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Five Nights in Rome 

I absolutely love Italy. I studied art history in college and lived in Florence, but some of my most memorable classes were in Rome. I learned about the Sistine Ceiling while lying on the floor staring at it after hours while my professor lectured. But like a lot of that time, my memory faded (I blame the wine), and it was amazing to experience this city again with my kids. We spent five incredible, spring days in the city before wandering off to explore more of Italy. 

We stayed in the most perfect apartment, not far from the Spanish Steps, that I rented through One Fine Stay

We started our Roman holiday learning about the gladiators at Gladiator School of Rome. This was a really fun way for the kids to be introduced to ancient Roman history, while getting a hands on lesson in combat. The teacher was incredibly knowledgable and passionate about history and took great delight in showing us around the small museum, which housed traditional armor and other artifacts. He was also quite amazingly old school and made it very clear to the girls in the class that their role would be keeping house and raising children. 

We took our new knowledge straight to the Colosseum and the Forum, where we had a kid-oriented tour through Dark Rome. This was another great way to invest the kids in their learning and understanding of the history of ancient Rome. We all really enjoyed this tour and I found it really enjoyable to re-see this city through these kid oriented experiences. 

Of course nothing says Rome quite like pizza and gelato. We took a cooking course to learn how to perfect these two staples through InRome Cooking. It was rather difficult to choose what flavors of gelato to make, but our group decided on coffee, Nutella, pistachio, chocolate and vanilla. We made that first and then learned how to make pizza from scratch. The process was a blast and everyone's pizzas were funky and misshapen, but still tasted delicious. I love taking cooking classes while traveling. I feel like it's a great way to learn more about the culture and you generally meet interesting travelers as well. 

After a day of kid activities, I had to launch my family into the world of art and we started at the Vatican, which my kids absolutely count as a country traveled to- technically it is. We woke up before dawn for a tour through City Wonders that started at 7am, before the museums opened. Even if you don't want to do a tour, I think it's worth it to book this entry to avoid the masses. We started in the Sistine Chapel, which is as extraordinary as it was twenty years ago when I was allowed to stare at it for an hour from my spot on the floor. St. Peter’s Basilica was our second stop, which is so rich with masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque art. It was exciting to show the kids Michelangelo's Pietà and the incredible bronze baldachin by Bernini. The kids loved climbing to the top of the Basilica- the views are incredible and well worth the winding and claustrophobic stairway to the top. 

More art and architectural masterpieces we enjoyed

  • The Trevi Fountain. This beautiful Baroque fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi and is the largest fountain in the city. It is definitely not a hidden gem and the throngs of tourists lining the edges waiting to toss their coins is kind of unbearable. But you still have to go and you have to toss your coin to ensure a return trip to Rome. 

  • The Pantheon. I love this church because it is so unassuming. From the square out front it doesn't look like more than a humble little local church, but when you get inside you find it's quite an architectural phenomenon with it's cool oculus and concrete dome. It was the largest dome in the world for more than 1300 years until Brunelleschi, inspired by the Pantheon, built his famous Duomo in Florence. Pro Tip: Stop for a quick cappuccino at Sant' Eustachio Il Caffè before or after visiting for a little pick-me-up. 

  • Galleria Borghese and the Borghese Gardens. This Renaissance villa is now one of Rome's most important cultural institutes, housing a collection that includes Caravaggio and Canova. The kids were more impressed with the grounds and we actually rented a golf cart to traverse the sprawling area. I have never done such a thing and it really made me fell like a lazy American, but it was fun! And a great way to cover a lot of ground. We also walked around for a while too and saw some amazing street performers, like Franco, who was a real whiz at rollerskating. He generated some speed and threw himself into the splits to slide under a low pole. I spontaneously erupted in cheers!

  • The Spanish Steps. Kind of like the Trevi Fountain, this place is incredibly crowded, but you really can't go to Rome and not visit. Lucky for us, the popular hangout spot was right around the corner from our apartment. We had the luxury of strolling by early in the morning to see Bernini's fountain down at the bottom and climb the stairs when they weren't littered with people. 

Spring in Rome is a magical time and it is a delight just to wander around until your feet fall off. Trastavere, on the west bank of the Tiber River, is one of my favorite places to walk around. There are beautiful farmers markets worth exploring, like Campo de’ Fiori. I highly recommend grabbing some fresh fruit and snacks and eating it by the river

We also managed to squeeze in a soccer game while in Rome. It was Roma vs Empoli, so we got a taste of the passionate fans and the excitement of a professional game, but luckily it's wasn't too crazy. 

Food We Loved

  • Matricianella was our first stop after dropping our bags in our apartment. It was recommended by our host and was an incredibly delicious neighborhood haunt. 

  • Osteria dell’Ingegno, which is not far from the Pantheon, is a great place for lunch. It offers simple, fresh food with a chalkboard menu of seasonal specialties

  • Emma was our favorite place for pizza. So simple and perfect. I highly recommend getting a reservation or going at an off hour. 

  • Trattoria Da Enzo (on Via dei Vascellari) was a sublime little local restaurant in Trastavere that a friend who lived in Rome for years recommended. It was one of our favorites! Definitely get the tiramisu.

  • Pianostrada was a god send when we needed some good late-night food after the soccer match. They seated us at the kitchen counter and cooked the most delicious food for us right in front of our eyes and watering mouths. 

  • We chose Roscioli for my son's birthday dinner and he still talks about it to this day. I think you can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but for my son it was all about the cacio e pepe and tiramisu. 

  • We loved the gelato at Grom