Toddler On Tour - Roma

9/19/2015

At 1.30am, half an hour before we were due to leave for the airport… Reuben vomited all over me and my bed. He had been poorly the whole day and cried any time I set him down. DISASTER. This holiday was going to be a disaster. I was going to have a terrible, stressful time, and worst of all my dad was going to be proven right.

A little while ago, probably around exam time when I wasn’t in a stable mind frame, and was clutching at a little hope to look forward to, I took something of a head stagger and booked a trip to Rome. For myself and Reuben. Just us. Travelling alone to another country. No biggy. Or so I thought, until my dad absolutely freaked. Sometimes I get frustrated at Reuben as he has no fear, nothing is too daunting for him and it near enough always ends in tears. I’ve realised I have that problem too. And I can see why my dad was frustrated. I have no fear, and I’m not sure if it is a bravery or just plain naivety. Either way, we were going to Rome and there was no stopping me. Not even a vomiting toddler at 1.30am. 


I went into it with an open mind. I knew I couldn’t see all the sights with a toddler in tow. The only sight I’d be seeing is a screaming Reuben. All I wanted was a week of quality time together, soaking in the culture, exploring an amazing city, and eating my bodyweight in pasta. And that is exactly what I got. And it was heavenly. People told me I was crazy. I probably am, but I don’t think we should go down that path. They told me a toddler would hate Rome. There would be nothing to do. He would hate the heat. I wouldn’t cope on my own. The flights would be terrible. Well I’m gona get a little sassy right now and tell you all, not only did we enjoy Rome but I would actually ENCOURAGE parents to take their toddlers to Rome. That’s right, I said it. Forget your beach holiday in Spain – get your babies to Rome! I could blog for days about our trip, but sadly Reuben’s nap will be 1 hour max so I’m just going to share with you a few of my favourite memories from our trip.  

The Airport - I love airports. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they are the best. I was so scared that my 1 and a half year old maniac would ruin my airport trips but I can honestly say it couldn’t have been smoother. My secret – be super organised. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, as Mrs McAllister always said in school. Even though I was more prepared for these flights than I was for any exam, at least something from school sunk in. I had all my documents in a poly pocket file, and I made up an extra special travel bag for Reuben. I’m so proud of this bag, I earned serious mama points. I had a box of brand new dinosaurs from Poundland, all his favourite food treats in a separate box, a little tub of toy cars, a brand new sticker book, and a clear plastic bag with medicine, milk, and juice. I carried Reuben in the Tula which left my arms free for security and afterwards I put him in the pram so I could enjoy a Starbucks. Priorities, I know. 

Italians - I’ve seen the Lizzie Maguire movie, I knew Italians were going to be drop dead gorgeous and ride motorcycles everywhere. But I what I didn’t know was just how much they LOOOVVEEEEE kids. And I don’t mean, ‘aw a baby, how cute’ kinda love. I mean the head over heels jaw on the floor 100% sincere kinda love. Everywhere we went Reuben received an abundance of cuddles and kisses, and all I ever heard was ‘AHHH BAMBINO BELISSIMO’. He got free gelato, free pastries, free juice… they gave anything for a cheeky smile in return. One night after dinner the waiter even gave us free shots, mine tasted like every bad night out I ever had, but Reuben’s was this cute little toddler size shot of orange juice. People were always willing to play with him and amuse him. As a single parent, this took a load off me. There was always someone around that was willing to help. Even just lifting his pram in and out of buses for me. The owner of the place we stayed at here was possibly Reuben’s number one fan. I still don’t think he even knew my name, but he went out of his way to get to know Reuben. Sometimes I dreaded coming out of our room in the morning as I knew we’d be standing for half an hour as he cooed at him. But it warmed my heart to see so many people loving on my little guy. 

The Villa Borghese Gardens - We stayed very close to these gardens and I think we visited nearly every day. They are a child’s dream come true, and therefore a parent’s dream come true. There is everything you could imagine! Several play parks, a zoo, a train, pony rides, amusements, bike rentals, a cinema, a puppet show, a Globe theatre, a museum, and a boating lake. I think my favourite day was when I rented a bike and cycled round with a little seat for Reuben on the front. It was the first time I had cycled for years, and my bum still hurts, but I can still hear the laughter and shrieks of Reuben….so worth it.









The Colosseum - Wow. Just wow. I’m not one for getting all hot and bothered about a building, but it truly is amazing. On my first glimpse from the bus, my mouth actually did drop open. (And Reuben popped a raisin in my mouth, always a helper). I didn’t bother to go inside as I don’t think it would have been toddler friendly, but the stroll around it is a must. It is even more breathtaking at night. Reuben, however, wasn’t much of a fan. He threw a little tantrum when I asked him to stand for a photo and proceeded to throw his ice cream at a tourist. Hey, when in Rome.





