Sunday, June 19, 2016

Rome Part 3 - Rome with Kids

Rome is really fantastic and almost overwhelmingly beautiful. As I said in my last post, it has it all.

But let's be honest, when you're travelling along with kids, they quickly lose their sense of 'WOW' as you approach yet another church, or as you look out over the field of Roman ruins that you can't climb all over, or as you look at yet one more fountain or statue. One church blends into the next. The ruins all start to look the same. And, a fountain eventually becomes just a fountain.

So the trick becomes how to keep them interested, while giving Kerry and I chance to see some things.

One way is to take them to the some fun things, like the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) where legend has it that if you told a lie with your hand in the mouth, your hand would be bitten off. 

How do you not love a story like that. Though I have to say I was slightly disturbed by Eamon's many questions to absolutely clarify how he could lose his hand, and then deciding that he wasn't going to take any chances.

We also kept the kids interested by limiting huge lines that inevitably result in extreme boredom, less than stellar behaviour, and frayed nerves. 

That did mean that we didn't line up for St. Peter's Basilica or the Sistine Chapel, but let's be honest, though it's fantastic to see both places, it's not so fantastic for my under 10 crowd. I have no doubt they would view the Sistine Chapel as just another painted ceiling. So we gave it a miss. Instead they saw the Pope's window from which he speaks, and heard a little wee bit about Vatican City. When the kids are older and maybe return on their own, then they can decide whether to line up for themselves.

We got a bit closer than this to St. Peter's, but with long lines and tight security, you can no longer enter the square without an ordeal, let alone the basilica. 

One of our favourite and usually successful activities is a free walking tour. Many cities have them, and they are fantastic! The kids don't mind walking along listening to bits and pieces along the way. Sometimes Eamon tires of it, but then he and I usually drop the back for a bit so he can talk and walk in a way that disturbs nobody. It gives Kerry and I chance to talk with other adults. And best of all, there has always been something for everyone. Every single time, both kids have something that caught their attention that they then want to talk about.

Another way we kept them interested was by focusing on the bits that appeal to their humour. In one case we stopped at a sculpture of an elephant with an Egyptian obelisk on its back (this was on our tour with Dad and Sharla). 

Bernini's Elephant: Obelisco della Minerva

The kids didn't care about who made the sculpture (Bernini), nor did they care much about the obelisk (we'd seen a few by this point), nor did they care that the building in the background is a Dominican convent where Galileo was tried during the Inquisition for stating the Earth moved around the sun. 

They were interested that Galileo was punished for believing the Earth moved around the sun, but they were even more interested to hear that the elephant might be symbolizing support for Galileo's beliefs and sticking it to the Dominicans: the elephant's back side faces the convent, the end of his trunk looks rather rude, and at his back end, his tail is swished to the side as if he is farting. Gales of laughter ensued upon hearing this alleged symbolism. That elephant was much discussed for a very long time.

As an aside, when I googled the elephant, I never really found the full version of what we'd heard. The positioning may have been Bernini's revenge on the Dominican who challenged his original design. Of course, I also found a variety of other formal descriptions of the elephant and what different parts of the sculpture mean. But I don't care. The kids loved the version we heard, and they left Rome remembering and discussing Bernini's elephant.

Street performers always provide some good entertainment. When we see one, we stop. Eamon was picked from the crowd this time. You can't tell, but he is dying a thousand deaths inside. When he finished his part, he marched off, announced quietly to us in a rather forceful voice, "I like watching, not participating!!". And he wanted to leave right then.

One surprisingly fun thing we happened upon was the Time Elevator. It's a "3D movie and simulated ride" on the history of Rome. The whole production did border on the cheesy, but it tied together so much of what the kids had seen in a way that they enjoyed. So it was worth it. It also mentioned rats and the plague - something that Eamon grabbed onto to talk about lots. 

Another way to keep kids entertained as you walk the streets is to point out and admire ingenuity when you see it.

And of course, I'm not above a bit of bribery to encourage good and patient behaviour.

We maybe didn't see everything we could have, but we saw a lot. The kids are good about sitting quietly in church pews if they don't feel like walking around. The trade off is that we don't go into every single church we see. But that's what travelling with families is all about - taking turns to see what everyone would like to see, and not getting your way every single time. And it's worked for us so far.

The look on Eamon's face makes me laugh. This was near the end of a long day and though he behaved and never complained, it's like he just didn't have the energy or desire to even open his eyes for a photo.

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