Last night we finally accepted that the late-night Roman dinner schedule was not going to make for a peaceful night out with our four-year-old, and we vowed to switch to a lunch-out-dinner-in-the-apartment schedule. There was a really nice all'amatriciana involved, but Mark and I had to take turns eating it and coddling the baby out on the Trastevere cobblestones. Which wasn't so bad because lots of people come and say hello to the baby, and that is kind of fun.
The best thing on the table, besides the pasta all'amatriciana, was a single piece of deep-fried baccalà (cod) on the platter of fritto misto. I remembered having passed a tiny place that offered carryout fried stuff, fish and artichoke hearts and potatoes, around the corner from our apartment. I suggested that the next night (Thursday) we plan on having Mark go fetch fried stuff and eat it in the apartment. So that's our plan for tonight. I have already been to the grocery store and bought lemons, ketchup, and wheat beer.
+ + +
Mark very much wanted a slow start this morning, so we decided not to try to get to St Peter's first thing in the morning. As we were getting ready, around ten, someone turned the TV to a channel that appeared to show a live feed from St. Peter's Square, and the square was full of empty chairs; a long line of people snaked around the edge.
We walked there anyway, with a backup plan: if the basilica wouldn't work for us, we'd go to Castel Sant'Angelo. Supposedly it was pretty interesting for kids.
+ + +
Mark had the brilliant idea to walk along the river instead of the most direct route, because we wouldn't have to cross any streets. Seriously, that was smart. It was so much more peaceful to walk the continuous sidewalk, and only have to pause and gather everyone up and make a run for it when we came to the occasional bridge. I carried the 4yo on my back most of the way, my arms under his butt, and Mark carried the baby.
After a while of walking along the Tiber, lined with smooth-trunked, broad-leaved trees, we caught our first glimpse of the great dome of St. Peter's:
But when we got to the piazza, we could see right away it didn't make sense for us to try to go in. The piazza was filled with empty chairs (someone told us later that Mass had been celebrated in the square the day before, and it wasn't cleared away yet), so it wasn't possible to stand on the porphyry disks that mark the centers of the colonnade or find the red one that marks where St JPII was shot. And the line to go through security wrapped all the way around the square.
So, instead, after admiring the colonnade from off-center, we ducked through the line on the right, passed through the wall, and headed down Borgo Pio to find lunch.
Six plates: caprese, antipasto misto (with very yummy grilled red pepper), risotto pescator (tiny mussels and a plump little octopus), veal marsala, and a steak. Mark and I each had a beer (which Mark, to my amusement, accidentally ordered in German). Baby liked the risotto. We finished with cappuccino.
Here is a free tip for taking babies to Rome. Every restaurant so far has had the same kind of high chair: tall, straight-backed, wood, with a wicker bottom and a bar across the arms but no belt. Mark and I have been taking turns gripping the baby's arm so he doesn't fall out of it. Today the 4yo was wearing a nylon webbing belt, the kind with a plastic click buckle, just in case he had to carry a sword in it or something. We borrowed it and used it to strap the baby to the chair. Hands free dining!
+ + +
After lunch we continued on down Borgo Pio to the tomb-fortress that is Castel Sant'Angelo. It is really quite impressive close up.
There is an exhibit of weaponry near the top, but the real reward is the rooftop view.
It almost feels as if you are standing on board a ship, what with the angel looking like a sort of figurehead, and the flagpole looking like rigging. The parapet has a very gunwale-like feel.
We finished the castle tour with a trip around the four-sided top of the fortifications, anchored by four bastions at the corners named after the four Evangelists. The boys were impressed (interlocking fields of fire!) and amused (hey, there's a crest up there for Alexander VI! That's the Borgia Family pope from Horrible Histories!)
Once down, I shifted the baby to my back and plotted a course that would take us down the narrow and charming shop-lined Via dei Coronari and then to the Piazza Navona, coming out near the Four Rivers Fountain. We bought gelato on the way (fior di latte and peach, yum) and then while the four- and fourteen-year-olds finished theirs outside with Mark, I took the 8yo and 10yo into the Church of St. Agnes to say hello.
This church is a jewel box. We admired the beautiful dome inside and scrutinized some of the marble bas-reliefs, then found our way around a corner to the chapel in which the saint's skull rests behind glass in a reliquary. A woman was there taking pictures with her iPad held up in front of her face; at first I stayed back with that impulse to not ruin someone's picture, but then changed my mind and decided it would make a better picture with my kids and me praying in the chapel. I walked through the open-gated railing, knelt down, and greeted the Saint with a petition or two. My two children followed (three actually, since the baby was strapped to my back) and did the same.
We continued on past the Campo dei Fiori and back to the apartment, ready for several hours' rest. It'll be carryout for dinner, then an early bedtime, because tomorrow morning we must be at the Vatican Museum for early entry.