Our next stop was Rome. Well, 30 kms out of Rome, staying at an olive farm in a town called Canneto, booked once again, at a fantastic rate, through Airbnb. The drive from Fossoli to Canneto was not a fun one! We stopped briefly in Fossoli to check out the Renaissance Square and then got straight on the freeway. It was an extremely hot day, and with no air conditioning in the car, it was pretty uncomfortable, although we did have spray bottles filled with cold water (Peter’s great idea) to spray ourselves and feel cooler for a few seconds as the wind blew through the windows. Also, that morning, I had began to get tonsillitis again, for the fourth time since leaving Melbourne. My throat was burning and it was becoming difficult to swallow. We drove straight to Canneto, stopping briefly to buy some beautiful fresh fruit and veggies from a roadside stall. The drive took around 4 hours and the one toll for that drive was €30 ($45 AUD). Ouch! By the time we arrived, our phones had run out of battery (our car charger still wasn’t working) and it hadn’t occurred to us to write down the address of our accommodation. We drove around for a while hoping to get lucky and recognise the name of the farm (which we also hadn’t written down) but soon gave up and stopped in the main street to ask directions. There were a group of teens hanging around and Peter attempted to ask them (in a language they didn’t understand) for directions (to a place we had no address for). We love a challenge………! After a lot of confusion, Peter and a couple of the young men somehow managed to figure out where we were wanting to get to and they very kindly led us there, with us following their motorbike.
When we finally arrived at the farm we were all very excited. A big old double story stone house on a huge property surrounded by olive trees, perched on a hill with vast, amazing views of the neighbouring towns. It looked like something straight off a postcard of the Italian countryside.
As we piled out of the car we were greeted by a horse, who was roaming freely around the property. The kids thought this was fantastic! Our accommodation was in one room with four beds. The house itself is separated into various sections. The main downstairs part is occupied by the owner and his family and then upstairs consists of 3 or 4 guest rooms with a kitchen and bathroom. While we were there, some of the other rooms were occupied by volunteers who were working and staying on the farm. We had one bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and our own little balcony with amazing views. It was extremely hot however and the little fan we had been given made the room only just bearable. The owner was a man of few words, but he did seem to like the kids and introduced them to the many animals on the farm including the horse, pigs, chickens, ducks and a very excitable dog. Korey especially thought they were all fantastic.
There was also a very friendly resident cat who continuously came into our rooms, purring, shedding fur and attempting to cough up furballs. Peter and Korey both really took a shining to her, Lucy however was not so keen, probably due to her previous encounter with a cat in Scotland. Unfortunately it appeared to be a magic cat who, no matter how many times we kicked it out and shut the door, would reappear out of nowhere and either jump on one of us for a pat or begin licking itself or trying to eat our food. That night Peter cooked a beautiful little dinner with the veggies we had bought earlier, which we ate on the balcony as we watched the sun go down. Afterwards he went downstairs with Anna and Elyssa and they met some friendly American backpackers who were volunteering and staying at the farm. They offered the girls some of the pasta they had cooked for dinner, which was an awesome treat for our always hungry girls.
We spent much of the following day just hanging out at the farm. The kids explored and played with the animals and we caught up with some computer work. We ventured out briefly to get some groceries but it was a very hot day and none of us really had the energy or desire to do much more. In the afternoon we sat and chatted with Jessica, one of the girls from the night before. She was super friendly and so great with the kids who all took a real shining to her. We were all disappointed to learn that she was leaving for Rome that evening, but swapped details in the hope that our paths will cross again one day. Peter (who has taken over the role of head chef of the family) cooked Spaghetti Bolognaise – the Italian meal that we’d all been waiting for. Belissimo! (the cat thought so too………..)
The next day we hit Rome! We had originally planned on catching the train in as we had heard tickets were fairly cheap and driving in the city could be quite frantic and expensive to park, but we thought that being a Sunday it may be somewhat quieter and parking may be cheaper too. We decided we’d give driving in a go and if it turned out to be a bad idea we’d drive back out to a train station, or at least take the train in next time. It turned out to be fine though. It took us about 40 minutes to reach the city centre, there wasn’t much traffic at all and we were able to park in the street for as long as we wanted for free (only on a Sunday). We spent all day walking around and exploring what truly is an absolutely beautiful, amazing, unique city. The sun was intense and we walked for miles and miles. We wore thongs (flipflops) as we thought it was just too hot for runners. Stupid move. By the end of the day Peter and I were both walking as if we were just learning how…….. Throughout the city there are many taps to drink from or fill water bottles with. We were so grateful for this, as too were the masses of other people we queued behind to do so!
