Roma. We only decided to go the day before. A massive cold front came through the north, temperatures plummeted and mist started falling from the sky. I had a completely unfounded notion that Rome would be a shell of its ancient glory, sucked of its soul by tourism. And that I would have my camera pickpocketed, which I had failed to insure before leaving Australia. Buuuut, it also looked pretty rad. Welcome to my brain.
I recommend coming to every city with an expectation that it is going to be a shithole. Because. You leave open the possibility of being unexpectedly charmed senseless. All the things I said here… the 10,000 or so words that I am about to unfurl, and more.
We took in some iconic attractions, insert the usual suspects here. We contemplated actually going into the Colosseum but bailed on the idea when we saw a 3km queue in the steaming sun just to enter and be rewarded with the pleasure of heaving with the crowd in an enclosed space. A ticket seller attempted to sell us some tickets, but told us that not going in was “a great decision to make.” OK. Dude. Decision squared. Good luck with your job.
It goes without saying that the significance of these attractions is lost on the kids. Steps, water, falling down concrete structures etc. What wasn’t lost on them, was the massive statues of naked dudes towering over us on every corner. And. The military guards surrounding the monuments with massive guns on display. Actual guns. So many guns. So many questions. Matisse’s inquisition led a very elaborate discussion about needing to protect the concrete and stone. Or. Protect everyone from someone who is coming to kill everyone else. The little humanitarian was mortified, and discussions about career aspirations have commenced. I also seized the opportunity to highlight the value of putting ones brain to good and not evil. Never miss a chance to align your kid to a terrorist if it backs up your key messages…
But. Her concern about guns rapidly vanished when she saw a statue of a pregnant lady riding a horse, gun blazing above her, firing off a round, dress flailing in the wind for the sheer romance of it all. Now Matisse wants to be her when she grows up; the wife of an Italian resistance fighter who had escaped enemy capture on a horse, which got shot whilst she got away in a river. This trip to Italy has successfully broadened the perspectives of our kids, planting seeds for the rich and diverse opportunities they have in life.
Back to the statues of naked dudes. “Why do they make everyone take off their clothes before they build them?” Matisse wants to know. When they aren’t looming over you, they are falling out of souvenir shops onto the footpath. The amount of cock and balls paraphernalia in Rome puts the worse hens party to shame, especially around the Vatican, where this is hilariously juxtaposed with streams of tourists, kids and priests strolling on past. Our little reaction seeker Elspeth found it hysterical and was trying desperately to make Matisse pick the 3D cock and balls magnet as a souvenir. “Matisse I know you want this willy one, I know you do!” Matisse has more class and picked the map of Italy. Which is great, because she plans on taking it to Show ‘n’ Tell when she gets back to Australia, and I hadn't yet familiarised myself with the Steiner position on bringing genitalia toys into the classroom.
On one of the days, storms covered the city and gothic charm crept from the shadows. Our timely decision to have a beer at a rooftop bar meant we got to watch the ominous clouds roll in. Karl voiced his desire for a bureau of meteorology radar to see what the weather was doing. I pointed out that we didn’t need an app to tell us we were about to get drowned.
I’m a female. So guess what, I’m writing about the fact I was right. We got drowned. In part because we were a very long way from home, but also because we seized the change to take a scenic route home through Trastevere, arguably the most photogenic quarters in all of Italy. I didn’t do it justice because it’s such a trendy place that the streets are lined with people smoking and it’s impossible to breathe. Also. It was raining. And I had eaten too much bread to think. We took refuge from the cancer and rain in cafes and bakeries along the way. Wait. gelaterias too. A really holy one right by the Vatican that said “Best in town.” It probably was…. The actual best bit was Matisse running for cover, sheltering her ice cream with her hand whilst she got pelted on. I wish I had the balls to wreck my lens and get a photo.
I should take a breathe, and make a public comment to rectify my earlier comment/joke (come one, it was a jokeeeee) about the kids driving me to commit suicide in the fountain in Firenze. It was just one day. They have infused so much madness, joy and love into this holiday that it’s the best one of my life. My entire experience of Italy is entwined with the affection of one small hand in mine, sometimes two. Even if it was to pull them back from busy roads, or hold them up whilst they had meltdowns. Joke. They only do that to Karl. They know I drop them and keep walking. Motherrrrr of the year…
Also whilst in Rome. I indulged the opportunity to have a 50€ Devonshire tea in Babingtons Tea Rooms. Just so we are clear, 3 x pots of tea and 2 x scones..... $75 AUD. Karl concealed his enthusiasm by sitting there googling Chuck Norris quotes, and trying to make me look at the memes. I politely declined. The girls heightened the intensity of the experience with rapid, extreme movements that threatened to bring down the table and 4000 euros worth of tea wares. I didn’t want to relax anyway. I love being on edge.
I rewarded them for sitting through this “agonising ordeal” with an afternoon at the zoo. Lions, tigers and... Only the bear for Elspeth. Matisse went to Time Out for climbing on the edge of animal enclosures. I’ll hunt down a real one in the wild to compensate. Maybe in the teenage years.
And here are the photos.