Marcus's Trip to Rome: May 2009

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Today Marcus woke up cheerful and perfectly on time, just before 7:00, and Robert and I woke up dopey but determined to get—like our baby before us—on a normal Italian clock, so we went downstairs to the best hotel breakfast we’d ever seen. There was an assortment of bread with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, salami, sliced turkey, jams, butters, and nutella, plus croissants (plain and filled with chocolate or strawberries and cream), plus fresh fruit, plus poached pears, plus dates and fruit compote, plus bowls of yogurt with fruit, and sometimes bowls of panna cotta with fruit and jam, and each day 3-5 different breakfast crostata, some with egg or prosciutto or zucchini or tomatoes. Robert was really in heaven. The two women who served breakfast brought a high chair (rare, we would discover, in Italy) and gushed over Marcus (not so rare). “Il piccolino!” they called him, and went into raptures when he smiled or gurgled or babbled. He nibbled on some bread, and took the occasional taste of yogurt, and was very happy smiling at everyone in the dining room. He particularly charmed a middle-aged Dutch woman traveling with her mother, and they had long conversations with him, and he crawled over to their table for some extra attention. The Americans and the Brits greeted him with smiles, the Italians and Spaniards waxed effusive, and the French remained completely impassive. “I. L. B.,” I’d say, code for “Italians love babies,” when an Italian walked up. “Yes,” Robert agreed, “but the F. D. L. B.” (The French don’t love babies.)

After a quick diaper change, and a fill-up of my water bottle from one of the small drinking fountains that are ubiquitous in Rome—which, by the way, are lovely: they are always on, and the water tastes exactly the same as Italian bottled water (slightly flat and mineraly, but not bad), and everyone uses them—we walked straight to the Piazza di Campigolio and then down to the Forum. The official entrance was aggravatingly hard to find, but we eventually did get in.

Marcus, as he would everyday during this trip, alternated between Robert’s backpack when he was awake and happy to sightsee and my mei tai (usually on the front) when he was sleepy. It was brutally hot and sunny, and Marcus hates wearing a sunhat, so we devised a way of tying it onto either the backpack or the mei tai, so that even if he ripped it off it couldn’t fall into the street. If we left one string hanging down in front of his face, he would think it was a toy and play with it rather than rip it off—at least for a little while.

The Roman streets made me crazy trying to walk and cross. Either they were hugely big and full of traffic and cars and scooters that never seemed to stop, and crossing was a crapshoot and a nightmare, even to this New Yorker (I would close my eyes and grab onto Robert and pray), or else they were tiny, so narrow, with no such thing as sidewalks, yet with the same super fast cars and scooters rushing onto them at unpredictable intervals (I would press myself against a wall, or a doorway if one was nearby, and wrap my arms around my baby and again, close my eyes and pray).

Our first sight to see was the Forum, which was thrilling—and hot. Did I mention the bright sun and almost 90-degree temperatures? Baby slept happily in the mei tai almost the whole time, and we walked all over. From there we walked to the Colosseum, glad we didn’t have to wait in line because we already had a combo ticket from the Forum. Robert loved the elevator, but then made us go down and take the stairs up again to have the full experience. Again, we walked all over, inside and out, upstairs and down. We found a shady corridor on the upstairs outside and sat down there to nurse Marcus and let him crawl around. He loved attracting Italians as they walked by; I swore we could tell people’s nationality depending on their reaction to our baby. The Italians would veer off their path into our little hallway, gush, and then scoop up our baby and hold him, talking to him all the while. We became adept at answering the predictable series of questions about him:

Nove mese.

Sadly, during part of his crawling expedition here, Marcus got his first scrape: he was crawling great, but then he realized he could lift up one hand and wave at people. He did, and kept crawling just fine. Then he figured he could lift up his other hand too, and when he did that, he fell forward on his little nose. He screamed, then nursed, then looked mildly suspicious for a few minutes, then forgot all about it, but we felt like terrible parents whenever we saw his scrape. (It was tiny, by the way, and it was completely gone two days later.)

As we were leaving the Colosseum, I attempted to use the bathroom. I waited in line, and when my turn came in I went. Uh, no. There were no toilet seats. I waited and peered into three different stalls, but all were the same. I had no idea what all the other women were doing, but I just held it. Robert reported that there were no toilet seats in the men’s room, either, and later, when we got home, my father recalled the lack of a seat phenomenon from when he was in Rome almost 30 years ago. Huh, who knew? Someone might have warned me ahead of time! (For anyone going to the Colosseum, by the way, you should know that, counter-intuitively, the outdoor bathrooms, built into the stone wall in the yard around the site, actually have seats, at least in the one women’s stall I tried.)

Our next stop was lunch. Thanks to the DeliciousBaby site, we had the location of a small playground close to the Forum and Colosseum, so we headed there. There actually was a little supermarket right across the street, so we went in and bought blood orange “juice” (only 16% juice, but who cares, we’re on vacation and it tasted good), fresh mozzarella, bresaola, bread, anchovies, and chocolate for lunch, and then spread out a blanket in the playground and had a lovely picnic lunch. Robert and Marcus splashed in the playground’s drinking fountain after lunch, and Marcus got to ride on an Italian baby swing. It was a great relaxing break in the day.

We walked on to San Giovanni in Laterano, the former basilica that housed the Pope (but then after the Avignon thing, when the Pope returned to Rome, apparently the church was in a shambles, so St. Peters to the rescue it was). Across the street from that was a small church with the Scala Santa, supposedly a flight of stairs that came out of Pilate’s house in Jerusalem and was transported to Rome. We walked up the non-sacred steps on either side, and tried to get baby to admire the fabulously painted ceiling. No go—he stared at the floor.

In a cab back to the hotel, though, he was thrilled to stare at the ceiling! For the record, Marcus loves Italian cab rides—lots of bumps and fast turns, very exciting (read: solid grey) ceilings, and he could ride in my mei tai instead of in a carseat.

Back by the hotel, we finally figured out how to get money out of an ATM—use my card, instead of Robert’s,because apparently Bank of America decided his card was being used suspiciously. To celebrate, we went into La Tazza d’Oro, a coffee shop around the corner, and had a coffee granita with several layers of whipped cream—Robert loved it, of course.

We took a nice nap in the hotel and washed up, and then headed out to dinner at  Alfredo e Ada’s, a little trattoria with no menu and an old couple cooking who loved Marcus. He just crawled around the restaurant and they kept dashing out of the kitchen to bring him cookies and bread and pick him up. We had a nice meal of rigatoni and then braised veal and bracciola and delicious Roman ring cookies for dessert.

After dinner we took a walk over to the Tiber, and Robert longingly talked about how much he wanted to go down to the banks and walk along it. I was not up for the stairs down (much less back up), so I declined. He gushed over several bridges before agreeing we could turn back toward our hotel. We made one final stop at a bakery for some pignoli cookies, and then enjoyed the music from our piazza again before bed.


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Created: 5/29
/09. Last Modified: 5/29/09.