Once we arrived, we found a well-kept parking lot where buses also parked. We then took a short bus ride to the Square of Miracles. We walked passed many vendors, trying to hawk their fare. At first I was annoyed when they would call out for us to stop but then realized this was their livelihood. It tugged at my heartstrings a little bit knowing that relying on tourists to buy their goods was how they survived. I talked with the kids about it and in the end they each bought a little Leaning Tower as a souvenir.
Once within the walls, we were very impressed with how the grounds were kept up. The Field of Miracles was a beautiful expanse of land with the three beautiful buildings - The Baptistry, Cathedral, and The Leaning Tower of Pisa . Crowds of tourists were milling about, taking some really funny photos of themselves "holding" up the Tower.
After we got some photos and bought souvenirs we opted to eat at the McDonald's right outside the walls. It was quick, easy, we knew our kids could eat there (allergies), and then we could set off on our way to Rome.
During our drive to Rome we passed many amazing little villages, some set up high in the hills. It would be amazing to stop and explore every one of these villages. One would probably get a true sense for Italian village life by doing so.
We decided to drop our vehicle at the airport and take a taxi to our hotel rather than trying to drive into Rome. It was a great decision. Our taxi driver was really nice and talked the whole drive into Rome. At one point traffic came to a dead stop and he had to slam on his brakes. My mom ended up hitting her face on the seat in front of her and had a swollen lip after that. This happening the day after our hospital adventure had us all on edge.
As we came upon the Trastavere neighborhood of Rome, where our hotel was located, our big taxi van was meandering down little alley-ways full of people! I was SO nervous we were going to hit somebody. My mom and I were looking at each other incredulously, both wondering if this was ok! The taxi driver explained that only licensed taxi drivers can drive down these seemingly pedestrian-only alleys. He finally stopped and pointed out where our hotel was down another alley-way. He said the van was too big to go down that one so we hauled our luggage down the bumpy cobblestone streets to the gated entrance of our hotel. I was feeling a bit deflated, with my mom's current bloody swollen lip, my daughter's immobilized arm, and wondering about this new location. Once we were let into the gate all my worries melted away. It was beautiful with vines creeping up the walls, flowers billowing out of window boxes - it felt like an oasis after the making our way through the crowded, bumpy streets. We walked into the tiny office and a very sweet, friendly receptionist checked us in. We were feeling better already. She took one look at my mom and asked what happened - she couldn't quite word it the right way and asked if she had "herpes on her lip"...we all laughed as we thought she might have meant cold sore, but we explained what happened. She offered ice and seemed genuinely concerned. We figured we would go out to dinner and get ice there.
We were led across the courtyard to our room and when we entered we were so pleased! The room had a full-sized bed and two twin beds on the bottom floor, and a curly stair-case that led to a loft with two more twin beds - perfect for the 6 of us! It was clean and spacious and we were appreciative to have a more modern place to stay after our old-fashioned Tuscan house.
The hotel was a true gem and I was thrilled with our choice to stay there. The courtyard was central to all the rooms, little tables and chairs were set out so one could read, eat, or even play cards, like we did. There was a breakfast area with a good selection of food - traditional European meats and cheeses, along with yogurt, granola, fruit, bread, and pastries. The tables inside were set up nicely with cloth tablecloths and napkins. We also got coffee, juices, and cappuccinos. In the evening, there were some light snacks if you bought a drink at the bar. We would get a glass of wine and sit out in the courtyard to relax at the end of the day. The hotel also housed a rooftop deck and there were lounge chairs to relax on. This hotel was truly an oasis in the middle of Rome!
Once we unpacked and refreshed we headed a few streets away to a restaurant. We had wanted to sit outside but were so hungry we opted to not wait and sat inside. The kids had pizza, two without cheese. Unfortunately my asking for pepperoni on their pizza was translated to "peppers" so the kids got peppers on their pizza, not pepperoni. Oh, well, I said, when in Rome!