7 April 2017 – farewelling Florence before rowing in Rome! [Italy]
We had a few hours in Florence in the morning before a train to Rome to commence our 3 day stay in Rome. As we had seen most of our ‘must-do’ list the previous day, we had a relaxed morning of wandering around the markets planned, before the hustle and bustle of Rome in the afternoon – which ended up involving some impromptu rowing!
Due to sentencing the kids to bed rather early the night before (they were asleep by 6.30pm due to exhaustion) and the fact that from 6am, there is a lot of street noise and sirens, no one really slept and were all up before 7am. It was 2 weeks into the trip now and the tiredness levels were getting high (and that was just the adults!).
We still hadn’t gotten around to getting breaky food (slack parents) so after the kids consumed jam on crackers for breakfast again, we got organised and headed out in search of food. Of course no one in Italy goes out early and we were out just before 8am so even at Mercato Centrale they were just setting up.
While waiting for the market to officially open we had a wander around the block and didn’t find much open that was going to provide food, so just after 8am we headed into the market which was now open to get a good coffee. Several places were doing amazing coffees for 1.20 Euro, so we had our starter coffee of the day….
Even though the pastry place we’d eaten at the day before was open, we were keen on a sit down breakfast. We went back outside and still nothing much was open but we found a cafe that did pastries and coffee so gave up on eating anything with protein and headed inside. There was apparently a very complicated ordering process and it was chaos at that time of the morning, so we ended up with a couple of different biscuit-like pastries and some coffee. Both were ridiculously sweet and more suited to morning tea than breakfast!
Hopped up on sugar we wandered back into Mercato Centrale for one last look. There were a lot of things we wanted to buy but we weren’t carting them with us to Rome. Soren was really keen on the dried mushrooms, strawberries and asparagus. Instead he had to settle for a couple more of the lemon pastries we had the day before (oh the irony!).
With a little time to kill we wandered back around a few of the nearby tourist hotspots, including Piazza del Duomo. It was still just as impressive to look at as the previous day, and due to the early hour there were no lines yet!……. shame we had to catch a train.
We found the streets of Florence very easy to walk around, and took a couple of different routes to the day before and kept finding new places to investigate……..
Unfortunately, it was soon time to be back at the apartment for a final pack up. We had decided to suck it up walk to the train station with all our luggage since it was only a bit less than 1km, now we had some idea of our bearings. There was a bus but it was only going to save us a couple of hundred metres walking, for the effort of hauling the bags on and off.
Walking with bags is always hard, and the streets are narrow, and when buses and trucks squeeze down past you and there is no room for bags or kids. Pedestrian crossings also not really abided by at all in Florence, they simply serve as a zone for cars (and buses) to line up and hit you! Luckily the kids are pretty well-trained and hold our hands, another reason we were trying to keep the luggage to a minimum, so we had a spare hand when needed!
We made it to Firenze Santa Maria Novella station with plenty of time to spare. All the trains departing before ours seemed to be delayed but ours was still on time with no platform yet assigned. Anto decided we needed more coffee so we piled the bags up in front a coffee shop and waited while he went to fetch some. It was rather busy, Italians like their coffee like the Fin’s, and about 20 minutes later he reappeared. The kids also scored cannoli which made them happy…….
By now our train was delayed but we still had no platform. This has happened to us a few times, memorably in Prague. About 3 minutes before the train was due to depart the platform flashed up but we were in carriage 1 which happened to be at the far end of the train. Anto had obviously not had enough coffee as he had a momentary panic when he thought the train at the adjacent platform was ours and it was about to leaveb and he was dashing to get on. Given it was going to Turin and not Rome, I decided the kids and I would get on the correct train instead.
We had gotten well-priced first class tickets for this trip so had a nice spacious and quiet cabin, WiFi and complimentary snacks (somehow this included lollipops for the kids). The 1.5 hour trip through to Rome passed by quickly as we watched the Italian country-side roll past.
Once into Rome Termini station, we had to locate some public transport tickets to cover our stay. There are various good options but we’d decided against the Roma Pass as we weren’t quite going to get the value out of it as we were mostly doing free things. We had decided the 72 hour public transport passes suited us best, which turned out to be a good choice.
Transport passes in hand, we just had to find the correct metro, which proved challenging. Once on the metro it was only a few stops and we emerged out of the station not far from our Airbnb apartment to immediately find more ‘enormous old stuff’. I still can’t get used there being so much Roman architecture just in the street, and everywhere!
It was under an 800m walk to our apartment but it was now quite warm, in the low 20’s and we were still lugging the bags. We found the street pretty easily, it was one of the main streets off Piazza del Popolo and even found the apartment number. Astrid, who had been rather tired, perked up when she saw that there was a gelato shop directly opposite the apartment! It was now 1.30pm and we hadn’t really had lunch except for train snacks. Anto had gone to fetch the apartment key and I had to restrain the kids from gelato. It was making all our mouths water but we passed the time but planning our flavours for the afternoon….
Soon we were up in our apartment, after a lot of stairs! They were going to come in handy to work off all the gelato……. The apartment was enormous, more space than most of our hotel rooms to dateb combined. The kids had a whole enormous room to spread their colouring books all over, and ran around playing hide and seek while we organised bags and maps for the afternoon. Some of the decor was curious but it was a fabulous location and it was a novelty having so much space after weeks of being crammed into small spaces.
Ready to head out for the afternoon, it was straight across the road for gelato. Despite there being about 4 other stores on the street, we had to try the one directly opposite our apartment first. Today’s gelato flavours were a dark, dark choc (it was almost black); coconut; salted caramel; and strawberry cheesecake. We were hungry!
