We've just spent 4 days in Rome, flew out Thursday lunchtime and got back in time for Jas to go trick 'n treating yesterday.
Si and I were in Rome together (without the children) a few years ago and I remember enjoying it then. Second time round didn't disappoint, I think it could be one of my favourite cities. The architecture there is stunning, the golden light (we were so lucky with the weather, blue skies every day and only in the evening walking to and from the restaurants did we need coats) is every photographer's dream, I love the narrow, winding streets with the tiny little shops and cafés and as for the food and the wine - I love going to a restaurant where the wine list is more comprehensive than the menu!
We spent our first afternoon (after dumping the bags in the hotel) meandering our way from the Spanish Steps (brilliant, central hotel location - La Perla on the corner and Prada at the end of the street, guess who chose the hotel?) through various streets until we ended up in Piazza Navona, a handy place for the first pizza (Ben) and first beer (me). Piazza Navona might be full of tourists and therefore subject to over inflated prices but it is a great place to watch the world - the variety of street entertainers in Rome has to be seen to be believed, from the bizarre - a person in a full length black cloak topped with a goat's head to the creative - a guy dressed as a cowboy statue (all his clothing and skin was the deep grey colour of metal, who, when you put money in his bowl, pulled you (Jas, not me) up onto his little podium and posed with you (lasso around neck and pistol aimed at head) then there were the two drummers who would suddenly freeze, only starting up again when they heard the tinkle of coins, a trio of street/hip hop dancers and numerous golden sarcophagus (sarcophagi?).
Dinner was in a restaurant recommended by a friend, her children had eaten chocolate pizza there and that was enough of a recommendation for our two. Il Brillo is down a tiny side street and looks nothing from the outside (but that's true of so many restaurants in Rome) then you go inside and down into the cellars where there is a warren of interconnecting rooms. I had handmade pasta with ragu and barolo and something else but I forget what the other ingredient was, it was sublime. Jas had her fave pasta carbonara and I don't think she'll be impressed ever again by the version she gets back home! Ben had his second pizza of the trip.
Often we don't bother with pudding but this was the chocolate pizza place so that had to be tried, I opted for the strawberry millefieulle, something I have never tried before, will definitely have that again.
Friday was another lovely sunny day, I had a bike tour booked and we had to be over in the area of the Coloseum for 9.15. Looking at the map there seemed to be a straightish route, unfortunately Simon was in charge of leading the Evans crew...we got there eventually (and were on time) is all that I will say. We were a group of 10, with Jas being the youngest but not necessarily the least competant rider, Bruno was our guide.
The cycling tour around inner rome was fun, although I think for Jas it was maybe at its worst scary (Rome inner city traffic) and at at its best dull (she struggled to understand the tour leader because his perfect english was marred by his perfect italian accent and I don't think she got how old bits of Rome are for that matter, but then since when did kids ever get 'age', how can someone who thinks 20 is old understand how amazing the Coloseum at 1,940 years old is?)
Personally, I had a great morning (when I wasn't worrying about whether the children were ok that is) we cycled for four hours around inner Rome, the Coloseum, Trajan's Column, Piazza Navona, the Panthenon, the Jewish ghetto, over the river into Trastevere and then back via the Roman Forum. Bruno had lots of history to tell us although a coffee/ice cream stop would have been nice.
We were supposed to make a stop in the Piazza del Popolo but the pensioners had decided to gather to complain about something and the square (and many of the streets) were full of blue rinses waving blue flags. It was quite bizarre, because come the evening the students had taken over and as we walked along Via del Corso to our restaurant there was a flood of cyclists heading down towards us, the majority riding normal bikes but the odd one or two on crazy contraptions, stretched high like for a circus, stretched long like for an easy rider style, even a tandem but no penny farthings.
After the bike ride we grabbed lunch (pizza no. 4 for Ben) and then wandered our way down to Giolitti's, an ice cream palace (they have chandeliers inside you know) we were in the middle of eating our mountains of ice cream (champagne & nougat flavours for me, baileys for Simon and double strawberry for Ben) when it became apparent that there was 'someone' at the table next but one to us, we'd never have realised (he's an Italian musician, Antonello Venditti) but for the numbers of women almost throwing themselves into his lap in order for them to have their photo taken with him, poor guy.
On our way back from our evening meal at another little backstreet restaurant (not quite as good as Il Brillo) we detoured through Piazza del Popolo (all cleaned up after the rioting pensioners) and outside the hotel at the top of Via del Babuino we came across another guy suffering the fate of fame, Franco Baldini (some football boss or so I'm told) having to have his photo taken whether he wanted it or not.
The price of fame, to be unable to go for an ice cream or even an evening stroll without being hounded by wannabe paparazzi!