5,022 miles away: Italy Spring Break, part I

Spring Break 2016 did not disappoint. We booked flights to Rome way back in early July, and then sat back until nearly mid-January before we started planning anything else. After a frenetic few weeks of devouring guide books, websites, blogs, and anything Roman I could find, we put together a plan for our week there that I dare say rivals any vacation we’ve ever taken.

First off, hotels in Rome are crazy expensive. We decided instead to find an apartment–a housing choice that’s outside of the box but worked out infinitely better than we ever imagined. I scoured VRBO a bit and stumbled upon a website called My Magic Rome. We rented Via della Croce 44 int. 6, and while the all caps statement on My Magic Rome’s site stating that the apartment “IS NOT NOISY AT ALL” is also not true at all, the apartment really was a great home base for us. The views were unbelievable. (We also booked a driver directly through My Magic Rome for airport pick-up and drop-off at Fiumicino, a drive of only about 35 minutes or so.)

looking right and then left out of our bedroom window

the nighttime views were even better…

But before we got to this awesomeness, we had to cross the ocean. Oof. And we had to do it via a connecting flight out of New York. Double oof.


Russ contends–and I agree–that it’s rather pitiful that our boys are semi-seasoned international travelers yet have never visited New York. Until now. Our 2 hour layover in NYC consisted of a walk through the domestic terminal, a walk outside (danger, Will Robinson) from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, and a photo op by a ridiculous t-shirt store to prove they had actually been to New York. Obviously, stepping foot outside the airport terminal and onto the actual ground of NYC makes it count as a visit.

Alitalia. My goodness. Yes, you delivered us safely to and from your marvelous country, but, honestly, your planes are in desperate need of an upgrade. Zero legroom and seats that are so old that they don’t recline anymore at all.

IMG_7555not a whole lot of breathing room here…and this is in Alitalia’s economy plus section...

We landed in Rome around noon and made it through customs without an incident. We were truly worried about our luggage as Alitalia’s number 1 complaint listed on Consumer Affairs was about their spectacular ability to send luggage off to opposite corners of the world from its owners (and after seeing the plane and realizing that lack of space and very uncomfortable seats should have been the number one complaint, we really started to sweat). Fortunately, our 2 bags came through just fine; we met our driver quite easily, and headed to the apartment to check-in.

Needless to say, we were all rather tired and rumpled and hungry. Carina from My Magic Rome met us at the apartment and gave us a thorough tour of the apartment and its amenities. Before she had finished her introduction of the place, we’d already broken into the bottle of wine they’d given us as a housewarming treat.


When we went to London 2 years ago for Spring Break, our arrival day was ugly:  4/5 of us were lying on the floor of the hotel lobby while Russ checked in, and Jack was so tired he fell asleep at the dinner table and actually fell out of his chair. We planned our Saturday accordingly for Rome; the goal was to have a quick lunch, get a little fresh air, grab a quick dinner and hit the hay early.

We aimed for Pastificio for lunch (and actually found it), but once we truly realized how it worked (order at the front, lean against the wall and eat quickly while standing; Pastificio is known for being an incredible pasta store with a tiny restaurant-like element to it), we decided instead that we actually wanted a sit-down lunch, so we ambled back a bit to Pasticceria d’Angelo. We should have stuck with the original plan. d’Angelo was nothing special, and Pastificio clearly did look special. Our loss.

We walked down to the end of Via della Croce and turned right at the corner a block from the Spanish Steps, which, unfortunately for us, are in the process of being refurbished.


Our next stop was the Capuchin Crypt Museum. This chapel built entirely out of the bones of Capuchin monks was listed as one of the top “must-sees” with children. It certainly was, um, different. Located in Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappucchini, we were thrilled to have found it on foot on our first try (even with a well-studied map, Rome is notoriously tricky to navigate on foot).

IMG_2494Photos are not allowed inside the museum–or in the gardens, either. (I discovered that last little bit after being scolded by a security worker after taking this photo.)

Russ got a little weirded out by the whole thing, but the boys thought it was pretty neat (remember that our little Reverend Tucker loves him some Halloween…). There is a sign by the exit of the chapel which reads, “What you are now, we used to be; what we are now, you will be…” but I remembered it after I’d exited, and they wouldn’t let me back in to find it. I think the guard was still a little miffed that I’d snuck a photo.

After the bone chapel, Russ discovered the most amazing thing:  you can get vino to go in Rome. The boys were fired up to explore, and you really can’t beat a stroll through Rome–especially with a toter.



We made our way past the Piazza Barberini and came up on the back side of the Fontana di Trevi.


And it was not covered in scaffolding! We were thrilled (we’d heard the Fountain had been recently restored and were worried our view of it would be similar to our view of the Spanish Steps). My original idea was to give the boys quarters from their birth years to toss into the fountain, but that got ditched before we even left Atlanta when I ran out of time to sift through quarters looking at the dates. Best laid plans, right? We scrounged around in our backpack and found a handful of coins, explained to the boys what do to, and waited our turn.

IMG_2516starting to look a little weary, no?


