With just over a week left before I leave for Italia, I have a million things yet to do, so today I am grateful for the opportunity to post this guest blog by Sarah Murphy, a writer, who also loves to travel.
Art and Gelato: Exploring Rome With Children
When my younger sister had a baby, I thought her traveling days were over. For so long, the idea that a family could no longer travel once they were a family had been drilled into my head—marriage, baby, house, permanence. Imagine my surprise when this turned out not to be the case as she announced that their new family would embark on a vacation to Rome.
When she asked if I might consider joining them, I hesitated. I was, at the time, living in the United States and anxious to travel, though not for hours with a crying baby. I don’t love flying anyway, am prone to motion sickness even in the absence of a puking child. But, because I felt young and stuck and ready for life, I agreed to travel with the three of them. In exchange for my airfare, I would be partially responsible for the care of my two year old niece.
Like many Americans, I initially questioned the purpose of traveling with young children who lack the capacity for much permanent memory. It is safe to say that, after two weeks exploring Italy, I have changed my mind (but more on that later).
Like any good writer, I began our travel preparations at the most basic level—the airport. For my niece, I packed an assortment of toys she had never seen before so that she’d be more entertained on our long flight. Also in her diaper bag was a basic first aid kit, hand sanitizer, and diaper wipes (which are great for wiping down potentially germy surfaces on the plane). My niece cried a bit when the plane changed elevations and her ears popped, but only for a minute. To my surprise, both airline personnel and passengers were understanding and accommodating.
Our arrival in Rome was marked by three tired adults and one excited toddler—while we’d had difficulty sleeping on the plane, anyone who has ever seen a toddler bend and twist like a baby dinosaur in slumber knows that she snoozed away a bulk of the ride. And Rome was so beautiful, so inspiring, that we were willing to power through the jet lag and begin exploring the city.
To make easier the task of traveling with children, my sister and her husband elected to set up a home base and travel (within the city) to places that were reachable, roundtrip within one day. Instead of a hotel (of which there are many that are family-friendly) we rented an apartment that had a kitchen where we could prepare some of our meals.
Unquestionably, my niece’s favorite part of Italy was the gelato and (if we’re being honest) it was my favorite part too. Fortunately, Rome is home to a gelato shop on nearly every corner—our favorite was Giolitti, a shop popular with locals that opened in 1900. Michelle Obama took her girls here too! I recommend the chestnut flavor but my niece is diehard for chocolate.
During the day, we often found ourselves touring the city by way of foot—a lot of walking for a two year old with short legs. We found the stroller too cumbersome and likely to get caught up on uneven streets. Instead, I opted to carry my niece in a backpack designed to accommodate larger children. This way, she could sleep, see the city, and decorate my hair with goldfish crackers. From her vantage point, she was also able to take a number of blurry photographs with my iPhone.
My niece won’t remember this trip. I, however, have tons of great memories from the time we spent there. I have stories that will amuse and embarrass her as she grows. Mostly though, we’re closer as a result of this trip. It isn’t important that she’s able to quantify the reason for our close relationship—what is important is that this trip strengthened our family ties, assured me that travel with children is possible and desirable, and allowed us the family vacation experience of a lifetime.
Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and traveler by nature, she frequently travels to Italy for the business and pleasure of Touring Florence, where she mostly spends her time scavenging the ruins or gallivanting across the countryside.