When in Rome – Part 2

Catch up on the first part of our trip here.

Day 4
We were very excited about the first tour we booked – a visit to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s.  We used our credit card rewards (plug for Chase Sapphire -we love that card!) to book the tour and it didn’t reveal the name of the company.   Normally we would prefer to do a fair amount of research and check reviews before deciding on a tour company, and in hindsight, there’s a reason we do that.  City Lights ran this one and it just wasn’t the best fit for us.  We had to be at their office at 8:00am, and they offered some pastries and coffee before we walked a short distance to the Vatican Museum entrance.  Our tour included early entrance, and while we didn’t really wait in line, there were a ton of people standing around and our tour guide often looked frazzled and confused.  They gave us headphones but unfortunately we could not hear her well and it was hard to follow along.
By the time we finally started the tour, Abby was no longer interested in sitting in her stroller or being held.  You can’t exactly let a toddler run free in a museum, so we tried to contain her as much as we could.  When we realized the guide intended to describe EVERY.SINGLE.PIECE of art in each room, we skipped ahead and waited for the group at the Sistine Chapel.  It was wall-to-wall people in there, but we found a small corner in the back where we could let Abby walk around.  By the time the group caught up with us I was kind of over it.  We were on our way to the final stop,  St. Peter’s, and just before we went inside the guide informed us that strollers weren’t permitted. She pointed out an area that we could go to and check our stroller (its worth noting this was a spot we had already passed and it would have been nice if she’d mentioned it at the time).  It seemed like more of a hassle so JR and I took turns going inside while the other one stayed outside with the stroller and Abby.  The church did not disappoint – truly beautiful.  Then it was a race against the clock to find lunch and return home so Abby would hopefully take a long nap for us.  We stopped at Likeat for sandwiches to-go and they were AM-AZING.  Highly, highly recommend eating there.  Super cheap too.
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Inside St. Peters, and Abby is over it.

We had spent so much time near Piazza Navona so that night we ventured over to the Trastevere neighborhood for dinner.  We stopped for wine first (of course) and miraculously, the server offered us a high chair for Abby!  We traveled with our TotSeat, but she is just so wiggly and into being down right now that a legit high chair made a huge difference for us.  We went to Dar Poeta for dinner, which came highly recommended.  It was perfectly good pizza, and affordable, but I wouldn’t say it was the best ever.

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When your parents forget to pack crayons, you get to play with a pen at dinner.
Day 5
When looking at the weather report for Saturday which said 100% chance of rain all day, we rescheduled our Colosseum tour for Tuesday morning hoping for no rain.  We contacted the tour company, Walks of Italy, in advance to ask whether or not the stroller would be useful there, and they advised against bringing it.  Since we then planned to just take our Beco Gemini, we took a cab to the Colosseum to save some energy.  The tour was great, and Abby was mostly okay with being held, although we let her run around when we had the chance.  Eventually she passed out while we were walking around the Forum.  The whole morning was very cool.  The sights definitely lived up to my expectations and I thought our tour guide was fantastic.
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Colosseum fun
That evening Helen came back to babysit and JR and I returned to Hostaria Pantheon for my favorite table and view in Rome!  Look familar?
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Date night
Day 6
JR really wanted to visit the Capuchin Crypt so we made our way there.  It was not my favorite thing.  Bones of deceased monks arranged in patterns and designs, like chandeliers.  Weird.  Abby wasn’t into it either, so we made a speedy exit and let JR take his time checking it out. It took a while to walk there from Piazza Navona, so on our way back home we decided to grab sandwiches from Likeat again. Seriously, excellent food!  For dinner we ate at a well-reviewed restaurant near our place, Mastro Ciccia.  I ordered the four cheese gnocchi and it was good, but JR didn’t care for his meal and overall it took way too long to get our food.  I wouldn’t recommend it.
Day 7
Since our Vatican tour was less than ideal and we raced back to the apartment afterwards for Abby’s nap, we decided to go back and spend a leisurely morning in the square in front of St. Peters.  We bought picnic supplies at the market and then walked to the square to people-watch and relax.  The weather was gorgeous and Abby had so much fun running around.  We had high hopes to get a good nap our of her that afternoon, but she refused to play along.  I knew if we put her back in the stroller she would pass out, so JR and I went back for a third time to Hostaria Pantheon (we are creatures of habit!) and enjoyed some wine while she slept.
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Hanging out in front of St. Peter’s
Thursday was our final night with Helen babysitting, but when she arrived Abby was very upset and didn’t want us to go. It was really hard to leave and we didn’t make it very far.  We walked about 50 yards to a nearby bar so that I could go back and occasionally listen outside the door for her, and text Helen constantly to see how she was doing.  Once we knew she was settled, we went to Campo de’ Fiori.  We didn’t have a specific restaurant in mind, but in the touristy areas there are always restaurant workers standing outside cajoling you into eating at their place. This one particular guy was hilarious.  He walked right up to us, and as we tried to dodge him he was like, “Guys listen, I know this sucks.  I HATE my job.  I really do. But could you just look at our menu and let me talk to you about it for a minute?”  We went along with it but we were still planning to walk away when he said he’d throw in free champagne if we sat down.  Sold.  It was actually a great meal and there were a few musicians playing in the square in front of us, so we were happy with our choice.
Day 8 
We visited Basilica San Clemente and enjoyed one last view of the Colosseum on our way there.  JR wanted to see it since the present Basilica was built before the year 1100 and beneath it is another 4th century basilica that had been converted out of a Roman nobleman’s home.  There were even earlier layers so you could literally go back over two thousand years in time depending on how far down you went!  Afterwards, we had every intention of getting Abby home for her nap but that little trickster passed out in her stroller at like 11:30am.  It just so happened that we were steps away from an Irish pub, so we forced ourselves to have drinks and an early lunch while she slept.  On our way home we passed through a square where a woman was feeding pigeons.  She offered Abby and I some food so that we could play along, and we enjoyed the bird watching for a bit.
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For our last dinner we went back to Trastevere with no set destination in mind.  Anytime we saw a relatively open square with space for Abby to run while we could be close by with drinks, we didn’t pass up the opportunity.  There were street performers making huge bubbles and it was a big hit with Abby.  A great night to cap off a wonderful week in Rome!
Our return trip/flight was relatively smooth.  I mentally broke the day down into 4 2-hour parts (waiting to board in Rome, flight to Istanbul, layover in Istanbul, flight home) and that helped me relax.   It’s worth noting that the Rome airport was very disappointing considering the great reputation of Rome itself.  There was one small snack place before you went downstairs to our gate.  It was incredibly busy with people everywhere and a grand total of 16 seats for people to sit in while waiting for boarding.  In contrast, the Istanbul airport has been majorly upgraded since we last passed through and our layover there was quick and easy.
Side note – on our way to Rome we also stopped in Istanbul.  I walked into the restroom and the only one open was the very last stall.  I looked inside and actually said out loud “Oh. Only Turkish toilets.”  Which, I mean that makes sense since we were in Turkey, so what can you do?  OF COURSE, on my way out several other stalls were open and I saw they all had regular toilets.
Traveling with a toddler proved to be challegning at times but we wouldn’t change our experience for anything.  We loved Rome and will definitely go back some day.

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