As we headed towards Termini Station, wondering how to get on one of the hop-on hop-off buses, suddenly all these people were around us. 'You want bus' 'I take you to bus' 'You go on bus today?' I brush them all off, thinking they are all scammers (while husband tries to be polite) until we realise many of them do actually have ID tags and are probably legit. To be honest, it is still kind of a scam because you pay a lot of money which you could save if you just go on public transport. Slightly less chance of getting pick-pocketed though if you go on the tourist buses. Pick pocketing? Just be sensible and don't leave your wallet in your back pocket. I brought a money belt with me and never used it. Just don't act like a ridiculous tourist and use common sense and I highly doubt you will have an issue. Back end of Termini Station in the middle of the night: different story apparently....
Some older Canadian guy with dreddies took us to the dreaded 'head office' of one of the buses and I'm there, following husband with every bone in my body saying 'Do not go with this person'. We went with the person. Turning a street corner and there was the head office. Got the tickets and off we went to find where they started from Termini. No success and I'm starting to feel slightly frustrated. More walking!
It took us 10 minutes to find the stop. I was like, 'It's not going to pull up in the middle of nowhere - there HAS to be some kind of sign with the company name!' Eventually we found the sign, along with signs for about 5 other bus companies.
Ah, it was so nice to just sit down and watch Rome go by instead of walking everywhere. Probably worth the money - although we couldn't sit up the top of the double decker as my son is the type of child who has no fear, and will try to commit suicide by leaping over the barrier. It wasn't worth risking it we decided.
Rather than hop-on hop off as the name would suggest, we stayed on until we got to Vatican City, having already been to the Colosseum the day before.
Again, to be honest it wasn't as big as I thought it would be, especially St Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro) and I can fully imagine how utterly crowded it gets here when the Pope speaks on the little balcony. Okay, it's probably a big balcony but looks small from where I was standing!
What to do? Stand in a two hour line with a toddler to see the Basilica? There are plenty of people selling guided tours in different languages. It still all sounded scammy to me because none of it was linked to a proper business. It was about 45 euros each to go on a guided tour, which apparently skipped the queues but that is a lot of money, especially when the Basilica was free anyhow.
We decided not to bother going into the Basilica but looked around for a while and then walked down to try to find the Sistine Chapel, which I didn't realise at first is inside the Vatican Museums. We started waiting in the line for the Museums, not realising how far away they were. I think the line stretched for about a kilometre!
It was an hour and a half wait, most of which was in the shade so we were thankful. There were so many beggars along that queue - they know who to target no doubt. One woman came hunched over through the queue and saw Charlie. I felt sorry for her and everything but all I could think was, 'Don't you dare touch my child' haha. She laughed at Charlie and he laughed back and then she touched husband on the arm. He looked at me like he was going to catch something very nasty! That had me giggling for a while. We did make a policy of not giving money to anyone on the street. I don't do it at home and I'm not going to do it on holiday.
Then our journey to the Sistine Chapel began. Oh and it was a JOURNEY!! I remember seeing these signs saying 'Cappella Sistina' with an arrow and of course, you think that means it is just around the corner. But noooooo. I think it took us 2 hours to get to see the Sistine Chapel. Up flights of marble stairs (with the stroller), trying to deal with the amount of people in there with us, along the many corridors and different artworks. A lot of it was amazing - I especially loved the massive tapestries (and thought of my nan and mum), the ceilings were incredible and also all the early maps on the walls.
It was one of those times that you realise that no one else is here with little children. In fact, I don't remember any children under the age of about 12. You think to yourself, 'We are the only mad ones...the only ones crazy enough to do this with 15kg of Charlie in a stroller'. And of course, you wouldn't let him out. Oh, there goes a priceless statue of Caesar's head or something...not even worth thinking about!
