Thursday, September 25, 2014

Postcards from an Afternoon Stroll in Rome

The first time I visited Rome was part of a whirlwind, seven-countries-in-two-weeks bus tour. Needless to say, we did not spend much time in Rome, and much of what I saw was looking out the bus window. Upon returning this last summer with kids and hubby in tow, I realized that Rome is a place that is best savored leisurely and on foot, preferably with a gelato in hand.

After landing in the morning and enjoying our first, authentic meal in Rome — pasta, of course — we let the kids pick our starting point for exploring the city. Considering that our stroll was not planned out in minute detail as is my usual modus operandi, we see a breadth of sites in one afternoon. Perhaps it's because in Rome, you can't go wrong. Anywhere you turn, there's something to see.

The Pantheon

Rome
Light streams in from the hole in the Pantheon's domed ceiling.

First up was The Pantheon. My daughter has been intrigued by it ever since reading Lonely Planet Not-for-Parents: Rome that's aimed at kids. From the outside, this two thousand year old building looks like a Greek temple. Eight grand columns hold up a triangular pediment. Step inside, and what immediately grabs your attention is the massive dome which happens to be the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. With all the marvels of modern engineering, I'm amazed that the record has yet to be broken. The only light inside the building streams down from the 8 meter (26 foot) wide oculus or hole in the center of the dome. At mid-day with the sun nearly overhead, the large room is flooded with light. Small holes in the floor drain off any rainwater that falls in through the hole.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Moments Immortalized in Stone

Walking through the Galleria Borghese in Rome, you will marvel at its collection of classical and Baroque statues. The sculptors drew their inspiration from mythology and the Bible. David with his eyes intensely focused on Goliath and his arms pulled back to hurl that stone? Check. Apollo chasing Daphne while she turns into a tree rather than be his gal? Check.

Sculpture at the Galleria Borghese, Rome

Then there's this. It's a bit of a less grand subject. I shall call it "Something is Stuck in my Foot."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Villa Borghese: Enjoy the Outdoors in Rome

Rome, park, rowboats
Taking a row in the lake surrounding the Temple of Aesculapius

Most tourists head to Rome for the ancient sites, churches, and charming but narrow streets. When you've had enough and just need a breath of fresh air and open space, head to Villa Borghese. This 148 acre park near the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo is the perfect place to run free and enjoy the outdoors in Rome, especially for kids. For centuries, it has been an oasis of greenery in a bustling metropolis.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Discovering Art with Kids at Galleria Borghese

Galleria Borghese
Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1625)

While visiting the Vatican Museum is de rigueur for any trip to Rome, I must confess that my family much preferred the art experience at Galleria Borghese. This private house turned public art gallery is located in the sprawling and verdant Villa Borghese park which itself has a ton of fun activities for kids like bicycles, rowboats, a zoo and a carousel.

Friday, September 5, 2014

When in Rome... Learn to Fight at Gladiator School

Learning the art of gladiator fighting

Wandering around the Colosseum in Rome, you try to imagine what it must have been like in ancient days. The roar of the crowds. The clanging of swords. Being swept up in the excitement of a gladiator fight. Would you be brave enough to enter that arena and battle it out? No need to just imagine it. Head out to the Gruppo Storico Romano (Historical Roman Group)'s Gladiator School on the Ancient Appian Way, don a tunic, pick up your weapon, and learn to fight.

The few hours we spent at Gladiator School were easily the kids' favorite part of our trip to Rome. They loved that they were actually doing  something, not just looking at old buildings. (They must have also wondered why the same mom that keeps telling them to quit arguing was happily snapping photos as they thumped on each other in front of an audience.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Contemporary Art at the Vatican Museum

"Hey, you're not supposed to be in there. Don't touch that!"

Not exactly words you want to hear when visiting the Vatican Museum.

Vatican Museum, Arnaldo Pomodoro
Sphere within a Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro

It all began when we walked into the museum's Courtyard of the Pinecone after buying our tickets. In the middle of the courtyard surrounded by classical architecture sat a huge, golden sphere. It almost looked like a DeathStar under construction or a globe in the process of shedding its layers. Creation or destruction? I couldn't tell what was going on. So, I asked our tour guide, an art historian with Context Travel specializing in family tours, what in the world I was looking at.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ice Cream is the Cure for Jet Lag

I am overwhelmed right now trying to get the kids registered in three different schools. I've been flipping through my travel photos for the last hour trying to figure out what to write about this week. I'm in one of those dour moods where nothing looks interesting. Tibet? Not interesting. Disney World? Not interesting? Stuffing my mouth with snack food? Totally interesting.

Instead of getting up and raiding my pantry which is what I really want to do, I'll just reminisce about a fabulous ice cream treat I had in Rome. (Pssst... I actually always want ice cream, even when things are going perfectly fine.) Specifically, I am dreaming of tartufo from Tre Scalini in Rome's Piazza Navona.

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