We had a mere 36 hours before our flight departed, so we set off almost immediately upon arrival in the city for the Colosseum, where a guide met us with walkie-talkie-style radios that we wore around our necks for the duration of the tour. “The children will tire of them in five minutes,” the guide told us—not so. Give my kids a semi-high-tech toy through which to transmute the ancients and they are happy campers. A many-mile trek to a fabled pizzeria (recommended by that same friend who had escaped his graduate studies) followed. It was, of course, closed for August. A passerby in bright green trousers ushered us into the pizzeria next door and we were, also predictably, delighted by it.
The next day—our only full day—we were determined to make the most of it, so we set off immediately after breakfast for the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, holding out the promise of a double gelato day to motivate the little feet to keep on pounding the cobblestone streets. Rome is not a city built for strollers, but we pushed and huffed, happy nonetheless, enchanted by the vines dripping over walls and from precarious electrical wires and the dozens of haphazardly parked cars that stood not much taller than my five-year-old. I didn’t dare attempt a museum with our limited stores of childhood patience, but no matter—the streets were their own exhibition.
The hotel staff, in their infinite wisdom, had arranged a golf cart tour—what they called an “Eat, Pray, Love” tour—an activity that did not involve hoofing it over uneven streets for the conclusion of the day, and they even set up a car seat for our one-year-old. The kids squabbled over who got to sit in the last row, their competitive anxiety a sign of the activity’s success even before it really began. The cart, deftly directed but a mustachioed driver named Antonio, whisked us past the major sites—the Vatican, Gianicolo Hill—but also drove us down streets we never would have found on our own: the charming Via Del Pellegrino, for instance, lined with with bookstores, boutiques, bars, and erboristeries. (I’m told that other iterations of the tour involve trips to the city’s best biscotti makers and hidden artisanal chocolate purveyors.) The biggest gift of all, perhaps: Antonio sensed declining blood sugar levels and deposited us at a snack shop in Trastevere where we feasted on supplì and arancini, and the kids thoroughly ruined their dinner.