Ciao once again! We traveled from Venice to Rome via high speed train, and have spent 6 days indulging in more pizza, pasta, gelato, and of course, some pretty amazing sights. Our time in the city has been split between a couple of days of heavy sightseeing and quite a few days of just “living” (laundry, groceries, homeschooling, time in the park, late nights on the Spanish steps, gelato dates, etc.). All of us feel a tad travel weary after 5 weeks on the road, which is to be expected. With energy levels a bit low, we spend more time than usual in our apartment, relaxing and letting the girls unwind and play games (primary focus seems to be on gymnastics performances, particularly for Thayer who wins quite a few gold medals throughout the week).
One of the best decisions we have made here is to hire a tour guide who caters specifically to children. Over the course of two days, we covered the Vatican (including St. Peters Basilica and of course the Sistine Chapel), the Pantheon (Jeff’s favorite), the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and quite a few additional gorgeous fountains and hill-top viewpoints from which to take it all in. Our guide kept the girls engaged by making the deep and complex history of this city both palatable and exciting (mostly focusing on blood, gore, and the more crazy tidbits of Roman history like how bears came up through trap doors in the floor of the Colosseum so that gladiators could “hunt” them). Although the sight seeing was quite tiring, we all got a lot out of it (Thayer might disagree) and certainly learned a great deal about life in Rome through the ages. Here are some of our favorite experiences from the week!
Zoe: We spent almost 4 hours walking through the Vatican (and we didn’t even see the Pope). I learned that the Vatican City has its own currency and post office, including the stamps. Mostly men live there because they are priests and Cardinals, and women can’t be Catholic priests. All of the residents speak Latin to one another. I guess that language isn’t dead after all! I especially was intrigued to see two preserved dead bodies of Popes, entombed in St. Peter’s Basilica in see-through glass. Creepy! It was a very long day and it was hard to shove all the facts into my brain, but I really learned a lot and saw some amazing things.
Schuyler: The Trevi Fountain was so beautiful! The water was crystal clear and it was like magic. All different kinds of currency sparkled at the bottom of the fountain, which made everything so pretty. We added our own coins to the collection when we made our wishes and tossed them over our shoulders. I wished that we would have an amazing rest of our trip and I’m sure it will come true. I learned that the coins are collected every so often and donated to charity. There is occasionally theft and corruption when it comes to the collection, which is a shame. Did you know that Rome’s fountains were all access points for the citizens to collect water, where the famous Roman aqueducts emptied out? You can still drink the water – it’s really clean!
Jeff: This is my favorite of all the ruins in Rome. Originally a church, the building is truly spectacular. The dome, once clad in gold tiles, is now bare concrete revealing the coffered structure beneath. The dome was poured as a single monolithic caste, an extraordinary feat, and the only source of light is the hole in the top of the dome (the oculus). I was surprised to learn that the dome is actually larger than St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
It really doesn’t get more exciting than gladiators vs. beasts, underground cages and trap doors, and Emperors giving the “thumbs up he lives” or “thumbs down he dies” sign at the end of a good fight (assuming it hasn’t already ended in death). We were awed by the sheer scale of this ruin, and by the 500 years of “entertainment” that took place within. Most of the Gladiators were slaves who were hand picked to fight due to their strength and size, and many had great fan support (the way we might follow our favorite football team or hockey player). Events at the Colosseum were open to the public and free of charge – this was a building for the people of Rome, and they filled it with great zest and raucous behavior on a regular basis. The girls had a long conversation with our guide about why the citizens of Rome considered such gory events to be entertainment; did they not have the same respect for life and death, or for humanity, as we do? It was interesting to watch them struggle to grasp how the Roman civilization was so advanced and yet so barbaric at the same time.
Additional sights and fun activities….
Thayer: We went up and down the Spanish steps SO many times. I counted each step, each time. I came up with a few different answers to how many steps there are, but mostly I counted around 120. My legs got tired!
When we weren’t seeing the sights of Rome, we let loose in the parks, gelato shops, and played at home in the apartment…
Jeff and I even managed a few “dates,” thanks to Rosi!
And finally, here is a video of the older girls out late with Dad on the Spanish Steps. It’s always a good time in Rome!
We are gearing up for a long haul to Nairobi, Kenya. We have to fly overnight 6 hours from Rome to Doha, Qatar (small Arab state in the Middle East), followed by another 5 hour flight from Doha to Nairobi. We are excited and a bit jittery about what lies ahead as we contemplate leaving the comfort and familiarity of Europe behind. Africa here we come… Ciao!