I love vacations in which we can enjoy food, beautiful nature, adventure and learn about history, all at the same time. Rome and Tuscany offered all this and more! For my 5-, 8- and 10-year-olds, a week in Rome was a unique experience. We started off with a pre booked tour of the Vatican, with an amazing local tour guide – Deborah. The children had her full attention for almost three hours, taking in information about the Renaissance, God’s “Creation of Adam”, and stories about Michelangelo, who almost became blind painting the Sistine Chapel and who was really a sculptor and not an artist. She also included fun facts about the Vatican’s independence, the election process, and the lives of the popes.
(Just a week after our visit, our Minister of Foreign Affairs visited the Vatican and placed an image of Costa Rica’s “Virgen de los Angeles” in St. Peter’s Square!)
We kept the children busy with Gelatos for a 2k walk from the Vatican to the Pantheon, where we couldn’t resist getting a photo with the Carabinieri (national Italian guards). After witnessing a wedding engagement in the Fountain of Trevi, we walked toward the Spanish Steps, enjoying the luxurious window shopping on the way. We couldn’t resist getting a few matching shirts for Dani and papá in Asole e Bottoni and we were also told to try a Bellini dry Martini in the iconic Harry’s Bar.
The next morning, we joined a tour of the Colosseum and visited the ancient and monumental government buildings in the Roman Forum. It was incredible to witness such grandeur, where millions attended as entertainment the gladiator fights and animal executions, and to learn that many marble pieces were picked out to build many of the columns and statues found all over Rome. Lastly, we took a quick tour of the bone chapel (Capuchin Crypt) on Via Veneto, where the children were marveled by the underground displays of human bones.
The following day, we headed to a family-owned villa near Siena, with a small winery and an olive oil plantation (Santa 10), just the perfect setting for relaxing after three long adventurous journeys: one to Florence, one in the city centre of Siena, and one to visit the leaning belltower of Pisa. In Florence, while I enjoyed a walk and some shopping, Roy and the kids visited the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, where they were able to enjoy a “hands on” experience on fabulous flying machines and scientific inventions. Roy happened to stumble across Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece of David in the Accademia Gallery. For dinner, I tried the famous dish, “Picci al cinghiale” or pasta with wild boar shoulder meat – quite a treat! The baptistry and the camposanto (Cathedral) in Pisa were just as remarkable as the leaning tower.
Towards the end of our trip, we drove back to Rome, making a detour in the thermal hot spring bath waters of Saturnia, but they were quite far because the roads were very winding. Before catching our flight back from Rome, we closed our trip with a visit to the Borghese Gallery and Gardens, which quite the cherry on top with amazing art such as paintings by Caravaggio and sculptures by Bernini; and finalized with a coffee in Café Antiqua Roma (a must!) and lunch at the chic restaurant Ginger (worth the wait!).