Monthly Archives: April 2015

Day Ten: Rome to Milan

We woke up early for our last full day in Italy. Our train did not leave until 3 but there were still things I wanted to see.

  

We walked to the Pantheon. This was a pretty neat building. It is an example of one of the first uses of domes. 

       

After visiting the Pantheon we walked to Piazza Navona which is the largest “square” in Rome. It is actually more like a rectangle. We took the obligatory     “I was there” pictures and then walked back to our apartment. 

     

A block from our apartment was an old crypt in a church. This was the Capuchin Crypt. The musuem before you get to the crypts was pretty interesting. It had a bible printed on the Gutenberg press. It also had a lot of old religious items pertaining to old Friars. Then you get to the crypt. Bones of Friars are arranged in a decorative fashion. It was quite interesting.

We came back to the apartment and had lunch and relaxed for about an hour and then we headed to the train station. We took our train to Milan and then took the airport train to the airport. We had dinner at the airport and then caught the hotel shuttle. By this time it was 9:30 pm. We had the kids shower and then told them to go to bed as we needed to be up “early” the next day to catch our flight home. (The kids did not spend the entire vacation on their iPods, despite what the pictures below may indicate.)   

 

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Day Nine: Rome

Today was Easter Sunday. I had tickets to see the Easter mass in St. Peter’s square. However, the weather was atrocious. When I woke up it was pouring. Heavy downpours. And it was expected to be like this for hours. I decided that while I wanted to attend the Pope’s mass, it was not worth it with the weather. Plus there was thunder. I don’t like to be outside in thunderstorms. Nor do I like to be with 50,000 other people, the majority who are holding metal umbrellas. So I passed on the Easter mass. 

 

My friend Angie and I decided to check out the Barberini Gallery that was located very close to our apartment. This was a nice little museum. There was one painted ceiling that it was hard to tell if it was painted or a sculpture. You could see our apartment from it as well.  There was also a nice garden in the back of the museum.

 

  

We came back and decided to grab a quick lunch with the family and then go do something. We ate at a place by our apartment and then headed to see a crypt that was a block from our apartment. We got to the crypt and found out it was closed. Oh well, we will try to see that tomorrow.

Next we headed to see the Spanish steps. It was still raining at this point but we still managed to get out and do stuff. We saw the Spanish steps, took the obligatory pictures, and then headed to the Borghese Gallery where we had tickets for 3 pm. 

 

The walk from the Spanish steps to the Borghese gallery took a while. It was still raining. We got there at 2:30 and had to wait until 3 to go in. This was fine as the kids had a quick snack and we were able to sit in the nice and warm musuem. 

             

We went into the musuem at 3. The musuem had some Bernini sculptures and Giovanni paintings. It was another nice museum. Not too huge so you could see it all. However your ticket only gives you two hours in the musuem. At one point I teased the Bubba and told him there were only three more levels left to see and his facial expression was priceless. The Rhubarb kept herself entertained by copying the statues she saw. My favorite part of the museum were the floor mosaics. 

     

After leaving the musuem the kids talked us into renting a six person bike. That was actually fun, even in the rain. We rode around for about an hour and then headed back to the apartment in search of gelato. We had gelato around five and came back to the apartment for appetizers (Pringles) and then headed to dinner at 6:30.

At this point the Rhubarb did not want to eat out. So she stayed home with my husband. Angie, Bubba, and I went in search of dinner. The place in our guide book was closed so we decided to get McDonald’s. Angie and I have a thing about having a meal in a McDonald’s when we see each other. Which is funny because normally neither of us eats there. It is always interesting to see the different sandwiches they sell in other countries. You could also order using a machine, so of course I did that. 

We had McDonalds and then brought the Bubba back to the apartment. Angie and I then went out for a glass of wine. When we were finishing up my husband asked me to make a purchase at the grocery store. Angie and I got to the store right when it was closing. They told the people in front of us that they were closed. As the shopkeeper was telling this couple this I snuck by the shopkeeper by going behind the couple. I grabbed the one item we needed and paid….feeling very lucky that I snuck in to make my purchase.

Tomorrow we leave Rome to head back to Milan and then we fly home Tuesday. We have all had fun, seen a lot, and learned a lot…but I think we are all excited to head home and sleep in our own beds again.

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Day Eight: Day Trip to Pompeii

We left Rome this morning on a train leaving Rome Termini at 8:45. We arrived at Naples at 9:55. I bought tickets for the Circumvensia train from a newspaper shop. This was a good decision as by the time we made it to the ticket machines there were huge lines.

We just barely missed the 10:17 train to Pompeii. As a result we had to wait until the 10:41 train. This got us to Pompeii at 11:17. There was a huge line to get into Pompeii, but we avoided this as I had pre-booked a private tour. This was very nice as the tour guide had a special line she could go in to get our tickets. 

We used the bathroom before touring the site. This was interesting to me because it was a squat toilet and there was no toilet paper. Thank goodness I had brought some tissues with me.

