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Call Me Crazy - I went to Italy with a Toddler , and Loved Every Moment (almost...) A Trip Report: Rome and Tuscany

Call Me Crazy - I went to Italy with a Toddler , and Loved Every Moment (almost...) A Trip Report: Rome and Tuscany

May 12th, 2006, 12:24 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 122
On DH's first trip to Rome, 11 years ago, he got a Pope John Paul bottle opener 'outside the Vatican Walls'. It was his personal mission to buy as many Pope Benedict bottle openers for all his friends on our recent trip to Italy. The guy selling them must have thought we were crazy, because we bought his entire stock (OK, it was only 5), but DH was thrilled.
michellen is offline  
May 12th, 2006, 05:11 PM
  #22  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'm enjoying your trip report so much! Please keep it coming.

I'm impressed that you took your toddler on such a long flight. I just had a baby 6 weeks ago, and even going to Wal-mart is difficult at times right now! I hope once we get past this newborn phase, he'll become a good traveler b/c DH and I both love to be on the go. Again, great report!
Lee4 is offline  
May 13th, 2006, 07:05 AM
  #23  
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It does get easier after the new born phase. Before we went to Italy we took a short trip to Tucson (to visit my brother) when she was six months. Because she had no problems with the two hour flight, we bought our tickets for Italy. I took her back to Arizona (by myself) at thirteen months, a lot more work (!) but it built my confidence and helped ease my panic about the ten hour flight.

Another note, we did send our postcards through the Italian post without any problems.

Michellen - it's good to know the bottle openers do/did exisit. Not finding it was one of my few regrets.
mebe is offline  
May 17th, 2006, 06:12 AM
  #24  
 
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Please don't leave us hanging . . . please do like Paul Harvey and give us "the rest of the story!"

Sandy (in Denton)
sandy_b is online now  
May 17th, 2006, 09:58 AM
  #25  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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I'm with Sandy B,

I just cuaght up with the report over lunch and your detaila nd story telling broght be right back to Rome (in spirit), hopefully in person in the fall.
cassparker
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May 20th, 2006, 11:12 AM
  #26  
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Sorry for the delay, I was away visiting my brother all last week (no flying but a long six hour drive).

Day 6: Last day in Rome

We spent a week in Rome and didn’t see half of what we wanted. Traveling with a child slows you down and limits what you can see (museums were out) and when you can see it (nothing after dark). Plus, a day of rainy weather, my morning head cold and not effectively using a map caused a lot of poorly used time. We decided to use this day to show Ada the Trevi Fountain, visit the Spanish Steps and Borghese Gardens and maybe, just maybe, if we timed it right, we could do a quick tour of the Vatican Muesum (to see the Sistine Chapel) during an Ada nap.

We went to the Trevi Fountain by way of Campo dei Fiori where we bought two scarves and a basket of blueberries (the sweetest I’ve ever tasted). We threw our coins into the Trevi Fountain and attempted to find the Spanish Steps. We went too far up Via Corso and came on to the steps from the top. From the top, they looked like a staircase, so we walked to the bottom figuring that must be the correct way to experience this hot tourist attraction. At the bottom we still didn’t see the point: it’s a stair case with people sitting on the steps, did we miss something? Back up the stairs we continued walking left and found the Borghese Gardens. It was the first green we’ve seen in a week. We drank in the trees and grass, took a deep breath, exhaled, and strolled along a gravel road lined with tree canopies and couples canoodling on benches. Ada ran ahead picking up rocks. We crossed an overpass and watched the cars zooming into Rome. We knew that tomorrow, we would be in one of those cars and the panic set in about tomorrow’s adventure..

We strolled our way out of the gardens and into Piazza del Popolo and watched those same cars from the overpass fly into heavy Rome traffic. Did I mention that the streets don’t have individual lanes? The drivers create their own, and if a street can fit three lanes of traffic, then there are three lanes, until someone parks in the third lane, then a stream of cars instantly merges into two lanes, all at fast speed. Fascinating to watch, but I didn’t want to experience it in the passenger seat with DH at the wheel.

