Thursday, August 31, 2017

Heading to Jerusalem, but first, Rome!

This post is going to focus on the positive aspects of our trips to Rome and will leave out any negative parts, should there have been any.*

Many, many people helped us get off to the airport. From John’s parents who spent two full days cleaning and entertaining kids, to Lani’s family members for providing meals and other good experiences. Tuesday morning we left the house right on schedule at 6:30 AM, got a little Chick Filet and made it to the airport 2 hours before our flight. Check in was smooth, and even though there were some glitches with the actual flights the short version of the story is that by Thursday, August 17 at 7 PM we were at our apartment in Rome. 

In SLC at 7:30 AM...

28 hours later we are finally in Rome!

We went to a nice restaurant near our home and everybody got pizza. Delicious!

We knew that we had a big day the next morning, so we were all in bed by 9 PM. Miraculously, we were all up and ready to go by 7:45 AM. This was one of our big touring days, and our first stop was the Colosseum. 
Thank heavens we booked our tickets online. This allowed us to skip multiple queues and by 9:00 AM we were in the Colosseum with very few other people. We followed the Rick Steves tour and Levi taught us things he had learned in preparation for the trip. It was fun to be together in such an epic place.

We continued into the Roman Forum, listening to Rick Steves and using a book for kids that helps them engage with Rome (it was a great book). John recounted various incidents that had happened at the Forum and we imagined what it would have been like to like have lived in ancient Rome. We got a view of Circus Maximus from Palatine hill and saw where Cesar Augustus once lived. My favorite thing was to look at the arch of Titus and make the connections between Roman and Jewish history.

It was now 12:30 and we were looking for lunch. While walking to Trevi Fountain we found a hole in the wall restaurant that served “paninis” (really glorified chicken sandwiches) and “hot dogs” (they actually were hot dogs). John neglected to tell them not to put any sauces on the food, which led to about half of it not being consumed, but oh well. It was enough to refuel and get us to Trevi Fountain and Gelato. All felt refreshed and enjoyed Trevi Fountain!

Then we were off to the Pantheon! On the way, we found John’s favorite street performer. John had been mystified by how the man floated, but Levi figured it out almost right away. Can you?

Next stop, the Pantheon with Rick Steves. We pressed forward to Piazza Navona but we were losing steam. We should have quit there, but we wanted to see where Paul was in prison (Maria in Lata). After what felt like an arduous walk, we arrived, only to find it was closed until September. Bummer. But we were close enough. To celebrate the fact that we had walked so far that day, we took Uber home. Uber van was a big win for us in Rome. The home we rented had a nice terrace where we ate some of our meals, including Italian sandwiches for dinner that night. Although it was hot during the day, the nights (and mornings) were perfect for outside dining.

The next morning we slept in a bit and got off to the Catacombs by 9:30 AM. We arrived just as they opened and joined a small group of people on a tour. We learned a lot about St. Sebastian (do you know why he has arrows in him?) and the catacombs and had a great experience there. 

After a brief lunch at home we walked to the train station and headed for Anzio…the kids were very happy to go to the beach! The water was perfect and we spent a beautiful time on the Mediterrean Sea before heading to a great restaurant where we tried various Italian pastas. Adding the magic was the man that walked around playing his accordion. And of course, more Gelato!

Sunday was a great day! We enjoyed the Rome 2nd ward, which had a departing missionary speak, as well as other excellent speakers. They had English Sunday School for both youth and adults, and primary was in Italian and English. Apparently several local members were away on holiday, but as it was there was only one Italian speaking child in the primary.

After church we briefly attempted to take a bus to the Rome temple, but quickly abandoned that effort (some more quickly than others). After a siesta we trooped out again to visit three ancient churches: Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro in Vincoli, and St. John Lateran. All were beautiful in their own way. We participated in Mass at St. John Lateran – the oldest Christian church in the western world. We had purchased some Ravioli and other good food from the supermarket and had a nice dinner on the terrace. That evening we walked down to the Colosseum and enjoyed the beautiful view of it being lit up at night and also saw some amazing street painters.

After two somewhat relaxed days, it was time for us to do another hard-charging day. Monday we went to a multi-level building called the Basilica of San Clemente and learned about 2000 years of history by exploring three different levels. That was pretty cool. Then we visited the oldest baptistery in the world and some of us climbed the holy steps (ideally we would have done these latter two the day before as they are right by John Lateran, but our time didn’t quite work out.) We split up – some people went to get gelato, others to try to purchase that special souvenir we didn’t think we could find elsewhere (we later found it several places J).

After a quick lunch, it was the moment we had been waiting for – The Vatican! We went all out on this one, even hiring a private tour guide to take us through the Museum. Paola was great! She fed us with lots of great insights and took us to rooms we probably would not have seen on our own. It was the first time for all of us to see a real mummy (no picture included on this G-rated blog!) 

We also gained a lot more because of little details that the guide pointed out that we would have otherwise missed. Of course, the Sistine Chapel was a highlight and everyone felt like they got a lot more out of it because of all the studying we did prior to entering and the insights from our guide. John’s favorite part was the Pieta – such a beautiful work of art that evokes deep feelings. Spent some great moments in St. Peters Basilica and on the Square and headed back for home.

Everyone had the option to spend money on a restaurant dinner or souvenirs/more gelato, and nobody chose the restaurant. Probably because the store bought food we had was so good! After some delicious ravioli on the terrace and cleaning the kitchen, it was time to call it a night. It was an amazing trip to Italy – probably the only time we will ever take our kids to Europe, but we are glad we did it!

*Such incidents may or may not include one or more of the following: six hour delay at the airport, a completely new itinerary, luggage not arriving, dad losing his temper, people complaining (about walking too much, not having enough to eat, that 1 gelato per day wasn’t enough, etc.), a young child getting lost at Termini Station, and a meltdown at the Spanish Steps. 

1 comment:

Shawna said...

Back in the day we could walk right up to the Pieta and touch it. I love your list of "may or may not have happened"--I can laugh because I wasn't in the middle of it--sounds pretty dicey if they all happened!! Lots of love to all of you