We went to Rome for Christmas.
This was our family gift. We didn’t have presents under the tree. Experiences over stuff.
Then my son asked afterwards if we can stay home next year and do presents. Sigh.
We flew on Alitalia from Frankfurt to Rome Ciampino. I know Ryanair often has really cheap tickets, but I couldn’t find any when I was planning our trip, and honestly, it was so nice to fly and check bags and get free snacks.
A driver was waiting for us. It was so much easier than worrying about how to get to our apartment. Worth every penny. We asked for a return to the airport since we left early.
We stayed at Peter’s Nest in Vatican + St. Peter, about a block over from the entrance to the Vatican Museum.
We got fresh cornetti every morning from our hostess and she kept us stocked in fresh milk and juice too! A little Carrefour Express grocery store was right beside our building, so if I had known that, I wouldn’t have paid for the pastry delivery, but it was still nice.
The courtyard to the apartment building had a lovely floral fountain.
After we got settled and freshened up, we walked over to St. Peter’s Square.
We loved seeing the huge lifesize nativity scene.
Then, we went through security to go into St. Peter’s Basilica.
And I got to see Michelangelo’s Pietà.
We walked down to Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II to see Castel Sant’Angelo.
We love the statues lining the bridge.
I highly recommend L’Isola della Pizza for incredible food. Glad we got there early for dinner – it was soon packed with locals!
The waiters brought out a medley of appetizers and salads and the kids all ordered pizza.
I love all the salads and breads and proscuitto. They brought arancini (fried rice balls) for the kids but Aaron and I loved it too! The fried artichokes were amazing.
It was too much food, but so amazingly delicious.
We were at the Vatican Museum before they opened and we were ushered right on in.
I’m so glad I ordered basic tickets online. I had also ordered 4 audio guides for the kids and 2 adult audio guides for Aaron and me. The kids got great little scavenger hunt maps. We loved the guides!
We began in the Pinacoteca – the Picture Gallery.
It was completely empty.
We were following our audio guides and the kids’ scavenger hunts.
If I had known, we’d have scooted on down to view the Antiquities and Sistine Chapel and left the Picture Gallery for last.
We got to stare at Raphael’s tapestries and study paintings undisturbed.
I especially liked Leonardo’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness.
Then we went to the Egyptian and Etruscan Museums.
This was especially exciting for the kids since we didn’t get to experience anything or travel for those units.
Alex and Katie really loved seeing the mummy.
Love the colors here!
They save the best for last: The Sistine Chapel.
No pictures and they have guards to hush people.
But by that time, we were hot and almost exhausted. We stayed a while, getting a crick in our necks and trying to sneak pictures with our phones.
We got takeout pizza at Forno Feliziani for lunch.
The best gelato is at Old Bridge. We got some every single day. Super great prices and large portions.
We went to the Colosseum in the afternoon.
I ordered our tickets online and they were good on any day.
I don’t know that I’d recommend doing quite so much in one day, but we thought we could handle it. We realized our tickets included the Roman Forum and the tickets are only good for two days and we didn’t think we’d have time to go back down there the next day.
We got to look down upon Circus Maximus.
The Forum must’ve been very crowded. There was so much in such a small space!
It about did me in. We barely got through it before the loudspeaker announcement that they were closing. We rushed up the stairs.
I was about ready to collapse, so I begged to take a taxi back since we had no idea where the nearest subway was and I couldn’t walk anymore. The 6-seater taxi van from Piazza Venezia to St. Peter’s Square was only €8,00!
We got takeout pizza at Forno Feliziani (yes, again) for the kids for dinner. I love that place.
Aaron and I went to The Angry Pig for gorgeous sandwiches. Our contact recommended it and the eggplant pork tenderloin sandwich was divine.
This was Christmas Eve.
We walked to the Galleria Borghese.
Again, I bought tickets online. I super recommend that.
On the way, we stopped by Santa Maria del Popolo.
We got kicked out because they were about to start Mass. But I got a picture of the Chigi Chapel first.
The Borghese Gardens are peaceful and lovely, even in winter.
