We broke up our drive from Pisa to Rome with a brief, very welcome stop at the beach, where this family is right at home! Although a little windy, the Mediterranean itself wasn’t that cold (something we knew first-hand from our encounter with the rogue wave) and Daniel was thrilled to collect sticks and rocks and seed pods. I think these photos of Daniel and his grandparents might be my favorite of the entire trip.
We arrived in Rome, settled into our airbnb apartment and grabbed dinner and gelato in the neighborhood before bed. The next day, we took a windy walk through the Forum ruins and Palatine Hill, which was for centuries the center of Roman public life. Perhaps the most celebrated meeting place in all of time, it’s astounding to think of the history that happened here. For things like this, we’ve found it incredibly helpful to have some sort of guided (even self-guided) walking tour. It’s worth taking the time to read up on the significance of each place so that the ruins can come alive to you as more than heaps of old rocks and rubble.
After a lunch of pasta at a little side street trattoria, we visited the Colosseum. It seemed almost unreal, to be standing in something so old and so enormous.
There was a lot of consulting Rick Steves.
A winding walk through the city brought us to- surprise!- more gelato, coffee for Dad and I, and the Trevi Fountain.
Side note: For the entirety of our relationship up to this point, John and I have been living by this unspoken rule that we have to order different things. Sometimes it makes sense, especially if we don’t have a strong preference in the first place or if there are several compelling options–variety is good. So, as has been our custom, once John ordered the lemon basil gelato, despite my love of anything basil, I defaulted to mint chocolate chip. Huge mistake. Every gelateria has mint chocolate chip and only this one, where we would never be again, had lemon basil. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. Eight years into this relationship, I’m embracing my food ordering freedom: we can get the same thing. It’s revolutionary.
Anyway, we arrived at the Pantheon to find it closed, but we were able to admire the outside while listening to what I thought had to be a recording of Andrea Bocelli. Nope, this is real life.
The next day, Mom and Dad’s last in Europe, was our day to see The Vatican. I realized on this trip how much I didn’t know about this tiny country. I had no idea that you could spend an entire
day month on the Vatican museum. We took binoculars into the Sistine Chapel and spent a good half hour just sitting back, taking in the details. I knew that St. Peters’ Basilica was the largest church in the world, but standing beneath the cupola nearly 450 feet over my head, realizing that all the paintings were actually mosaics? Incredible. We climbed the dome for a closer look at some of those mosaic masterpieces and great views of the city before heading to a nearby restaurant for pizza– one last meal with Mom and Dad in Italy.
551 steps like this to get to the top of the dome:
It was bittersweet, saying goodbye at the airport the next morning. Two weeks passed unbelievably quickly, given all that we’d seen together. We couldn’t be more grateful for the time we had–even the many, many hours on the road. What a gift, to share a little bit of our life here in Europe and to see Daniel developing a real-life relationship with the grandparents he’s known mostly from Skype.
John and I had one more day in Rome after Mom and Dad left, most of which we spent napping (pregnancy + toddler + travel. Whew.). We ventured out again late in the afternoon and had the chance to see the interior of the Pantheon. We ate dinner at a little rustic family run place where you pay a flat price and enjoy whatever it is they’re preparing that evening. We left so very, very full and happy, with juuust enough room for one last gelato stop on our walk afterwards. Daniel befriended the entire staff with much flirting and fresh mozzarella mooching. Paola, the sweet grandmotherly woman below, declared that the new baby was definitely “bambino”. We kind of thought the same.
The drive from Rome to our home in Germany is just over 12 hours, which isn’t bad (how crazy is it that we could drive to Rome in a day?!), but just far enough that we opted to break it up with a day in Lake Como. We rested and took walks along this beautiful lake, wishing we had more than a day to spend here. We watched the swans and ate crepes by the water and learned we don’t care for chicory. And then we hit the road again, back through Switzerland with all its tunnels and waterfalls and mountains, into Germany and our home sweet home…but not for long, because we still had more to see before our baby arrived!