Monday, December 24, 2007

Rome for the holidays

Rome, all of the guidebooks advised us, is not a city for children. There are few green spaces, even less kid-focused attractions and damned little in the way of relevant sights for the under-10 set. "They'll be welcomed, of course, but incredibly bored," one travel guide after another reiterated. The universal message was abundantly clear: take your offspring elsewhere.

A year ago, we probably would not have hesitated to take this advice to heart. New to the traveling with kids game, concerned about everything from finding family-friendly sleeping arrangements to creating playground-laden itineraries, we were gun shy about going anywhere -- even to places which professed to cater to children. Faced with a city so clearly uninterested in our little darlings, we would have run screaming faster than we could say arrivederci. (In our defense, it is very hard to say arrivederci with just the right accent...)

Thank goodness we've relaxed a bit in the past 15 months, or we would have missed an amazing trip to Rome. Yes, yes, there was vomiting. But the illness (and ubiquitous fever, of course) did not strike until the last night, it only struck one child and said child did not actually start throwing up until we were on the plane coming home. Granted, our re-entry to the UK and our first day back were a bit messier than anticipated, and I would obviously have preferred to be able to tackle the post-vacation laundry issue without first running emergency loads of Evan's sheets and pjs. But before all of this, we had nearly 4 healthy days in Rome. And contrary to popular guidebook opinion, the whole family had a terrific time.

OK, the guidebooks were sort of right. Not much in the way of green space in Rome, really, and even less in the way of real playgrounds. But a ride on a bicycle large enough for the whole family turned out to be a far more exciting park ride than any swing my children have ever tried.

And the books weren't wrong when they said that some of the appeal that adults find in the sight of Rome's beautiful piazzas full of fountains and ancient buildings might be lost on young children, I admit. But my children thought that the giant toy and sweet fair set up in Piazza Navona in honor of La Befana made a very appealing sight indeed.

There's no doubt that Paul and I were more awed by the ruins of ancient Rome than our offspring, just as the travel advice websites had predicted. But once some then/now overlay pictures in a book purchased outside the Colosseum helped our kids to understand what they were looking at, even a pile of old rocks and a few columns started to look pretty interesting to them, too.

Yes, a little bit of ingenuity and luck might just have tipped the scales in our favor where children and Rome were concerned. But it was the food factor which knocked the whole thing out of the park for us. Traveling with young picky eaters can be an incredibly frustrating and humbling experience. We've been forced to walk out of restaraunts in more cities than I'd like to admit because we simply could not make their menus work for our family. There have been screaming and hissing disagreements with our children in countles other eating establishments where we have foolishly attempted to strike a workable compromise in order to sample some local cuisine. We have stared longingly from afar at more fine dining venues than I care to recount after regretfully selecting more kid-friendly options. But not one of those things happened in Rome. We ate frequently, we ate well, and we were all happy (though perhaps a bit overstuffed) with what we consumed. Four days of near constant infusions of pizza, pasta and gelato may or may not have had a little something to do with the vomiting which brought our little Roman holiday to a close. But in the meantime, it helped ensure that we had been wise to ignore the nay-saying "experts." For this family with young children at least, there's been no place like Rome.

For those who like the pictures more than words, our Rome photos are up on Flickr. What a beautiful city (beauty, of course, being in the eye of the beholder)...


Blogger Patois said...

Rebecca, those are some great photos along with some sage words. Glad you chose to go for it.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Okay, pukefest aside...*ahem*...

What gorgeous photos! The colors in the market stands are incredible. The puppets! Amazing! I'm so glad you took the guide books with a grain of salt. To be honest, I've been to Rome and even I (as an early 20-soemthing at the time) ended up feeling a bit "ho-hum" about all of the art and architecture after a little while. You might just have gotten more out of it with kids along for the ride. At any rate, you can make them a wonderful scrapbook. ;)

Hope everyone is healthy now!

3:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see Julia cracked a smile in Rome after all. Hey, explore Europe while you can -- it ain't going to be so easy by the end of 2008!

2:10 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

Fabulous pictures, Rebecca! The trip looks like it was amazing (sickies aside, of course). And yay for getting to sample the fine cuisine!! :)

3:29 PM  

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