Finally, after the initiation was completed, we reached another part of the building and turned the corner (which had yet another sign pointing to Cappella Sistina) and looked up at another flight of old stairs, larger than anything we'd seen so far. Put it this way, no wonder I didn't put any weight on during the trip. We entered the Chapel next to a sign that clearly said no photography, no talking. Ummmmm.....
EVERYBODY had their little point and shoot cameras out and were flashing away merrily, all chatting and laughing. At one point, the guards called some guy up and he had to get up and yell at everyone to be quiet. Husband and I made our retreat and left the crazy tourists to it. I saw Michelangelo's ceiling - I was happy.
After a quick exit, we sat down on the steps outside and literally skulled a can of coke each in about 10 seconds. I had been off coke for a long time before this holiday but it was just a requirement I'm afraid. Either that or I needed an injection of pure sugar into my veins and I think I prefer the coke over a needle. I am not a coke addict. I am not a coke addict. I will beat this when I get home...
We hopped back on the bus, ready to find the Trevi fountain. We should have walked! The bus got stuck in ridiculous traffic and it took us about 45 mins for a 10 minute journey. At least the Fontana di Trevi was easy to find once off the bus, and I was immediately in awe. I looked at husband and said 'I can't believe I'm saying this but I prefer the Trevi to the Sistine Chapel!'. Sacrilege!! I don't know what it was - the sound and look of the cool blue water on a hot day, the size of the thing or the general vibe of the piazza. It was great and revived our spirits immensely.
It was at this point we realised Charlie had done a poo explosion and we started looking for a loo.
McDONALDS IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER. They are everywhere. We found this one within about 50m of the Trevi down a cute alleyway. Tip: Use the disabled loos - they usually have change tables and if not, there is usually enough space to lie the little minx down and change offending nappy. It is also a perfect opportunity for the whole family to relieve themselves ;)
On the way back to the bus, we wandered through a very glam shopping mall with lots of designer shops. I was in heaven. Husband was in hell. Charlie made sure we got out of there really quickly. Apparently children and designer shops do not mix in some people's eyes. I am sure it would be different if we were all dressed head to toe in Gucci for god's sake.
Why do people buy designer crap anyway? Does anyone out there really pay $600 for a cardigan? I'll shut up now, I'm just jealous.
After getting off at Termini, we walked around Repubblica looking for somewhere to eat. Most people here don't have dinner until like, 8pm so trying to find somewhere at 6pm was pretty hard. We were STARVING! Finally we found a little pizzeria/ristorante near the station which looked fairly decent. Charlie decided to throw an ultra tantrum so he was strapped into his pram screaming. It was that or have him run out onto busy streets so tough luck, little man.
I swear we had the waiter from hell but apparently it is rather normal to have bad customer service. Considering everybody else but this guy on the trip were awesome, I think he just had issues. We were basically treated like it was a hassle to serve us. In the end, in my inimitable fashion, I simply sat down at a table and *demanded* a menu. I swear he rolled his eyes at me. Was it Charlie, the only child there? Was it just that we were tourists? Bizarre rude behaviour.
After a fairly decent spag bol and margherita and a glass of wine that could not be drunk due to it being disgusting, we went to pay the bill and leave. Suddenly, a black cloud hovered over the area and fork lightning appeared, crashing thunder sounded and the rain fell down. We were in summer clothes. I think I was wearing a little dress and sandals. Oh well at least it was still warmish.
As everyone (except us) panicked, the hawkers changed from selling parasols to selling umbrellas. One guy came up to us like it was the end of the world and pleaded with us to buy an umbrella. Upon refusal by husband, he angrily stated that we would all get sick and end up in hospital. Was that a curse? A threat? Oh well, it made us giggle! I felt like saying, 'Come to Perth in July! This is normal!'.
Back to the apartment and the boys fell asleep while I read an entire book: My Sister's Keeper (I haven't seen the film). Around 3 hours later, I was blubbing in the bathroom so hard I couldn't read the words on the page any longer. Exhausted physically and emotionally, I fell asleep.