We checked our backpack, used the toilets, got the audio guides and waited for our entrance time. The tour main entrance is outside and up the steps.
There wasn’t really any instructions for that, but I followed the crowds who seemed to know.
I was really there just to see the Bernini sculptures.
The Rape of Proserpina is amazing with its emotions and realism.
The detail of the finger impressions:
Apollo and Daphne
Bernini’s David in mid-action (and a self-portait)
We walked to the Spanish Steps. They were closed for repair.
But we love this fun fountain by Bernini – The Ugly Boat.
We walked to the Trevi Fountain. Super crowded and noisy. We threw our coins in and went to find lunch.
Nowhere on my list was open for lunch. We finally walked back to this place that smelled good when we walked by.
We got gnocci, salad, pizza, pasta (carbonara and Bolognese), fried cod, and broiled fish.
It was delicious.
Locanda Giulietta e Romeo on Via del Lavatore:
We walked to the Pantheon. Right at dusk. Super crowded. Lighting is terrible for photos.
We walked through Piazza Navona on the way back. We really weren’t that impressed.
More Bernini fountains though!
We rushed back to the Carrefour Express next to our apartment building to buy some food to prepare for Christmas Day. We knew everything would be closed for the holiday.
Then we got overly expensive takeout from the only open cafe a couple blocks over. It was just ok.
We went to St. Peter’s Square to wait for the Pope’s Christmas address.
It didn’t seem so crowded, so I wanted to wander around inside the Basilica to look at the chapels again.
We got to witness the Pope’s Christmas morning mass.
Above the Chair are two angels bearing the tiara and keys and then a gorgeous window of Bohemian glass, divided into twelve sections as a tribute to the Twelve Apostles, and in the center, a brilliant dove.
On the left, Sts. Ambrose and Anthanasius and on the right, Sts. John Chrysostom and Augustine.
St. Peter’s Chair and Canopy were both designed by Bernini.
I asked a guard if we could view the The Altar of the Crucifixion of St. Peter. He led us around the velvet ropes to a little side chapel.
Ancient tradition claims that St. Peter suffered martyrdom precisely where this altar stands. Part of the basilica is actually built on the site of Nero’s Circus.
Then we heard the Pope’s Christmas address.
We went back to the apartment for lunch.
We walked through the Jewish district and found Bernini’s Turtle Fountain. Tori loves turtles.
We kept noticing these little plaques in the street. Later, we learned about Stoplerstein.
We walked along the river, crossed over at the island, and just leisurely walked back.
Surprisingly, several restaurants were open, but we made the pasta and sauteed chicken we’d bought for dinner and it was great.
St. Stephen’s Day. Most shops and restaurants are closed.
We visited some churches in the morning.
All the walking had been killing me, so we took the subway and it was great. Only €4,50 for our whole family one way.
Our first stop was the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.
Across the street is the Triclinium of Leo III, the apse mosaic of the former papal dining hall of remains of the old Lateran Palace.
The mosaics depicts Christ with the Apostles in the center, Christ with Constantine and Pope Sylvester I on the left, and St Peter, Pope Leo III, and Charlemagne on the right. Pope Leo III has a square nimbus, showing that he was alive when it was made. The mosaic has been dated to the year 800, when Charlemagne was crowned in Rome.
The Scala Santa are inside that building, but can only be viewed on guided tours.
We ate lunch at Hosteria La Vacca M’briaca.
We looked a couple more churches.
Aaron wanted to see the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli.
We finally made it to the Musei Capitolino.
The museum is HUGE. The kids got audioguides and scavenger hunt papers. And they wanted to make sure they completed them.
There are many levels and courtyards with lots of sculptures and art.
Alex was THRILLED to finally see his wolf!
We also saw The Dying Gaul.
We stopped in at the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. They’d already closed their Holy Door.
We loved going to Ai Balestrari on our last night. The pizza guy made our son a reindeer pizza as a gift after we watched him prepare pizzas.
We were exhausted and ready to go home. Rome is lovely – busy and crowded, yet so full of art, good food, and life.