I hated October half-term last year. I’m not sure if it was because my younger son had just started secondary school, but everything felt different and I was very unsettled. I don’t tend to be a jealous type, but it felt like the whole world was on holiday. Whether Cornwall or the Caribbean, or somewhere in between, everyone I knew seemed to be away. And I wanted to be away, more than anything. All we had was a miserable trip to Alton Towers in the rain. And I’m not even keen on theme parks. I swore that next year we would go on holiday.
When my younger son’s friend came home from holiday and told us all about Rome, we decided that was where we would be going on holiday in October 2016 (despite the fact that it’s in Italy and my daughter absolutely hates Italy – here’s why). We often say we’re going to do things that we don’t, but we did it! We booked a holiday to Rome!
And on my son’s 13th birthday, right at the start of half-term, we actually flew to Rome. We stayed at a small, quirky hotel with nice decor, which was a bit of a trek from the city centre. It was about a 40 minute walk to the Colosseum, with some of the city’s main tourist attractions being as much as three miles away (and yes, we did choose to walk it!).
It was late October and the shop windows were full of coats. The Italians were wearing coats and scarves. And we were wearing Tshirts and suncream. The kids even wore their shorts. The weather ranged from ‘average UK summer day’ to ‘hot summer day’.
Our first impressions of the city weren’t great. We had a very long taxi ride from the airport and we didn’t see anything impressive on the way, just traffic jams, crazy driving and an awful lot of graffiti on buildings. Street art it ain’t – it’s just vandalism and it’s EVERYWHERE. I was thinking it and my daughter came out and said it – she preferred Barcelona and Amsterdam. But the first day on holiday is always hard. You’ve had a long day of travelling and you’re tired and hungry. You need to get your bearings.
On our first proper day, we got our bearings by going on an open top bus tour. At €105 for the five of us, it wasn’t cheap, but it was so worth it. The full tour took about two hours, but you could hop on and off as many times as you wanted during the day. It came with a commentary in English (or your chosen language), which was both informative and humorous. I picked up so much information, but the main thing I remember is about the ancient Romans’ obsession with water. They liked to bathe in it and they liked fountains, so they had aqueducts bringing water to the city. The Rome of 100AD, with a population of a million, got through more water than New York did in the 1980s!
We started at the Colosseum, which is truly a stunning sight. I can’t get my head round how old it is and how well it has survived. But it’s not the only building in Rome which is very old. The oldest building – a small temple – dates back to 200BC and is still standing remarkably well.
Besides the Colosseum, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to see in Rome. I’d looked on websites and in books (yes, I’m old, I like books), but I really didn’t know. The bus tour meant we could see things we wanted to go back to, and anything we didn’t have time to go back to, we could at least say we’d seen it!
We got off the bus for lunch near the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps – two tourist must-sees. Those places are seriously busy, with crowds taking endless selfies, even in October. It’s hard to get a photo without someone else photo-bombing, but everything is so beautiful, you at least have to try.
The tourist areas of Rome are remarkably compact, so after finishing our bus tour, somehow we found ourselves back near the Trevi Fountain, giving us a rather long walk back to our hotel. It meant we could really enjoy the sights on foot and take them in. I was particularly amazed by all the ruins dating back to Roman times. There really is so much to see, wherever you look.
Until you get out of the city centre and into the suburban areas with the graffiti again. Then you could be in pretty much any European city.
By day two we’d really got out bearings and knew a lot more about what we wanted to visit and how to get there. I’ll share more of our likes and dislikes over the next few days.
With two teenagers and an increasingly feisty 10 year old girl, our holiday to Rome wasn’t the most relaxing ever. The kids never seem to go more than a few minutes without niggling each other. Plus, just like toddlers, they seem to constantly need to eat and drink. There was a lot of ‘dabbing’ and a lot of Pokemon Go, but that at least kept two-thirds of the kids happy.
Despite the occasional conflict, we loved our trip to Rome. It was great to get away for a few days and enjoy a truly historic city.