Rome, Italy: Day 2

On our second day in Rome this past summer, we decided to go visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum in the morning, then spend the late afternoon and evening enjoying the heart of Rome.

When traveling multi-generationally with both kids and parents in tow, it is typically unwise to overpack your days.  Having a major half-day excursion in the morning with a list of optional smaller activities to fill in the rest of the time seemed to work very well for us.  If we were hot and tired in the afternoon, it was easy to alter our plans on the fly.  Just make sure that your list of filler activities is prioritized, or you might be disappointed at the end of your stay.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

With an arrival in Rome the day before, we were pleasantly surprised when we woke up at a reasonable time and had a ton of energy.  Having forgotten to pre-purchase Colosseum tickets, we had deferred the decision about whether we would go there on Friday or on Sunday.  The main constraint was that we needed to be awake early enough to get to the Colosseum at least 30 minutes before opening to avoid ridiculously long lines.

The Colosseum

After having a quick breakfast at our apartment, I made sure my phone was connected to wi-fi, then found the best bus route to get to the Colosseum.  With the stop only a block away, we were ready to go!

The bus came fairly quickly, and to our surprise was fairly empty.  My parents had no problem finding seats.  As we drove along, my parents enjoyed views of the city while I monitored our progress on my phone.  To my relief, it was super easy to figure out which stop was ours, and we made it to the Colosseum entrance a full 40 minutes before opening.

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The line had about 30 people in it, which really wasn’t bad.  We took turns holding our place in line and wandering around to take pictures.  At this point, I realized that I had forgotten my good camera.  Yikes!  With only a fairly crappy phone camera, I confiscated one of my kids’ phones that had a much better camera and used that for the day.  This was a great opportunity to photograph the Arch of Constantine.

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As we waited in line, suddenly, there were two lines.  Luckily, we were still in the one to purchase tickets and didn’t have to move.  The other was for people who had either bought their tickets on-line about two months before, or who had bought tickets to the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill the day before and were coming back to see the Colosseum.  All three sights are included in your ticket, and you get one entry to each sight over two consecutive days.

After opening, our line started to crawl forward, but even though we had arrived super early, it still took 20 more minutes to get our ticket.  Quite good, really.

Upon entry, we were wowed by the size.

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At this point, we decided to save the lower floor for last and head upstairs.  Even though my parents don’t typically need walking sticks, they decided to bring them just-in-case and found them really handy for ancient staircases that lack adequate hand rails and are steep, un-even, and incredibly slippery.  They also found them useful around town as it would mitigate falls if they stumbled on the uneven cobblestone.  As a bonus, it made it much easier for them to get seats on public transportation.

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The views from the second floor are great!

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We spent a long time simply looking at it from all different angles.

We made sure to look at the windows to see a little of the Roman Forum.

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And there was a little museum area with some nice mosaics.

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At one point I stepped back to take a picture, tripped over a woman in a wheelchair, and fell on my butt.  Fortunately, we were both okay.  Expect it to be super crowded.  If you are taking a tour, the crowd will follow you and it is unlikely that you will be able to find a little nook to pretend that they aren’t there.

When we were finished, we headed towards the Roman Forum, hoping to pick up some snacks, but the food trucks that we remembered from 2015 were gone.  So sad.

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The Roman Forum

Deciding that we definitely didn’t have energy to go to Palatine Hill, we started towards the Roman Forum entrance.  Since we already had our ticket, we were able to go through the short line and essentially just walk in.

We were greeted by the Arch of Titus.

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Finding a spot in the shade, we stopped to read a little from the guide book, then decided to simply wander.

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Feeling a bit tired, we found some nice rocks in the shade to sit on while James did some sketching.  I took the opportunity to find a water fountain and refill everyone’s water bottle.  In Europe, you will often see running taps in public squares and other places.  In Italy, this type of fountain is called a nasone and is generally considered safe for drinking.

At one point, we came across the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the Temple of Saturn.

While exploring, we entered the area House of the Vestal Virgins.  I thought it was the cool building in the picture below, but I am pretty sure all that remains is the outline, and that the building in the picture is actually something else.  There were a bunch of statues on display that flanked the courtyard of the house.

The ruins along the Via Sacra were quite interesting to wander by.

I also really liked the carvings on the Arch of Septimius Severus.

We could have wandered a lot longer, but it was getting to be quite hot and both the kids and my parents were completely out of energy.  Sometimes you simply need to say enough is enough, even if you are having fun.

Campo d’ Fiori

Not sure about the lunch situation by the Colosseum, we decided to take the bus to Campo d’ Fiori and find a restaurant near there.  With exhaustion levels running high, we ended up getting lunch a little closer to the bus stop than I would have liked.  If we would have been willing to explore a bit more, we probably could have found something significantly better, but sometimes that is part of multi-generational travel.  Given that most people wanted either pizza or spaghetti, I figured it wouldn’t be awful.  For 12 Euros a person, we were able to get a choice of bruschetta or salad, pasta, pizza, or chicken, a glass of wine, beer, or soda, and an Italian coffee or cappuccino.  The wine and cappuccino were great, appetizers fine, but the entree was as mediocre as I expected it to be.

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Remembering the “lemon juice on a dog” demonstration from 2015, we decided to see if the vendor selling the vegetable gadget sets was still there.  To John’s delight, he was!  We stopped by to watch his demonstration.  Last time we were so thrilled with the demo and bought the whole set.  But, alas, they didn’t live up to dreams and we certainly didn’t need a second set.  The lemon juicer was okay though, and we had lost our original one, so I decided to replace just that piece.  A few Euros was well worth the time the vendor spent on the demo.  Definitely make time to stop by!

We wandered around the market and bought a cup of fruit.  That vendor gave us a pomegranate juice sample.  John and my dad really liked it, so we also got a couple of cups of that.

Afternoon Nap

By this time, my parents were completely exhausted, so we decided to head back to the apartment for an afternoon nap during the hottest part of the day.  I pulled out my handy Google Map App, located the best bus, and we were off.  As it turns out, the stop was on the sunny side of the street and didn’t have a bench or shade.  That didn’t help exhaustion levels, but it was better than the alternatives.

Getting back to the apartment, the boys really wanted to go back to the toy shop to get a nano-block Colosseum souvenir, so we left my parents to rest and went back out.  Since the grocery store was just a block or so away, we also stopped by there to get more breakfast items, snack essentials, and water.

Walk to the Spanish Steps

We rested, wrote in our journals, and hung out until early evening.  It still was quite warm, but we decided to go ahead and brave the heat.  Our goal was to do Rick Steves’ Heart of Rome walk in pieces, so after walking to the Pantheon the night before, this time we decided to head for the Spanish Steps, stopping for gelato near the Trevi Fountain on the way.

On arrival, there was a band getting set up for a concert.  A smaller band was nearby and was playing whenever the main band took a break.  The music wasn’t particularly to our taste, but it was still fun to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.

As we returned back to the apartment, we stopped to pick up a mix of sandwiches and cannolis for dinner.

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