To eat our gelato we walked back down to Piazza del Poppolo and sat on the stairs watching buskers blow giant bubbles and did some people watching. All the gelato was fantastic but the dark chocolate was amazing and definitely the winner, it was the kids favourite of the whole trip! We figured we’d be returning to that gelato shop a few more times during our Rome stay……
Piazza del Poppolo, is impressive both in its size and for the large Egyptian obelisk of Sety I. The obelisk is one of the oldest and tallest in Rome (and there are a few). It was brought to Rome (aka stolen from the Egyptians) in 10 BC by order of Augustus. There are also a number of large fountains, including Fontana del Nettuno, and Egyptian-style lion fountains at the base of the obelisk.
Our apartment was located on Via del Corso, the main street between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps. In the above photo, Via del Corso runs between the 2 churches (one being refurbished) and was a fantastic location.
We left Piazza del Popolo and we walked up the many stairs to the Villa Borghese garden. The kids got to say hello to some Roman warriors on the way up…..
At the top of the stairs, the views back down over the Piazza del Popolo were impressive. You an’t miss that obelisk!
The Villa Borghese gardens are English-style landscape gardens containing a number of buildings and museums. At 80 hectares, it is the third largest public park in Rome. It was a beautiful warm day, definitely T-shirt weather and it was lovely walking around checking out the Spring flowers. The kids had a ball running on the grass and picking flowers.
We came across a lake, where there were boats for hire. Being a beautiful afternoon, Anto thought he’d volunteer to take the kids for a row. It was only 6 Euros for Anto and the kids to hire the boat for 20 minutes, so it seemed like a good idea so long as no one got wet!
The lake was built around the 18th century “Temple of Aesculapius” built purely as a landscape feature, influenced by the lake at Stourhead, Wiltshire, England. It was a rather scenic place to row around on a sunny afternoon. The kids had a ball, spotting all the turtles and ducks in the lake. Both got a go at rowing and Anto managed to keep everyone dry!
It was pretty cheap afternoon fun and Anto worked off some of his gelato.
After our row around we wandered through more of the gardens, but didn’t come close to seeing all of them. Villa Borghese gardens were definitely one the least touristy places we visited in Rome, and it was a very pleasant afternoon.
We exited the gardens near the Museum of Modern Art and thought we’d go for a tram ride to rest our legs for a bit.
We had read that taking tram number 3 which is supposed to give a scenic loop around Rome, using public transport. Unfortunately it took us ages to find the tram going in the right direction. We eventually got on one, but it was approaching peak hour and the tram was filling up rapidly. Soren was tired and fell asleep on Anto pretty much as soon as we got on, and Astrid wasn’t doing much better.
We decided that with the crush of commuters on the tram and tired kids our best bet was to abandon the tram and get on a metro. Of course as soon as we made that decision the scenery got far more interesting!
It was thankfully only a short metro ride to the Spanish Steps. Once we popped out of the metro station, we found most of the people in Rome, there were people everywhere….. oh and cops, with Italy’s many types of police there were police, military and carabinieri everywhere.
The kids loved the fountain of the ugly boat (Fontana della Barcaccia). The fountain was built in the 17th century under a papal project to erect a fountain in every square in Rome (that is why there are so many fountains in Rome!!). It is filled by an aqueduct that was constructed in 19BC. It is slightly below street level to take advantage of water-pressure from the aqueduct.
The Spanish steps are 135 steps that bridge the steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna, at the base where the Spanish Embassy is located, and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. The steps were built in the early 18th Century. The area is now full of a large number of high-end shops and is a tourist hot-spot.
You couldn’t move on the steps at that time of day, so we abandoned any hope of exploring further today and decided it was time to find some food. Not difficult in this area! Unfortunately most of them looked way too up market for both our budget and the level of the kids tiredness.
Once we found something more our style we decided to sit outside and enjoy the last of the sunshine. We also happened to opposite a toy store which kept the kids amused while food was being prepared.
We were all a bit hungry due to not a lot of proper food all day. The kids decided to share a carbonara, Anto and I shared a vegie pizza, (which was supposed to have eggplant, zuchini, tomato and mushroom, but turned out to be one in each quarter) and some broccoli sprouts with chilli that was more like a spinach dish but tasty. We also got a very nice cheese plate.
Dinner was tasty but not as good as some of our other meals. It was, however, a beautiful night to sit outside and eat. An accordion player was busking in front of the toystore. This fascinated Soren, and definitely added to the atmosphere of a Spring-time dinner in Rome!
It was a very short walk from dinner back to our apartment and Via del Corso was now full of people. There were a quantity of street performers and buskers who we watched for a while. We also found that there were some apartments named ‘Astrid Roma Suites’ just around the corner from our apartment which made Astrid excited as she rarely sees anything with her name on it.
After a day with lots of walking the kids collapsed into bed pretty quickly. We were on the third floor but our apartment opened directly onto Via del Corso so there was a lot of street noise. Thankfully there was some very good buskers directly below us. Their violin and electric guitar renditions of many favourites kept us amused and the kids were serenaded to sleep to ‘The Game of Thrones’ theme music!
Statistics for Friday 7 April 2017 – the temperature in Florence ranged from 5 to 21 degrees, while Rome was a similar 7 to 20 degrees Celsius. We thoroughly enjoyed the mild Spring-time temperatures. The total walking for the day was a reasonable 13.6km!
Next up, a huge day of exploring the tourists hot-spots of Rome in glorious Spring sunshine, and yes there was more food and more gelato!