Then we proceeded to Pompeii. I thought it was pretty cool. I really enjoyed our guide and she taught us a lot. She pointed out things we would have not known on our own. She pointed out the ways the brothels advertised….the kids seemed to learn some things as well.  It was really, really interesting.

Had the kids not been with us I would have tried to see Herculaneum as well, but I figured it would be too long of a day for them if we did that as well. So after touring Pompeii we headed back to Naples.

We got very lucky with the weather. While we have had great weather on our trip rain was in the forecast for today and tomorrow. I did not bring our rain coats as the weather forecast looked rain free when I was packing. I figured if it was going to rain that I could always buy ponchos in a store here.

So, knowing the forecast for today called for rain I bought four ponchos yesterday. I was hoping that by buying ponchos that Murphy’s Law would have it not rain. We were very, very, very lucky. It was overcast for the start of our tour and there were some periods of rain, but for the most part it was pretty dry. The rain was tolerable. About half an hour after our tour there were downpours that would have soaked us.

We took our 5 PM train back. I could have fallen asleep on this train if the ride was more than 70 minutes. We headed back to the apartment for a quick bathroom break and then headed to the grocery store to buy some food in case everything is closed tomorrow for Easter. Then we grabbed dinner at a restaurant nearby, came back to the apartment, had the kids shower, and are doing more laundry.

Tomorrow the kids are sleeping in. I have tickets to the Pope’s mass but at this point I am playing it by ear. There is a 90% chance of rain tomorrow and I can’t imagine sitting outside for several hours in rain to be enjoyable. As much as I would like to be there, I think if I am miserable because of the weather that it is not worth the experience. 

Musuems are also free tomorrow in Rome because it is the first Sunday of the month. There is a museum next to our apartment – I am considering visiting that if the lines are not too big and it is still raining. We also have tickets to the Borghese Gallery at 3:00 so we might do that as well and also see the Spanish Steps.

 

               

   

                 

   

       

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Day Seven: Rome

Last night we went to bed with plans of sleeping in, but then I woke up at 8:30 and decided to rally the troops. We had tickets to an 11:40 tour at the Coliseum. The whole area over there was closing early so if we wanted to see the forum we needed to do that before the Coliseum.

Picking up the tickets from the Forum is a much, much, much shorter line than the Coliseum. I did not notice any special “reservation” lines like we had seen at other places. We went into the Forum and toured that. It was pretty cool walking around among the ruins.

 

  

  

  

 Next we went to the Coliseum. I was thinking since we already had tickets that the line would not be too bad. I could not have been more wrong. Even though we had tickets we still had to go through security…the same security everyone else was trying to go through. There was no way we would make our 11:40 tour. I was pretty disappointed since this was the tour that went below the Coliseum and then to the top. 

We finally got into the Coliseum around 11:50. We decided to go to our tour area just in case we could go with the next English tour group. When we got to the meeting area there was a family of three that had also missed their tour so that made me feel better. We then met two Americans who were signed up for the 12:00 Italian tour but hoping to get into an English tour instead.

When the 12:00 Italian tour guide came she told us it would not be possible to join the 12:20 tour. However, she was able to take us to our group. I was very excited. I don’t think we missed too much. Our tour guide had just taken the tour group down to the lower level, which is the level the general public is not allowed access to.

We took the tour and saw the various levels. While the tour did give us access to the bottom and top I felt the guide was a little dull. The Coliseum was crowded and our group was large so those may have been contributing factors.

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

After the Coliseum we had promised the kids gelato. However I was trying to avoid getting this right at the Coliseum. We managed to wait until we were by the apartment and I found a gelataria a block away.

We then grabbed take away lunches to eat at the apartment. My husband than took a nap while I took the kids to see the Trevi fountain. That was a disappointment as the fountain is being restored. Still, we saw it.  

 

We then proceeded to meet my Dutch friend Angie at her hotel. She is coming with us tomorrow to Pompeii. We briefly said hello and then promised to meet her later for dinner. She had tickets to an art museum at five. 

We had a late dinner with Angie. The Rhubarb needed to leave a little early because she was tired.  We then headed back to our apartment to try to get to bed early as we have a busy day tomorrow.

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Day Six: Florence to Rome

Our train left Florence around 9:19 AM to go to Rome. We arrived at Rome Termini around 11. That station is packed with people. A place you really need to be careful with your bags and wallet.

The train ride was nice. For this train we were in premium class. Premium class gets you leather seats and a welcome drink and snack of cookies. The kids were excited to see those.

The scenery was very nice. There are a lot of rolling hills in Italy. You go through lots of tunnels when you are in the hill side.

We dropped our luggage off at the apartment. The apartment was not ready for us so we then proceeded to our sight seeing stop of the day – Vatican City. I had not wanted to start our trip off seeing this but it was the only day that would work with a Easter festivities upon us.

Walking to the Vatican you are hounded with tour operators trying to sell you guided tours that skip the line. We ignored these tour guides.