Yes, Rome, we will be back…

One of the things I really tried to do prior to us leaving Atlanta was restaurant research. I knew we’d be overwhelmed by all the choices, and I certainly didn’t want us to accidentally end up eating at the Italian equivalent of a Ruby Tuesday’s. So I was armed with a list of fantastic, non-touristy restaurants and had made reservations at the (few) places which took them. Saturday night, especially after our navigational success with finding the Capuchin Crypts, I had my sights on Trattoria da Gino (which is also sometimes called Trattoria dal Cavalier Gino). After reading multiple glowing reviews of the place, I’d tried to make online reservations but had never received a reply.

This place is tucked away behind the Parliament building, with “tucked away” being the operative word. We gave the map to Jack, and he took us up and down Rome’s labyrinthine cobbled roads until we found a sign posted high on a wall with an arrow pointing to Gino’s. We then walked in a complete circle two times and still couldn’t find it. Frustration set in, so we broke down and asked a concierge at a hotel, and he had no idea where it was, either. The concierge looked Gino’s up online and told us that it was closed on Saturdays, even though the website says it’s closed on Mondays. (Upon looking up the restaurant online for ourselves, I found a link showing an actual photo of it and realized we’d walked right past it twice. The vines covered up the name and it was dark–because, duh, they’d decided to take the night off.)  We had another rather nondescript dinner at a trattoria whose name I can’t even recall and caught a taxi in the rain back to our apartment.

We stocked up on provisions (water, wine, popcorn) at the funky little market Coop under our apartment and settled in for the night.



Despite some bungled dining plans, day 1 was a total success. We saw several important sights and survived on very little sleep. Spring Break 2016 was off to a terrific start!

spring break 2012

Ah, Spring Break (or, since it’s the first week of March, “Late Winter Break” here in Atlanta). Spring Break with little kids is the vacation from which you return needing another vacation. It’s non-stop action, sun up to sun down. Usually.




We took the boys back to the Bahamas for the first half of their break this year. Atlantis has tons of things for adventurous little boys to do, the biggest of which are all of the super-cool water slides and the lazy river–even though there are parts that aren’t exactly lazy.


They have a gigantic water fort that is a kid’s dream. I’d have loved this thing when I was little…


Most of the pools are “zero-entry,” perfect for 3-year olds who’ve not yet mastered the art of swimming (or of growing tall).


Nevermind that the water was freezing. When you are a little boy on spring break, cold water ain’t nothing but a thing. Blue fingers are a sign of toughness, apparently.

The beach is just as great, with impossibly turquoise water slowly lapping up on the shore.




There are no “super giant” waves here (as Theo says) which is good because big waves would make it impossible to hunt rocks…a task that enchanted Tucker the entire first day we were there.



“Hey! Look at the gigantic rock I caught!”


We had a dance party in our room pre-dinner, Jack took a few pictures and it was all just splendid.



Then, a day and a half later, the thunderstorms rolled in.  Big time.


Chairs blew into the pool, the trees leaned over, the sliding glass doors on our balcony shook. From the 18th floor, it was pretty intense. I cannot fathom how awful it would be to endure a hurricane here.


We did get a rainbow out of it, though.



The bands of nasty weather which attacked Alabama, Georgia and Florida last week (and through which we bounced on the airplane on the way down there) set their sights on the Bahamas and lingered the rest of the time we were there. Tuesday was deemed “breezy;” the winds topped out at 23 mph. Wednesday was upgraded to “even breezier.” The Bahamians are some tough peeps; the breezier breezes gusted up to 30mph.

I’m guessing if the breezes are blowing so hard an adult can’t walk, then they’ll get upgraded to actual “winds.” We kept waiting for Jim Cantore to show up. He’d have loved it.  It’s nearly impossible, of course, to get a picture of sub-hurricane force winds, but check out Tuck’s and Russ’s shorts and the metal trash can that’s leaning to the side.

The “breezes” made it impossible to get in the water, so we had to come up with alternative forms of entertainment…

visits to the massive underground aquarium…

covertly sitting on various landscape machinery…


more dance parties (here, Jack shows off a new move)…


long, mid-day bubble baths…


photography sessions by Jack…

(he’s still getting that centering thing down pat…)

tickling on the balcony…

restaurant parlor tricks…


and even stints at the dreaded arcade…

And, of course, no family vacation is complete without a little bit of danger tossed in there…




Despite the crazy winds and the icy water, we had a blast. And then Tucker came down with strep (confirmed today by our 3rd trip to the pediatrician in 2.5 weeks). Thank goodness for a pharmacist dad who taught me how to read labels. The Bahamas (or at least Atlantis) does not carry children’s Tylenol, children’s Motrin, or the usual (read: American) generic versions thereof. Instead, they have Ibufen, a hideously flavored (and colored–we do dye-free here) “children’s fever and pain” liquid which contained ibuprofen. We had no choice, and Tuck was a trooper; the Ibufen helped keep his temperature down until we could get back here and get more antibiotics. Lesson learned: always travel with children’s Tylenol.

Sweet Thing did his best to rally.

Here Russ, Jack, and Theo wait for the shuttle bus, which Theo loved riding “even though it’s not a train.” Theo is making his “why isn’t this a train?” face. We see this face a lot lately.


And just to prove I really was there, here’s the only other picture of me from the trip.

We flew back to the big city last night and are winding down and recuperating for the last 2 days of spring break–all of us, that is, except Russ, who hit the ground running with a post-vacation 6:40 a.m. flight this morning. Talk about a tough re-entry.

Time to get back to train track building, Lego contraption creating, baseball throwing and strep-kicking with the little men.