Ahhh, spring break in Italy! Check out the pictures on the slideshow to the right. Here are the highlights:
Are We There Yet?
From Doha to Rome, the only direct flight (and the only one that didn't have us making a stop-over in Riyadh or Damascus) departed at 1:50 am. We steeled ourselves for a lethal combination of over-tired kids and cranky parents, but were pleasantly surprised at how well everyone did after six hours on the plane and not much sleep. Once we landed in Rome, we had the whole day ahead of us!
Our Homa in Roma
We rented a fabulous flat right at the Pantheon. The recently renovated apartment was the top floor of a palace belonging to a Cardinal in the 16th century. It had exposed beams, a loft, a hammock, a swing, bunk beds, and a dark red bathroom (!). My favourite feature was the view of the Pantheon, which was about 100 metres away. We could sit with the shutters open in the evening and listen to the musical entertainment in the piazza. By some weird twist of fate, it was here that both Nick and Ben discovered that the Italian Tooth Fairy does exist, and pays out in Euros and/or Pringles potato chips.
Pay Attention, Boys, There'll Be a Quiz Later
We walked everywhere in Rome, and spent our first full day exploring the narrow streets and discovering little shops and restaurants. Dan found a beautiful park, Villa Borghese, where we had cappuccino at an outdoor cafe, and rented a big five-person bike for us all to ride.
The next three days were spent touring with our wonderful guide, Cinzia. We visited Ancient Rome, which included the Forum and the Colosseum; we toured Centro Storico, which was the area surrounding our flat, and included the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain. Finally, we had a tour of the Vatican. The kids admitted they were a bit surprised by the Sistine Chapel, saying they thought it would be bigger! Evidently, they are true Lemoings, and not easily impressed.
There are 400 churches in Rome and Dan seemed intent on visiting every one of them. After awhile, the boys balked and set their own PDCL (Personal Daily Church Limit) to two. Happily, we were able to bribe them into a couple more with the promise of gelato and a game of Angry Birds.
Salami is the New Bacon
If you don't like Italian food, you might want to skip this section. You might also want to ask yourself, what the heck is wrong with me?
Interestingly, with all the people walking around Rome, we didn't once see anyone sipping coffee out of a cardboard cup or travel mug. This is because it's just simply not done. When you order a coffee, you sit down and drink it, out of a real cup, and enjoy it. People of Rome, I like the way you think.
We ate breakfast every morning at the apartment, with bread, salami, cheese, fruit and yogurt purchased from the neighbourhood grocery store. We had our other meals out, at whichever restaurant in the area caught our eye (or our nose). I don't want to bore you with the details, so here's a summary:
Bruschetta, pizza, gnocchi, risotto, ravioli, lasagna, salami, spaghetti, prosciutto, porchetta, linguine, pesto, olives, artichokes, gelato, cappuccino, tortellini, canneloni. 'Nuff said.
Wine, wine, wine, it's all I ever do...
Shocking, yet true: we had wine with every meal except breakfast. Unless you count the glass of Prosecco I had in the morning at our hotel in Sorrento. It was just sitting there on the drink table at the breakfast buffet. What's a girl to do?
Fasten Yer Seat Belts
After five glorious days in Rome, we rented a car and drove to Pompei. Our guide, Lucia, showed us around these very cool ruins in an afternoon. From there, we took the winding road to Sorrento, where we stayed overnight at a beautiful hotel right on the Mediterranean.
We made our return trip back to Rome the next day via the Amalfi Coast, along the Sorrentine Peninsula. I think "Amalfi" must be the Italian word for "breathtakingly beautiful". If you look at the pictures, you'll see that the houses are all built up the side of the cliffs, and the roads are extremely twisty. Dan was at the wheel, while I provided what I thought was a critical yet helpful assessment of his driving. His sage advice to future travellers: get the extra insurance on the car rental - it'll pay off!
Arrivederci Roma (did you seriously expect me close with any other line?)
Sadly, our trip had to come to an end, but I could have stayed forever. Although I kept telling the kids that I was really going to miss them when they went back to Doha, they managed to wrangle me onto the plane and strap me into my seatbelt, despite my protests. I hope the coins we threw in the Trevi Fountain ensure our return back some day soon!