Rome: Italy’s Grand Museum - 2
Rome: Italy’s Grand Museum
From the toppled columns of the Forum to Vatican City to the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, Rome has something to appeal to everyone.
The Roman Forum tops everyone’s list, but for most it is a disappointment. So little remains that its ruins show little of the power that held a large portion of the earth in its grip for almost five centuries, and whose influence is still felt in our architecture, language and political systems today. Few structures are still recognizable: The Curia is a 3rd century A.D. reconstruction; only its ancient, brilliantly patterned floor remains from the original. The Column of Phocas, opposite, still has its dedicatory inscription. The Temple of Romulus is now the vestibule of the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano, whose 6th-century mosaic apse is outstanding.
Far more impressive is my daughter’s favorite of all the sights of Rome, the Pantheon. It is the most complete ancient Roman building in Rome, built in 27 B.C. and rebuilt by Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D. No supporting arches or vaults are visible; they are hidden inside the concrete walls. Pope Urban VIII had the bronze roof melted down to cast the altar canopy for St. Peter’s and the cannons of the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Vatican City and its dozen museums take several days to see. Better, we found, to see the church and its crypt, and perhaps go to the top of the dome, then visit the Sistine Chapel to see Michelangelo’s amazing ceiling (which he did not paint lying on his back). Remember that the Vatican has a strict dress code—not even children can wear shorts or have bare shoulders.
Lodging and dining
Fortunately, except during Italian religious holidays, lodging is plentiful in Rome. A good option for those staying more that a few days, and for families, is one of the many apartments that are rented by the week. Not only do you have more independence, but you have the option of eating an occasional meal “at home” and of being part of a neighborhood. A good source for these apartment stays is Enjoy Rome, www.enjoyrome.com.
Italians love children and welcome them in all but the very classiest restaurants. With smaller children or those who are especially impatient, it’s better to choose one that is not a ristorante or enoteca. Ask for un seggiolone (high chair), usually available.
Cafes and bars (which are more like cafes, and not the same as American bars) are good choices for lunch—look for those with sandwiches displayed if your Italian is not good—you can just point to the one you want. Café Aracoeli, on a terrace halfway up the Vittoriano monument, has a good view and good lunches, as does the Café at Musei Capitolini, also on a terrace. [Read our article on family-friendly restaurants in Rome for more recommendations.]
Those without children in tow should head across the river to Trastevere, where they can browse among the posted daily menus and join late-dining locals in wine bars along the way. Food is consistently good in this neighborhood off the tourist routes, and the experience is unmatched.