Walking in Rome with my baby
Federico F - Father and avid traveller,
May 14, 2012
It was dark so I glimpsed at the street lights for reassurance. The rain was pouring down like there was never going to end. Some shops still open were used as shelter by passersby. Rain drops were hitting my window like tiny hammers, making a noise as in frustration for reaching the end of their long journey. I turned and looked at my eleven-month-old son, deep in his sleep, his breath making his tummy go up and down like a small ship in the sea on a windy day. I then felt reassured. He did not mind the weather. He was in peace.
We were at the Hotel de Russie, in a fantastic room overlooking Piazza del Popolo. Welcome to Rome.
Rain can be a spoiler. But it can also be a source of new opportunities and recreational imagination. We went to Rome for three nights; a city break, you can call it. And one - the first - of these days, it rained heavily. So we stayed at the hotel and used all its amenities. The next day Rome was blessed by a sun that bathed everything on its way with a golden light. Where to start on a three day visit to a city that was the source of the Western civilisation (leaving the Ancient Greeks aside for a moment)?
After a delicious and fulfilling buffet breakfast, I put my son in the baby carrier, his back against my chest, his legs and arms hanging loose, and we began our exploration of what seemed to me the must-see historic sites of the city of Romulus and Remus. The Coliseum is one of those sites one cannot miss if in Rome. Security in the surrounding area has improved from past years thus I felt relaxed (ten years ago I saw how a ten year old boy took the wallet of a Japanese tourist and run hundred metres until caught by two "carabinieris"). An English guided tour is the best option if you want to learn aspects that the naked eye will surely miss. However, with a baby hanging from your shoulders and his patience running thin, you may prefer to look at what you can, sing the song of his preference, hand him over the bottle and buy a book about the site and read it later.
From the Coliseum, I took a walk to the Palatine Hill, where it all started around three thousand years ago (753 BC to be precise). Although a bit of imagination on how it might have looked like is needed, the site is fantastic and imbued in history.
For a more mundane walk, soon afterwards I decided to visit the Fontana di Trevi. Even if you have not seen the movie La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini, by being there you will understand why the Trevi Fountain is so immensely famous. By no means you can forget to drop a coin in it if you want to make sure you will return to Rome.
The expression "Rome wasn't built in a day" (implying that a complicated task will take time and needs patience) is highly accurate. It is noticeable how, over the centuries, Roman Emperors built different monuments (sometimes in their own honour, it must be said) to celebrate war (or just battle) victories. Dissimilar architectural styles abound throughout the city and if you are really curious you can identify the century in which a tower, a monument or a temple was built, just by looking at their columns (which in many cases is the only thing still surviving).
The shadows were becoming longer and the sun was nothing more than a spectator of the crepuscule, causing a chill in the atmosphere. It was time to go back to the hotel and rest. The baby had a great time, sleeping most of it, but also looking at new faces, taking some steps on his own and being fed perhaps too much too often (but the singularity of the occasion justified this peccadillo). The last day was entirely dedicated to visit a State within a city. The Vatican; the headquarters of the Catholic Church. It is difficult to summarise what the Vatican treasures inside. Masterpieces of our civilization are stored and displayed inthe Vatican Museums. La Pietà, by Michelangelo, can be seen in St. Peter's Basilica and is one of the most famous sculptures in the world. The only drawback I found was the incredibly long queues one has to endure to get into The Vatican and even once there, more queues are awaiting you to enter into specific places. Do buy your tickets in advance over the internet.
The sight of narrow streets built in stone, of ruins of ancient temples and beautiful sculptures, it all kindled memories of a distant past, one I might not have been part of and nonetheless one of which I have a sense of belonging.
Federico F. Father and Avid Traveller