Scaffolding covered the obelisk, like many other sights in Rome, so we continued on, heading for the Tiber River, then south to the Vatican. The walk took much longer then we anticipated and the roads were congested with exhaust. By the time we made it to the Vatican, Ada was still awake and we were exhausted. The museum wasn’t an option - huge disappointment. We dragged our bodies back to the apartment and called it a day. We spent the afternoon packing, cleaning, and studying our route from the rental car company out of Rome. It felt like a waste of a day; I spent my time focused on all the museums and cathedrals I skipped. The street was twice as noisy that night, DH finally left the bedroom and slept on the sofa in the living room, while I stayed with Ada and cursed the Vespas. I was ready for Tuscany.


Day 7: The Drive

That morning we gathered our bags, ate a quick breakfast and waited for our taxi. (Natalia called the taxi for us). Our taxi driver was the first Italian we met who did not speak English – it was strangely refreshing. We showed him on the map our destination, underground rental lot at Borghese Gardens, he said “okay” and “no problem.” We circled around the underground parking lot for a few minutes while he cursed in Italian because he couldn’t find the EuroCar rental office. The cost was 12 Euros.

At the rental office (only a five minute wait, our pickup was at nine a.m.), DH befriended the rental agent and I chatted with other Americans, who lived about 10 miles from us in California. We prepaid for a four door, mid-size family car. But DH and the rental agent hit it off, and he upgraded us to a Alfa Romeo GT, dark blue, tinted windows and only two doors. It looked very zippy. DH peaked in the window, noticed the six gears and said we’d take it. He assured me the car seat would fit, and ran off to sign the papers. He was in love.

The rental agent gave us directions to the A1: right, left, left, straight. We should have asked if the first right was to get out of the garage, or once we already had left the garage. Before I continue, I need to mention that while I am the navigator and DH is the driver, our actual titles are “the panicker” and the “quick thinker.” “Quick thinker” took a left out of the garage, instead of a right, and I screamed out “that road heads to Piazza de Popolo!” he reversed down the on ramp (no one behind us) and took a right. Then we hit the roundabout and couldn’t figure out which right to take. We picked one, hit the main road, and then “that road heads to Piazza de Popolo!” DH pulls over, flips a U-turn and we head back and take the “other right.” Finally, we are headed in the correct direction, and take a left onto Via Salaria, which heads straight out of Rome. DH blended in beautifully with the other drivers. But via Salaria had a fork and we took the wrong prong: “We took the wrong road! We’re lost in Rome! We’ll never get out!” Thankfully, “quick thinker” ignored “panicker” and used common sense by making a right and connected us back to via Salaria. (Whew... I don’t know what I would do without him.) It truly is a straight shot out of Rome once on via Salaria, but my clammy hands clenched the map until we merged onto the A1. I tried to convince DH to stay in the safe slow lane but he was in his sports car in Italy and needed to use all six gears. I finally convinced him to slow down (your daughter is in the backseat!) and we cruised our way into Umbria.


ORVIETO

This town was a “must see” once I learned it was built on a plug of tuff (I have a minor Geology). Our plan was to stop in Orvieto for a few hours, park at the train station and take the funicular to the top. We unknowingly drove by the train station and started heading up the hill. We stopped at the first parking lot we found. Since it was only half way up the hill, we took escalators, which switch backed through a tunnel of tuff. Once on top, I realized I didn’t bring any Orvieto information, like a map.

We eventually found the Duomo and it glittering facade. But they were shooting an Italian movie in front which blocked our access. We watched them do a few takes (people walking out of the church) and then peaked our head into Tourist Information. No maps in English that week, so we grabbed one in German and did our best. We ate a horrible lunch (the hovering flies were an ignored clue to its quality) and we tried to wander around to look at ceramics. But I was still horribly uptight from DH driving and me navigating, and snapped at DH for letting Ada run around in the street, or touch the merchandise. Eventually we found a playground near the edge of the town. Ada played on the slide and we looked over the edge of the cliff and out at the fields of Umbria. The playground is next to a gravel road the curves the edge of the hill, no cars allowed, and perfect for a little one to run around, collect golden maple leaves and hug a few trees. I still kicked myself for not having any of the info I spent months gathering online. I knew the tour of the underground caves was out (could you imagine confining a toddler underground with innocent bystanders?) but I did want to see St. Patrick’s Well.