Gelato - Oh. My. Gosh. Is it ice-cream? Is it not? Who knows! It is the creamiest, yummiest, most magical ice cream I have ever tasted. My new friend Anna who lives in Rome took us to what she says is one of the best gelato shops and I seriously recommend the Nutella. I can’t even remember what other flavour I had with it because the gloriousness of the Nutella is ingrained in my mind forever. Anna was my guardian angel and also showed me around and helped me get my bearings after I admitted Id gotten lost multiple times. After this I was an expert. Between myself and Reuben I think we made a stab at trying most flavours of gelato while we were there, everything from mango to pistachio. Reuben became quite fussy where food is concerned, so he lived on a diet of gelato. Top parenting on my behalf.





The Piazzas - Rome has lots of ‘Piazza’ public squares/marketplaces that were perfect for Reuben to run around in safely. He spent a lot of time in his pram as Roman drivers are crazy, completely utterly crazy. There is no system on the road and those who do drive on the road have their own secret system that no one else understands. At pedestrian crossings they even have an orange man! What is that about?! To this day I still don’t know if the orange man means ‘maybe you should just wait’ or ‘girl you better run really fast’. But anyway, Piazza Navona and Piazza de Popolo in particular are huge and perfect for chasing pigeons, Reuben’s new sport. I liked to sit with one eye on Reuben and one eye on my gelato, and take it all in. Piazza Navona is near the amazing Pantheon which is mesmerising even for a toddler, and Piazza de Popolo is near the Spanish Steps – another item on the sightseeing bucket list. During the day there is also a great food market near Piazza Navona called Campo de Friori where you can be sure the Italians will spoil your toddler with lots of fresh fruit and goodies.




PASTA - Okay so I know this is a very predictable thing to love about Rome but guys, their pasta is on a whole other level. I don’t know what they put in it, magic dust I guess, but it is unbelievable. Generally there aren’t kids meals on the menu and children are expected to eat off your plate, but I didn’t want to share mine with Reuben. The waitors suggested I get a special dish just for him, consisting of small pasta shapes with oil and cheese. Sounds boring right? WRONG. I ate the remaining half of his too because it was just so darn good. I’m sitting here right now eating chocolate hobnobs and trying to kill my pasta craving… nothing will ever taste as good as a pasta date with your son on Via Veneto in Rome. I do have one confession though - the pizza sucked. Whatever Dominoes has done to Pizza, nothing can compare. Not even Italian pizza. 



CONS
Here’s a very short list of the not so fond memories. Of course I couldn’t go away without a couple of disasters.
I got my purse stolen. I know – I can hear some of you rolling your eyes at me from here. Typical Rebecca. I have lost count how many times I have lost my purse and had to block my debit cards, I’m a bit of a scatterbrain. The man at Santander agrees with me. It was stolen around Termini train station, prime spot for pickpockets. Thankfully there was only about 100 Euro in it and one card, so it could have been worse. To be honest I’m a little impressed with the pick pocketers, I don’t know how they do it. They must be shape shifters or something.

I got sick - I spent one of the days in our room vomiting, crying, and trying to stop Reuben from wrecking the place. This is where travelling alone got a little scary - I had no one to care for Reuben when I could barely lift my head off the pillow. Thankfully the family who ran the hotel were willing to help and even drove me to the pharmacy. (I’m pretty sure they did all this for Reuben) I’m still not sure if it was the bug that Reuben had, a touch of sun stroke, or the extremely dodgy lunch I had at the Vatican the day before. Whatever it was, it subsided the next day and I just took it easy…and shopped my heart out at H&M, Zara, and Gap. Shops in Rome are so much better than here!

I got into a fight on the flight home -  So our flight home was after 9pm and Reuben was overtired, grumpy, and throwing multiple tantrums. I knew as soon as we took off he would settle and fall asleep. But the people sitting in front of us didn’t know this. They told me they couldn’t stick listening to my child for the next 3 hours and that I better do something about it. I told them that anyone with common sense would know that he was tired and about to fall asleep. A few more words were said and Reuben fell asleep almost immediately. (I was right. I said he would fall asleep. Can we just acknowledge that please?) 3 extremely peaceful hours later I met the couple again at baggage claim. They avoided my eye contact so I asked if they'd had a nice flight. I shouldn’t have argued with them. It wasn't the answer no matter how embarrassed I was. But in my defence, I know how to deal with toddler tantrums but I’m still learning how to deal with adult tantrums. 

The Trevi Fountain had no water - It was having work done to keep it looking fabulous(I don't know what the builder term for that is) I was disappointed. I just wanted to throw my coin in and fulfil all my Lizzie Maguire dreams. But in my head, it's an excuse to go back. 

Apart from these minor details, our trip was wonderful. Having Reuben with me meant that I had to slow down. I got to see everything from his perspective. Never would I have thought that chasing pigeons and playing football bare foot in the grass could be so much fun. Rome itself is a museum and every street is as beautiful as the last. It was exhausting constantly keeping a watch on Reuben, and when he was rolling about the tourist bus screaming and throwing his dummy at pedestrians – I did wonder what I was doing. But it was all worth it, I’m already wondering where we could go next and my dreams have been filled with candle lit Italian dates with Reuben.





























Un abbraccio! 
P.S. Reuben's sleep turned into a 2 hour nap as I got carried away with this post. Y'all better appreciate this as I will be up until midnight with him. 

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