I’m writing this blog at 35,000 feet and gazing out the window as we fly above the clouds. Modern day technology and smart phones are superb. We have just taken off from Newcastle for our holiday to Rome. Ben is snuggled into me while watching The avengers on his iPad. I downloaded it as a surprise which is another tip as they’re that excited to watch something they haven’t saw before so it keeps them quiet and entertained for a good period of time. I bought Ben some great headphones a couple of years ago that are sound controlled for his ears and meaning he won’t annoy other passengers with the volume turned high on the iPad.
Rome is somewhere I have wanted to visit for a long time. I’d always imagined I’d go with a partner but to be honest, going with Ben is probably way more special, especially as he is about to turn 4 while we are there. I have taken Ben on holiday each year for his birthday. Last year we celebrated in Pisa, the year before Corfu and the year before in a lodge in the Lake District. Usually we are away on his actual birthday so I’ve always moved his home celebrations to a few days earlier so friends and family and see him and so he can open presents at home. This is the last year we can go away this time of year as Ben starts school in September 2018. I’m already planning next years adventures starting with Berlin in February. We are now two hours into the flight and Ben’s asleep on me. We’ve just flew over the Dolomites and some lakes which I assume Garda and Como. I’ve been to Garda and loved it. Used it as a base and travelled out to Venice and Verona and all around Lake Garda. That was the start of my romance Ruth Italy and using the train networks to see multiple cities on one trip. Another 30 minutes and we should have landed where we will be attempting to find the train station from the airport to Mutadella which is the closest train station to our hotel. I’ve travelled slightly heavier than normal and considering this is a ten day trip it is still really light with Ben’s trunki and I have a small case and also a power rangers back pack which has the essentials in for Ben’s entertainment, iPad, books, mini cars, snacks, my kindle, phone, ear phones and travel documents. I’m so excited to land and wake Ben up!
So, fast forward ten hours and I’m lay in the hotel room after a long soak in the bath as my feet ache and my handsome boy is asleep in his bed next to mine. We managed to find our way to the train station via an impressive toilet area (important for us mothers). Rome airport has children toilets that are large enough private rooms for the whole family to go into and they have small child toilets. I was very impressed. Id found and purchased our tickets (children under 5 are free), and was looking for the correct platform while keeping an eye on Ben running mental all over. The station was clearly signposted in the airport. Follow the exit signs then close to the exit you will see giant yellow train illustrations and you’re there. We got on the train and when our stop came (4 down the line) we were not allowed off, some train official just said no to us and we had to stand confused wondering what to do. Luckily the next stop was only a minute away and I could get off. Looking at the map, it was a two mile walk down a busy road and it looked like a main road so I wasn’t going to risk that. I knew Uber operated across Italy and hey presto we had a driver on his way for us. 5 minutes later we got to The Holiday Inn Rome Eur Parco Dei Medici. The outside was not impressive. Inside was a different story. Open, modern and large reception area with a speedy check in, wifi codes given and off we trotted to our room. I like our room, two large double beds, modern tv, refreshments, mini bar and a smart phone device called ‘handy’. This is impressive stuff. You can take this smart phone with you and it helps with maps and travel advice, attraction tickets, you can even call anyone for free. Very impressive but I was too scared to take it for fear of losing it. I’m already looking after a child, a camera, my phone, money and keys so something else was just too much. We unpacked a little and freshened up then headed for the train stop which id read was a twenty minute walk. It was only 5 minutes and a train came pretty quick. I’d bought a ticket at reception in the hotel and they gave me a map so we obviously got lost. We headed the wrong way when we switched to the metro system but it was easily solved. 4 stops later we were at the stop for the Colosseum. I expected a huge walk from the station but no, you walk out the metro and you are in front of the Colosseum. Absolutely unreal, even Ben screamed. We took pictures and walked all around it ignoring the touts for tours. I’d love to go in but Ben would be bored and no doubt we will go back when he is a bit more interested and has a wider attention span. We sat for a while and Ben said he was hungry so we set off looking for the all important pizza and pasta. We found a cute restaurant up a side street and we chose a standard margarita pizza and some carbonara pasta. I had a beer and Ben an orange juice. It was scrumptious as always in Italy, overpriced but worth it. I think the bill was €34. We were pretty tired by now so headed back. It takes around 30 minutes getting the metro and train back but Ben danced in the streets all the way back so he was happy. It was dark when we got to our station next to the hotel so we hurriedly got to our room. I don’t like being out too late with just myself and Ben. I prefer to be close to our hotel when the sun goes down.
Day one is over. I think tomorrow we will get the hotels shuttle bus into the centre and ride the tourist, open top double decker for a good look all over the city. Goodnight from a tired mama. Also please forgive bad spelling and typos as im doing this on my phone!