Magically, it was at the end of our gravel road, and over near the funicular that we missed in the car. We paid for our tickets and descended. I only wanted to go down a few steps, take a peek over the edge, and get out, but DH convinced me to go all the way. We went 240 steps down the spiral staircase deep into the earth, with only a circle of light above to remind us of the sky. Once at the bottom, Ada declared she was done, with a few whimpers, and parental guilt swept in. Great, now she will be forever afraid of the dark. We attempted to assure her by singing her favorite songs as we ran back up those steep 240 steps, passing a group of Americans along the way. We stopped twice desperate to catch our breath, but another whimper ushered us upward until we made it to fresh air. We collapsed against a wall, lungs burning, still worried we traumatized her (update: no noticeable damage) and enjoyed the sunny day. The Americans arrived a few moments later and one woman immediately said to us, with a snide smile, “she didn’t like that, did she?” I mentally threw a few daggers at her head (did she not notice us sprinting up the stairs?), and ignored her while we talked to her companions who were headed into Rome.

We went back to the Duomo and snuck through the side entrance with a cookie stuffed in Ada’s mouth. We had a few moments to admire its striped interior, before Ada took the cookie out and yelled “oohhhhh!” which echoed throughout, turning a few heads. We quickly left giggling uncontrollably. It was at that moment, while DH and I shared a good laugh over our daughter, that I finally relaxed and enjoyed Orvieto. We ran into retired couple from Florida, and chatted with them like old friends. They exemplified the positive side of American tourists: warm, friendly and jovial. I pulled DH away (he loves talking to new people) and we headed in the general direction of the escalators. I’m not sure how we found them; (looking over the side and seeing the parking garage did help) paid our parking fee at the machine, and headed out of Orvieto towards our final destination: Montepulciano.


MONTEPULCIANO


www.santantonio.com

Sant Antonio Country Resort is an old convent outside of Montepulciano (about a ten minute drive) that was converted into vacation rentals. I highly recommend staying here, especially if traveling with your family (they supply cribs and high chairs). The website accurately describes the accommodations, and Nico, the owner, is very friendly and professional. We felt at home from the moment we arrived.

Our apartment was on the second floor (private entrance) with views of the fields and lake. It was twice the size as our Rome apartment. One bedroom and a massive bathroom (I mean massive!), kitchen, a fireplace (which we used continually) and a loft. The apartment is stocked with wine and other beverages for sale.

We should have gone to the store before sunset. The directions were simple: left, left, a right, up the hill, then a sharp right turn before you enter Montepulciano. We had to turn around twice; first, we mistook a produce stand for the store, the second was when we began to ascend the hill right into Montepulciano and “panicker” worried we’d gone too far. “Quick thinker” responded with a dramatic U-turn into a narrow turnout along the side of the cliff. There we were staring down the headlights of oncoming traffic, trying to read the map. “Panicker” was wrong, we were actually going in the right direction but I yelled at him anyway for putting our life in danger. After another tight turn into the wrong lane to correct our direction we finally reached the store.

The store was packed with people shopping after work. I scrambled around finding stuff for dinner and breakfast while DH tried to entertain Ada, who was crying out hunger protests. In our rush of the day, we forgot to feed her after the Panini lunch disaster. DH opened up a box of crackers, hopeful it wasn’t a cultural no-no in Italy. The experience ended with long lines at the register and we stood behind the woman who paid for her weekly shopping with one Euro coins.

Somehow, we survived. DH made dinner (chicken with fresh spinach and ricotta ravioli), made a roaring fire in the fireplace, and I washed underwear and socks in the bathroom sink. Scrubbing socks was amazingly relaxing; the stress slipped away with the dirty water. Ada unwound by running in happy circles around the apartment. The night ended peacefully. Ada slept in her crib, DH and I drank red wine in front of the fire, surrounded by wet socks and underwear.
mebe is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 11:27 AM
  #27  
 
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Was this the UH trip?
(Uninterested Husband)
starrsville is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 11:55 AM
  #28  
 
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Hi Starrsville, I think the DU was the husband of the lady from Australia with the little daughter..believe they are in Italy right now. Her name started with a G...I sure hope they are having a wonderful time.