We found a place to get lunch. Initially we were concerned as the place seemed deserted. However the food was actually pretty good and we received a complimentary cappuccino with our meal. It was also very reasonably priced. I was expecting to pay an arm-and-leg being so close to the Vatican.

We then walked across Saint Peter’s square and I attempted to find where I was supposed to pick up my tickets to the Pope’s Easter Mass. I finally figured out that I had to ask the Swiss Guard for the tickets. It was kind of funny. You show them your note and then they hand you tickets. 

After procuring my tickets to mass we headed to the front of the Vatican Musuems to meet our tour guide. There were lines wrapping around St. Peter’s Basillica and lines wrapping around the Vatican Musuems to get in. I had booked a private tour with an operator that specializes in family tours. This was a three hour tour of the museum and basilica. I figured it was the only way to possibly see the Musuem and basillica without the kids complaining too much. The tour guide was worth it. It was long but by the time we went into the Sistine Chapel the kids were able to look for things on their own. 

My other options for Vatican City were a group tour through the Vatican which has 25 plus people in it for three hours, audio headphones, or no tour guide at all. I felt the private tour was the best option because we would have gone crazy with the group tour. The audio tour we would have been listening to different things and would not have seen it as a family. The private tour was good because we could stop at things and also hear the tour guide.

The Sistine Chapel was amazing. And so was Saint Peter’s Basillica. I was not prepared for how large the Basillica is. It is very breathtaking. 

In regards to the kids – I have not noticed a whole bunch of kids in the places we have been. Maybe it is different in the summer. The kids have been extremely well behaved when we take them to these “boring” places but it is also easy to remind them that gelato is waiting when we finish. 

So, after our tour we promptly headed for gelato. We almost let the kids get the waffle cones and then we realized those were for four scoops of gelato and eight euros each. So we all had the size that was two scoops each.

We ate our gelato and then headed towards the metro. About twenty feet before we went into the metro the Bubba declared he was too tired to move and so we had a family sit down on a bench for a few minutes.

We got back to the apartment and declared we were too tired to go out to eat. Which meant that I was in charge of finding a grocery store and making dinner. Oh well. I have decided the only safe way to cross a street in Rome is to wait for a bunch of other people who need to cross and then all cross at once. Otherwise crossing the street seems very dangerous.

While I was at the grocery store I picked up one of those giant Easter eggs for the kids. They were very excited to eat it 🙂 I wonder if things are severely discounted like they are in the US? If so I see us buying more on Monday.

Now, here are pictures I took today. I am too tired to spread them out in this blog post.   

                                 

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Day Five: Florence

The Rhubarb and I had gotten groceries yesterday so that we could have breakfast at the apartment. This was much nicer than being in a rush to find a place to eat and everyone could have what they wanted.

Our apartment is very nice. It is very close to the duomo and within walking distance to all the major sites. If you walk to the east some more you appear to be in a more residential area of Florence. There is a fairly large grocery store about two blocks east of the apartment as well. There is a very interesting garbage can inside the apartment. It is coded for different types of trash and recycling.

   

 

If you want to see pictures of the apartment, check out this link: http://www.casacaterina.it/index-florence.html. Besides having space to spread out another great advantage is having the washer and dryer. Because of this we were able to pack super light with minimal suitcases. You may see us in the same clothes in pictures but I assure you the clothes are clean 🙂 Another great advantage is the kitchen. Knowing we have an option to eat a meal at the apartment is very nice. We also had an apartment in Venice but it was much smaller. 

Cost wise – the apartment is also cheaper than a hotel. I don’t want to post what we paid for the apartment on my blog but I would be happy to tell you if you ask me. 

Anyway, today we went to the Uffizi gallery. This was a much bigger museum than the Academia. The kids did as well as kids can be expected to do in a large museum. We saw some important works of art and then left and grabbed a quick lunch at a small snack store. After that we walked to the Ponte Vecchio for some more pictures.  

   

By this time the Rhubarb was tired so my husband took her back to the apartment. She informed me that she had been up early again this morning watching tv. The Rhubarb is the child that needs her sleep. If she does not get a good night sleep, the rest of us suffer. The good news though is that she appears to be on the mend from her cold.

I then took the Bubba to the Galileo Musuem. The Musuem is on two levels. I found the most interesting thing to be an exhibit on models of birth positions (such as breach and cephalic) and obstetrical tools used in the 17th century.

The Bubba and I then joined the Rhubarb and my husband and we relaxed for a couple of hours. Then we went out for a walk. We went into a fancy chocolate shop and let the kids each get a small Easter egg. Both are really looking forward to Rome as that is when we promised them they could get a large chocolate Easter egg. The little egg they each got had a small toy inside. Easy souvenir. 

         

During our walk the Rhubarb started complaining about her tummy. At that point we decided to have dinner at the apartment instead of out. I made a quick penne with tomato sauce and then the kids got ready for bed.

Tomorrow we head to Rome and Vatican City. We head to the Holy See for a tour after lunch. Then we have no more art museums until Sunday. One thing I miss in Florence is green space. Our apartment in Rome is right next to a park so I will have green space there.

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