Given my screw up the day prior with our Vatican guide, I made sure everyone was up and at 'em early Wednesday morning. This meant not only that we were actually on time for our guide (I hate, hate being late), but we were able to partake in a traditional Roman cafe "breakfast." We'd read up and knew that Romans take a quick cappuccino and cornetto standing at the cafe bar. The kids insisted we do the same lest we appear to be American tourists (because I'm sure that wasn't otherwise obvious). We had to grab the cappuccino for take away, but I was so, so happy on the taxi ride down to the Vatican. And then it started to rain. And then it started to pour. And it appeared we would be on time to meet our guide outside the Vatican museum, where we planned to spend a half-hour talking about things outside before our early entry access. Oy.
No worries, our wonderful guide Regina (from Walks Inside Rome -- highly, highly recommend) found a mostly dry corner and gave us a great overview and explanation of the things we were going to see on our four-hour tour that morning, including the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. She was equipped with books and photos to show the kids ahead of time and explain the art, history, and religion. We'd splurged for the early entrance tickets, which in combination with the weather and general August decrease in people meant that we had the Museum seemingly to ourselves. Regina also expertly steered us to start in the rooms at the back of the museum, then those they opened just for us. So we had very little (by Vatican Museum standards even) other people in the rooms with us, which was ideal for the kiddos. And while the rain made for horrible lighting for photos, at least we were doing our one extended indoor activity during it.
We spent a lot of time in the Classical Antiquities section, gahhhhhing over mostly marble sculptures by Greek and Roman artists. They were insane. And the kids loved identifying historical and mythological figures they knew. Cam and I also spent an inordinate amount of time taking photos of the ceilings and floors, which were all incredibly beautiful. The Hall of Maps was probably our family favorite -- gorgeously detailed topographical paintings of the geography of Italy. It started to get crowded around that area, so we didn't delay too long. But we probably could've spent the better part of an hour just in that gallery alone.
Raphael's Rooms, the apartment of Pope Julius II, contained equally stunning frescoes and marble tiled floors. We took a quick break then at the Museum cafe for a second cappuccino (even though native Romans would never drink it after breakfast, I decided I didn't care a bit about appearing to be the obvious tourist I was when it came to caffeine) and more cornetti. And then we took a gloriously non-croweded, extended walk through the Sistine Chapel. Regina had primed the kids perfectly -- there is no talking in the chapel, so she explained everything first -- and they easily followed the fresco stories and seemed genuinely amazed that they were getting to see this firsthand (as was I). It was really, really something.
We headed over to St. Peter's Basilica, happy to see that we were still avoiding the rain. The kids could keep silent no longer and started up another round of "rock, paper, scissors." We didn't spend a lot of time in the Basilica, because the kids were clearly reaching their limit. But it was blissfully uncrowded and we were able to get up close to many of the stunning art.
To top off the whole experience, when we came out of the Basilica the sun was shining! And the lines for the Vatican were very, very, very, very long. A double line in fact. Our kids would have never waited in that line much less been in any shape to tour the Vatican after. So, if you can, I absolutely recommend securing the early access tickets.
The sun was glorious and we decided to head to Pizzarium -- a crazy-creative pizza joint recommended by Bourdain in his Layover series -- located not too far from the Vatican (although not really walkable with kids). We tried delicious varieties of 'za cut with scissors into whatever size you want and then weighed for price. You eat outside, standing at tables or seated on the curb. The kids were not impressed, but I think they were just overtired by that point. They made sour faces at us as we made them down tasty pizza and continued their virtual games.
And even though we were tired, the sun got the best of us and we decided to cab it back by the Spanish Steps to do a little window shopping. Cam wanted everything expensive (Dior, Gucci, and on and on). I picked up a pair of fuchsia leather driving gloves (my mom has a pair of driving gloves she bought on her honeymoon, which I've always envied and will never fit my hands. I thought it would be fun to start the tradition again in our fam and Cami took temporary solace in the fact that I said she could wear them someday. She insists we're "sharing them now.").
We finally trekked it back to our hotel for our regular nap. As we got ready for dinner, Cam joined me at the vanity (which she now insists we need at home) for her nightly "make up session" -- a bit of cream glitter on her eyes and a dusting of bronzer. Plus her normal lip gloss. A Rome-dinner-only makeup rule her dad gave in to. After our nightly happy-hour, we ate a delicious, leisurely dinner at Osteria 44. It was probably our collective favorite dinner in the city -- we told the owner what we liked and he sort of decided what he'd make for us. The wine was delicious, the kids were relatively quiet in their game playing, and the evening weather was perfect.
It also might be our favorite meal because it was followed by the ABSOLUTE BEST GELATO IN ROME. I mean. I could have died happy after the chocolate cone I had at Come il Latte gelateria. I didn't even care (sort of) that Cami ground dark chocolate into her white dress (btw, the fact that the kids love all the food in Italy is fantastic. The fact that all of it gets on all of their clothes and stains them daily was not. Especially when you don't have easy affordable access to laundry. Shout wipes had nothing on the cuisine and I tired quickly of washing clothes in the tub).
We walked off our indulgences by another trip to the Fountain of Moses and Piazza della Repubblica. Everyone stayed up late knowing we had a "relaxed" day planned for the following day. Well, relaxed compared to our schedule in Rome thus far. We'll have our visit to Galleria Borghese and the Borghese gardens next week!