He lived in Sicily for 2 years when he was in the Navy and knows his way around the country pretty well. He took me there when I was pregnant with Bella (and where we got her name from) and I wasn't a huge fan. I'm not sure if it was because I was preggo & miserable back then because I definitely got a completely different vibe of Italy this time around. I remember it being pretty dirty back then. I was nervous that the kids would feel uncomfortable in some of the areas we were going. We experienced plenty of panhandlers when we took them to Paris but I mean come on, it's Paris! But I held out hope because Mike really wanted to show them his second favorite country.
The other big reason we chose Italy is because my son is a huge history buff and could pretty much be our tour guide when we were over there. He has seen every documentary, read every book on ancient Rome and was really excited at the thought of being able to see the ruins in person.
Being the planner that I am, I spent weeks researching everything that might be of interest to the kids and came across a couple of unique tours that would certainly give us a different perspective of the same old tourist attractions. Our schedule was set: Rome for 3 days, renting a car and driving through Tuscany for one day and then 2 days in Venice. We made Rome our home base, flying into and out of. We had so much success with renting an apartment in France, we did the same thing in Italy.
Our flights were smooth & on time (shout out to Delta!). We took the red-eye and arrived, a little tired, at 7:00am. Our luggage was there and so was our driver. I was so tickled and kept telling Mike how lucky we were that everything seemed to be going perfect! THEN...we were dropped off at our apartment door, at 7:55am. Our landlord was supposed to meet us at 8am. We told the driver to go ahead and leave since I had confirmed via email the day before we left that she would be there to let us in. By 8:30, we were frozen and pissed off. We couldn't get into the apartment and we had all of our luggage with us so we couldn't leave it and go sight seeing. We didn't have internet (wifi was inside the apartment) and I didn't hook up my international calling on my cell phone because I wasn't planning on using it. So we had no way of getting in touch with anyone and had no idea if we had just been scammed into this apartment. Finally we broke down and starting calling the rental agency (which was closed for the weekend), the landlord (which didn't answer her phone) and AT&T to beg for mercy when charging my cell phone for these calls (which was also closed for the weekend).
Everything on our street was closed because it was so early. Finally an old barber started to lift the iron gates in front of his shop. Mike went over to see if he could help us. Now, I said Mike can speak Italian but I should clarify...he could speak Italian 20 years ago when he lived here. I haven't really ever heard him have an entire conversation in Italian besides the one time we came 11 years ago and we needed to buy a train ticket. It's crazy to expect that the old barber would speak any English, why would he? Of course he didn't. Mike approached him and to the best of his ability, tried to conjure up all of the Italian he could to explain the situation we were in. The barber told him that he knew the landlord and she is normally never late so something must be wrong. He offered to make some calls for us. The landlord finally answered her phone and the barber told her we were waiting on her. She told him that no one was supposed to be checking in until tomorrow at 8am!!! The barber and her go back and forth, speaking lively & as quick as lightning for 5 minutes...all using my cell phone (I'm quietly crying inside just thinking of the international rates). He hangs up the phone and explains to Mike that she is on her way and will be here at 11:30!!!!!! Mike at first misunderstands him and thinks he says 1:30 and I could see the panic on his face. Then the barber clarifies the time and tells him that 2 hour wait is nothing in Italy. They laugh about it and then start talking about family & marriage & plenty of other things I can't understand because I don't speak Italian!!!!
So since we had 2 hours to kill, Mike decided we should go ahead and check out the rest of our neighborhood while he stays with the luggage & his new best friend, the Italian barber. The kids and I walked to the end of our street and took a right. Guess what we found...
I'm not sure we could be much closer to the Trevi Fountain. It literally was around the corner. We knew it was going to be under restoration while we were there so that wasn't a big surprise. I was actually quite happy because the Italians have allowed a walkway through the fountain so you can get up close and watch the work in progress. This probably won't happen again in my lifetime so it was a neat experience. We grabbed a gelato and took a closer look at the restoration process.
It really is a sight to behold, even with the scaffolding. It's going to look amazing when complete. We wondered around a little more and found that we are on the same street as the President's residence so there is a manned guard gate about 100 feet from our apartment. Pretty cool. Finally, right at 11:30, our landlord shows up with the keys and a lot of apologies. She also doesn't speak any English...Mike works his magic. She explained to him that on her calendar we are supposed to come in tomorrow but in true Italian fashion, she laughs it off as a silly accident. She is so charming that my anger fades and I end up laughing with the two of them, even though I have no idea what they are saying.
We got a two bedroom (the kids bedroom has two twin beds that I totally forgot to photograph) with a full bathroom and kitchen.
It fit all of our needs perfectly & even though it was one street over from one of the busiest tourist attractions in all of Rome, it was super quiet at night. We opened the windows at dinner time so we could hear the people enjoying their meals at the two cafes on our street.
Once we go settled in it was already time to go to the meeting spot for our first tour, a vespa tour with Scooteroma! We were supposed to meet near the Spanish Steps at the Piazza del Popolo.
Right on time, our 4 vespa drivers arrived and we all got acquainted. Bella had been hoping to ride a red Vespa so she was so excited when one of the choices was red! Her driver was Lorenzo. Preston was on the blue vespa and had Bruno as his driver. Mike was on the black vespa with Mimmo & I was on the white with Jacopo. Jacopo was our main guide who would be giving us the grand tour of all of Rome. The nooks & crannies they took us to we would never have been able to see on our own much less know the background of all of those places. It was the best tour I've ever been on & can not recommend it highly enough!!! Both kids said it was awesome & even Preston learned new facts he didn't know about Rome.
Our first stop was at the Capitol Museum where we learned about the roman mythology of the she-wolf & Romulus & Remus. It also had an amazing view over the Forum.
Over the next 2 hours we stopped at place after place with the most amazing views of Rome. We learned the proper way to drink from a Roman fountain. We got to sneak a peak through the doors of the Knights of Malta for a perfect view of St. Peters. About half way through our 4 hour tour, they guys took us to Eataly so we could grab a gelato at one of the best gelaterias in town.
I can't imagine a better way to spend our first day in Rome. When we got back to the apartment the kids were exhausted! Mike and I picked up some groceries at the local store our landlord had told us about and settled in for an early night.