Molto Piccolo

Rome, Italy August 23 – 29

Angels and Demons

At 4:45pm, we have exactly fifteen more minutes before we are ejected from the Galleria Borghese.  Fifteen more minutes is all the time my family has to run up the stairs to the second floor, past four or five Carravagios, a couple of Titians, and two of Raphael’s more notable works.  In fifteen precious minutes, if we ever hope to see the remaining works in this gallery, we will be forced to reserve another two-hour block of time more than a day in advance, and still wait in a tortuously long line as it winds its way through the subterranean levels of the gallery alongside hordes of equally frustrated people from all over the world who are desperate to see the same collection of priceless art.  Time is simply of the essence in these final fifteen minutes, and right now, at this moment, in front of Bernini’s ravishing Apollo and Daphne amidst a crowd of gawping tourists, Oliver is lying spread-eagle on the floor.

Not a museum kind of day

I am close to having a fit.  This is Oliver’s signature over-the-top gesture.  He has employed it at the foot of a glacial moraine in the north of Iceland, at the Plaza San Pietro at midday, and countless other times in various equally inappropriate settings. It is his preferred way to non-verbally convey to us, his parents, that he is either too hot, too tired, or bored out of his mind. He simply lies down, spreads his arms and legs, and anticipates that priceless look of exasperation that contorts my face the second I turn around and catch him in the act.  I hiss at him this time, snatch him from off the ground, and hustle him into the next room.  Fifteen minutes later, standing outside the gallery, Ryan reminds of just how much we are asking of our kids.  To be sure, Rome is a challenging place for children, particularly after our extended time in Iceland’s vast natural playground.  And considering the fact that I am keen on snooping into every nave of every church at every little piazza in the entire city, it’s no wonder our kids are acting, well… like children.

So, rather than making a beeline for the Piazza de Popolo, I abandon my grand vision of marching my family down the length of the Via Del Curso for the third time in twenty-four hours.  A whirring and buzzing mental checklist of the remaining unexplored museums and monuments grinds to a halt and collapses back into some dark labyrinth of my brain, and in the park beside a fountain, we take off our shoes and rest a while.   In this way, we conclude our conquest of Rome for the day.

Gone fishing in the Villa Borghese

And since the fascists were run out of this country a long time ago, we decided to amend our ways.  In a city like Rome where innumerable galleries, ruins, and piazzas can topple even the most intrepid traveler, we instituted a firm one-site-a-day policy.  We still managed to walk A LOT, as we preferred our own feet to public transport in terms of the freedom it afforded us (and the degree to which it tired out our children at the end of the day).   And always, in our wanderings, we kept a good eye out for the “fun zones” that tended to crop up at various intersections all around. 

In these little kiddie oases, the kids whirled around on an assortment of tiny merry-go-rounds or won small prizes from archaic pinball machines.   It is still an unspoken agreement; three minutes of air hockey can buy us up to thirty minutes in a museum.

Ducati is Italian for “sexy motorcycle”

We continued to strive to make Rome a place Oliver could understand on a basic level. For a five-year-old, the specter of gladiators electrified the air at the Colosseum, and together we searched for signs of mechanical trap doors in the ruined interior and spied ancient graffiti that depicted the names and favorites of the former spectators.  In places like the Palatine Hill near the old Roman Forum, no one admonished us for allowing Kendley to sit down in the dust where she collected pebbles that perhaps once formed an emperor’s residence.

1 ride = 20 minutes in museum of my choice

Roman cuisine has been a high point.  Both of the kids adopted the city’s signature pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe, as their stand-in for mac and cheese, requesting it nearly every night even after we had left the city.  The ostensibly simple combination of Grana Padano and Pecorino cheeses, along with a smattering of freshly cracked black pepper toasted in oil, belies the true complexity of the dish.  I know this because, while down the Amalfi Coast, I attempted to recreate it at Ollie’s request, and was later informed that I had failed miserably.

più cioccolato, grazie…

Without question though, the single greatest weapon that recently entered our arsenal as parents has been the almighty GELATO.  And arguably, Rome puts forth some of the finest gelaterie in the entire country.  As searing winds from North Africa baked the city in late August, no adventure that took us beyond the walls of our little rented flat ever failed to include a stop over for our favorite combinations: frutti di bosco (fruits of the forest) and limone, bachio (hazelnut chocolate candy) and stracciatella (chocolate chip), or cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) and amarena (sour cherry and cream).  The kids inevitably wore more of the frozen treat down the front of their shirts/all over their faces than they ever managed to cram down their mouths.   Which leads me to another topic, best saved for another day…how to keep up ALL THE LAUNDRY!

Trevi Fountain Trio


  1. Only one ride for twenty minutes in a museum, they should get at least two! The next time I see the Ollie, I’m giving him a stopwatch.
    Beautiful pictures. You’re becoming a pro.

    1. Oh man, does Ollie have you on his payroll???? 🙂 Thank you for the compliment. Having a lot of fun with this camera…although I could still use a tutorial from you on how to use an SLR. We miss and love you…the kids send big kisses and hugs.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.