei Seminario) which sells all kinds of reilgious items, robes for priests, etc. We stopped for lunch at La Sagrestia, Via del Seminario 89 , which was very good. We were a bit jet lagged and went in a few minutes before they opened but the waiter graciously brought us water and foccacia while we waited.
The pizza and salads were very good, great place if you are near the Pantheon.
The boys both already loved the narrow streets, tiny cars and scooters navigating the streets around pedestrians. We decided it is a sort of organized chaos. Drivers are patient as people try to move to the side, and we quickly learned to listen for approaching vehicles.
We returned to the aprtment which had been cleaned and decided it was time for a nap.
Jet lag had definitely set in!
After napping and showering we went out explore, around the corner and up a block is Piazza Navona. It is really beautiful and the fountains are gorgeous. The boys loved watching all the activity. There was an artist who worked with spray paint. He had a boom box playing music while he painted at an incredible pace. It was mesmerizing to watch him work. We enjoyed strolling around and then walked towards the Pantheon, it was beautiful at night and the Piazza felt festive. We strolled back towards our apartment and decided on Da Baffetto (Via del Governo Vecchio, 114) for dinner. We waited outside for about 5 minutes before being shown to our table. The pizza was really good, thin crust and really fresh ingredients. We met a family from South Carolina so it was fun to chat and share experiences(and snap pics for each other).
Then,after dinner we discovered Frigidarium.(which is right next to Da Baffeto). Oh My!!! This became our favorite place in Rome. The girl behind the counter cheerfully took our orders, encouraging DS2 to try his topped with chocolate. Yum!! And this place is a block from our apartment!!
Back to the apartment where we all crashed! We love Rome and are so happy and excited to be here! Tomorow we will tour the Colosseum and Forum with Walks of Italy.
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I am finally getting around to this trip report, sorry it's taken awhile.