Ben slept great and in his own bed, I did not as I don’t usually in hotels and kept waking at the slightest noise. The room next door had such a noisy child too and at 5am they were up shouting at each other. I got back to sleep as they left at 6. I was hoping that would have been them leaving. We woke at 7.30 and got up and dressed and headed for breakfast. It was a typical European affair with the continental selection and an attempt at a cooked breakfast buffet. I personally prefer the meat and cheese with toast. Ben literally wants every single thing which I let him in stages if he eats it all as he goes. The coffee was amazing as always in Italy. I get a cappuccino and an espresso and mix the too. Cappuccino tends to be too weak on its own and requires the extra shot. We went back to the room to gather our things for the day and set off to get the train.
I hadn’t decided where to get off really just thought We’d get the metro line close to the centre and get off. We rode to termini station on metro line B and jumped off. As soon as we left the underground I saw the big red bus so we purchased a ticket from the stalls on the road (hexagonal shaped huts) which was €23 for me as children under 5 are free. We were soon on the top deck of the bus looking at the map which stopped first at the colosseum. There are earphones to listen to commentary but I couldn’t find a channel saying much apart from naming the stops so we didn’t bother listening. Ben was asleep by the first stop and slept until I woke him just before stop 7 for getting off at the Trevi Fountain. This was five minutes from the stop and absolutely rammed with people. I found as you actually got up the Fountain it was more spacious so I have Ben a coin to go make a wish and he did and we took photos then just looked at it for a while. It is so beautiful and really well maintained, I could probably stare at this for a good couple of hours without getting bored. It would be amazing and romantic at night. One day I may go back. After this we walked and walked taking in the streets and shops, I love the buildings, the window shutters and flower boxes. Ben was hungry so I stopped and he wanted a cheese sandwich. These weren’t your average sarnie. Beautiful flat ciabatta style bread, Ben must have been happy as it was quite large and he ate the lot. Next we went into a toy shop, we love the giant characters at the entrance to these shops. Again we have quite a few pictures from all over Italy with Ben and a figure of some sort. He asked for a fidget spinner I think they’re called so I obliged and he’s carried it everywhere since.
We had walked for hours and I felt tired so Ben must be. I hadn’t told him our hotel had a pool so decided to let him in on my little secret to give him a boost to get back. He was excited as you can imagine and we got back 40 minutes later, changed and headed to the pool. There is a large pool and a kids splash pool. It was freezing. I sat dangling my feet in quite glad of the cool water on my aching feet and Ben played a while. There was a lifeguard on duty which is pleasing to see. He didn’t last long and we were out and back in our room, we chilled for an hour then got ready and went on a walk around the area. There is literally nothing here, it is a large business park with huge office blocks. Id scowled the internet and everyone said there were no restaurants offsite. We found one directly behind the hotel so we went in and it was decent. We ordered ravioli and a pizza. I had red wine and ben water. In hindsight, I wish I’d booked closer to the centre. I don’t mind staying outside if there are shops and restaurants nearby. Failing on my part for not researching properly, I actually didn’t think I’d paid for this hotel and had the right to cancel but when I’d checked I had paid and couldn’t cancel so we had no option really. We got back to the hotel around 9 and straight to bed. Another tiring day which is the norm on a city break, enjoyable all the same.
The morning started the same as yesterday’s unfortunately with the loud child at 5am. I was furious with myself for not bringing ear plugs but pleased Ben was sleeping through it. I got back to sleep again and Ben did not wake me until 8, thank you son. First words of the day were to wish my little boy boys birthday. Today, Ben is officially 4 years old. He is confused as we celebrated on Saturday with gifts and cards as I knew we would be away but happy anyway. We go to breakfast surrounded by the handsome business men in suits that are easy on the eye in the morning. We decide to relax in the room for a couple of hours and go for the train at 11ish. This time we wanted to go to Villa Borghese and have a walk through the park. The metro closest was Spagna and we got there with ease and I remember thinking we had mastered the train and metro system until later in the day that is. The park was nice, nothing major I’d say, I’m used to the lush green of Northumberland and this park didn’t match my expectations so we walked and played in a play park.