Mebe, I so love your report and your descriptions. Lovely and smiling inducing trip report! I hope you were able to take a lot of photos of your little one..how special those will be in the future. BTW, your husband drives like mine did, lol!
LoveItaly is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 12:00 PM
  #29  
 
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I'm really enjoying your trip report - I begin to panic with you as you describe it! And then I relax and enjoy when you do. Wonderful writing - keep it coming, please!

Linda

LCBoniti is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 12:17 PM
  #30  
 
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mebe is a brand new screen name. Just wondered if it was the same person.
starrsville is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 02:12 PM
  #31  
 
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Call me crazy Mebe, I am leaving in week for a two week trip to Rome and Tuscany with a 3 year old and 15 month old twins! I am printing out your trip report to read with the segemnt of time I have and I am sure I will have many questions!
tana is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 02:13 PM
  #32  
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Yes, I am a different person. My husband loves to travel, and wanted to go to Italy, but he wasn't interested in planning our trip to Italy.
mebe is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 02:15 PM
  #33  
 
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OK, guess I am wrong! Anyway mebe, it sounds like you had a great trip.

Changing names does get confusing though.
LoveItaly is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 02:34 PM
  #34  
 
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Your trip report gives me hope that I can fulfill my Nana promise to my grandson, Thomas, sooner than I had expected. I promised him that I would teach him to travel. Granted, he is only 5 months old right now but maybe within a year or so, we can start.
edhodge is offline  
May 20th, 2006, 04:04 PM
  #35  
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Let me clarify - I am not the woman from Australia with the uninterested husband. I'm actually from California. That's what I meant by "different person."

And I've never changed my screen name. It's also not brand new, I began posting questions about this trip about a year ago.

Thanks again for all the nice compliments. I'll post more soon.
mebe is offline  
May 21st, 2006, 02:28 AM
  #36  
 
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Oh, I'm enjoying this because it is bringing back so many memories of travelling with my children when they were small! The frustration of having to fit in with their routines and not being able to see and do all that you would like, the inevitable marital squabbles and irritations, the romantic moments when baby finally falls asleep... oh yes, I remember!!

I also remember that travelling with just the one child is a doddle, whatever it seems like now, wait until you have 2 (or 4 like me)!

And I found it gets harder later on when they are all in their teens and want to do different things and bicker and argue constantly. OMG, just the thought of us trying to agree on which restaurant to eat in and the arguments and sulking that went on!

Now we have decided on separate holidays, I take the boys somewhere they want to go for a few days, and right now they like fun things rather than sight-seeing, and then I take the girls on city breaks, like Paris, Barcelona, and in October I'm taking my second daughter - now 15 - to Rome, just the two of us, and we are so looking forward to it. It will be nice to be able to spend time together, and it will be so easy to decide where to eat!

Tana, good luck with your trip, have a great time, and did you recently read a trip report by Andalusia entitled Rome w/kids trip report, because she went with a 4yo and 1yo, and managed to see and do a lot.

julia_t is offline  
May 21st, 2006, 07:01 AM
  #37  
 
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This is a true pleasure to read... thank you so much for taking the time to post. Your honesty and humor are delightful!

I can relate to so many of your situations after traveling to Rome and Tuscany with our preschoolers last summer. Yes, we are crazy too, as I plan for our return trip this summer... this time adding on Venice as well.

I searched & searched for that "Pope-e-ner" too, to no avail, after hearing about them from my tour guide. Where are they?!!
amarena is offline  
May 21st, 2006, 05:06 PM
  #38  
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I have to say it again - I love this report!!! I adore your last line "Ada slept in her crib, DH and I drank red wine in front of the fire, surrounded by wet socks and underwear." Gosh that makes me smile.

Sally
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May 21st, 2006, 05:24 PM
  #39  
 
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Hi mebe, I misunderstood your comment, thanks for explaining. I am really loving your report. We use to take our daughter on trips when she was a toddler so I can so relate to your experiences. And teens,sigh, aren't they a handful julia, lol. With my grandsons it is seperate trips also..otherwise one of them is always unhappy!
LoveItaly is offline  
May 21st, 2006, 06:58 PM
  #40  
 
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mebe, I can only echo what amarena said: "Your honesty and humor are delightful."

Truly an enjoyable account, and an inspiration to anyone worrying about travelling with toddlers.

Anselm
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