I stupidly hadn’t brought any cash and there was only stalls not taking card so we walking into town and first came to the Piazza Del Popolo which was a lovely large square, There was a guy doing the bubbles in the street so I let Ben run around and play with some local kids. We walked through the streets to find the Piazza Navona and stopped for a late lunch. Ben ordered a pasta and I got pizza, we tend to share. Ben loves the food here, his favourite at home is the Italian too. The price was reasonable but it was off side street. I rarely eat at the piazzas as they are not good value for money and usually serve pretty bad food although they obviously benefit from the views and the best possible setting. The pasta was a cheese and bacon rigatoni and a standard margarita. We set off again happy that our stomachs were full and immediately come across the Pantheon with a lovely electric guitarist playing by the fountain opposite it. The streets around here are lined with designer shops that look amazing. There is a constant flow of blacked out Mercedes bringing people shopping. You could happily people watch here as I have no doubt you would spot some famous faces. Ben spotted a gelato store so we opted for sorbets, one strawberry and one pomegranate, as you can guess they were heavenly. Ben usually does not eat ice cream, says it’s too cold but he ate all of this one to my disappointment haha. Finally we arrived at the Piazza Navona and again Ben wanted to throw a coin in the Fontana dei Quattro and dip his hands in so he ducked under the railing and quick as a flash was back splashing me. We took in the sights for a while and watched the artists in the square paint caricatures of tourists then I realised my phone was going to die and panic set in slightly. The metro stations are not near the centre so I quickly used an ap I had and photographed a route on the big camera. My phone map managed to get us to a tram stop and we jumped on a packed tram. It was 5.30pm by this point so a busy time for public transport. We seem to be alone in getting trams and metros and I haven’t saw many tourists using them. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing but we enjoy it, it’s cheap and it’s the fastest way around. My phone had died and I knew it was 7 stops to get off but this was a completely new way for us and I felt uncomfortable. We got off at the correct stop but now was the hard part as the ap had said to walk for 4 minutes to the train station. I knew this station from changing there a few times but I didn’t know the area around it so we headed off in every direction looking. We walked for ages and finally I stopped a lady to ask and she pointed us the right way, ten minutes walking later we found it and I knew the station from the inside so I felt safe from here. I wish I had brought a power bank with me as that was pretty dangerous wandering around in the suburbs of Rome, probably looking really out of place, not having a clue where to go with no phone. Three stops on this train and we were at our hotel station, staggered back and we were high fiving each other for making it. Even Ben said his legs and feet were aching after today’s 8-9hour walking trip, devastated my phone died and didn’t record our steps.
Tomorrow I may take Ben to the coast as it’s meant to be the warmest day so far and it is our last full day here before we fly to Croatia. Good night!
We slept through the night with no noise waking us at 5am, result!! It was 8.30 which was a great rest. Our legs and feet had recovered from the day prior. We had not ate since 3pm the day before so hurriedly got ready and went for breakfast. Toast and yoghurt for us today. We discussed where we should go and decided on the beach. Ostia was the closest but didn’t look that great so we chose to head to Santa Marinella. Easy to get too with one train ride from Muratella to Roma Trastevere (10 mins) then a regional train to Santa Marinella (50 mins). Trains are very frequent so we only had a 5 minute wait at Trastavere which was enough time to go grab some water and sweets for Ben. As we were getting off our first train, Ben fell down a stair and did a kind of army role that was quite dramatic so an Italian lady picked him up and told me off. Charming. They do love children here and Ben is getting more confident talking to people, he had a conversation with the waitress in yesterday’s restaurant which I was proud to see. I don’t want him to be really shy nor overly confident so I think these trips help him come out of his shell a little.
We arrived at our destination and I’d read the beach wasn’t far and it wasn’t, 5 minutes and we were there. We sat at a spot by the sea and took in the views. Ben played a while then said he needed a bucket and spade so we went off looking for shops to purchase said toys. We tried a few then finally found one that had different toys included in it. Back to the beach and I changed Ben into his swimming suit and lathered him in sun lotion on the areas exposed. The swimming suits cover a lot of him which is great and he’s good at keeping his hat on. We sat playing for a few hours, in and out the sea, making sand castles, digging holes, the usual. It was around 4pm by this point so we headed back towards the station and I’d saw a cafe earlier so we ate before we left. Ben chose a sausage wrapped in pizza bread I assume and I had a slice of pizza. It wasn’t the traditional Italian pizza but had a thick base and was the best I’d ate so far. Back to the train station and purchased a ticket back to our hotel which was €4. We were sat waiting for the train and an Italian chap kept trying to talk to us. I engaged at first then felt uncomfortable so we moved to sit somewhere else and he followed. We were alone at the station at this point so I was willing other people to arrive to shake him off which happened soon after. An hour later and we were back. Unfortunately I was pretty sunburned all down my arms, legs and shoulders. I must remember to put sun cream on myself when doing ben.
We got back and pretty much relaxed for the night and packed as we were leaving at 7 the next day.
Ciao Roma, you have been fabulous. A beautiful city, packed full of ancient archeological wonders, sensational food and friendly people. I felt safe the majority of the time (my own fault for getting lost with my phone charged) and Ben has fun. I cannot wait to land in Croatia, a new country for us both.