The city was absolutely packed with tourists and people from all walks of life and despite the heat, there was a general upbeat and excited vibe in the streets. We visited the Trevi Fountain which was closed for maintenance. I really don’t understand why they would choose the busiest time of year, a time that millions of people visit the city with the fountain high on their list of places to see, to do this. Maybe it was a fountain emergency……..
We still took photos and then went to one of the many nearby gelati shops for some extremely expensive gelati that melted faster than we could eat it. As with most treats, one each would have cost our large family a fortune, so in keeping with our frugal ways, but still having a treat, we all shared one big cup for €6 ($9 AUD ). Luckily it tasted amazing! We headed to the Pantheon next. It was amazing to be there. To simply stand and view such an historic and iconic building. It was one of the highlights of the day, for Anna in particular. Just outside it, the kids danced to music from a nearby busker, surrounded by a sea of excited tourists, before we headed to the entry where we had seen masses of people entering and exiting. We walked up to the doors just as they were closing them for the day……….so disappointed. As we stood outside, under the huge remarkable columns, annoyed that we hadn’t got there just five minutes earlier, Anna called out “My tooth!” – she had lost her tooth under the columns of the Pantheon! Pretty cool thing for a 9 year old to be able to say! She’s good at losing her teeth in special places – she lost her very first tooth in a cable-car in San Fransisco on our USA trip.
After the Pantheon we went for a very long walk, stopping briefly to marvel at the ancient Roman Forum and walking along the beautiful Tiber River before we finally arrived at the Colusseum. Wow! What a ‘pinch me’ moment. We were so excited. It was just spectacular and we spent ages taking photos and just looking at it, in awe of its size and beauty and the sheer fact that we were actually there.
The whole time we were outside it, even as I sat feeding the baby, we were continuously pestered by people trying to sell us souvenirs and selfie sticks. Even the kids began to say “No thanks” on our behalf. After what felt like the fiftieth person to approach us I decided to have a bit of fun with the kids and from then on whenever we saw someone approaching us we’d say loudly something along the lines of “Dad, look, didn’t you want a selfie stick?” and then watch in hysterics as they made a bee-line for Peter and he attempted to tell them that he actually did not want one! We stayed until the sun began to set and then headed off toward the car, which after about 1km of walking, we realised was in the complete opposite direction. We walked back, passing the Colusseum again, and, just for a moment, were grateful for that extra pointless 2 km walk, as because of it we got to see this amazing landmark completely lit up and possibly even more breathtaking than earlier.
We had snacked on various foods throughout the day, not feeling like eating very much in the heat, and that, coupled with the miles and miles of walking and sightseeing, is what led to us realising, quite late at night as we headed back to the car, that we had in fact completely forgotten to have dinner. Oops! Fortunately we were surrounded by restaurants, still buzzing with people, so we chose one that didn’t look too fancy/expensive and ordered some pizzas. As we waited for our food Peter took off in search of a chemist to buy me some paracetamol. My throat was still burning and swallowing was extremely painful and I felt as though I was burning up (hard to tell though as it was so hot). He was gone for ages and by the time he returned (with medicine) we had finished eating and he quickly ate the few pieces we had saved him. Eating pizza in a restaurant in Rome – something we had talked about and were really looking forward to since we had known we would be visiting. Well, let’s just say we ate it all because we were hungry, not because we loved it. It was really, really average. On par with a cheapo frozen pizza from the supermarket. So disappointing.
How Peter managed to find our way back to the car is a mystery to me. We didn’t have a map and had parked a fair way out of the hustle and bustle, yet he led us, through endless streets, half of which I had no recollection of walking along in the first place, directly to the car. He is amazing like that. My sense of direction is similar to that of a chicken with it’s head cut off, while Peter is like a homing pigeon!
We had booked 7 nights at the olive farm, with a plan to spend several days exploring Rome, but decided the following day to cut our stay short and head north. I was sick, really sick, and needed antibiotics and to get out of the heat. Fortunately I had found the strength to have one big, crazy day in Rome, seeing many of the main points we had been looking forward to, but after that I was a mess. Peter and the kids were on board, happy with the time they had spent in Rome and keen to escape the heat, get Mum better and move on to the next chapter of our adventure. The weather in Rome was forecast to be in the high 30s for the next week, whereas it was somewhat cooler in the north east of Italy and France so we were planning to try to get in to see a doctor and get some antibiotics on our way up and then find somewhere to stay and rest for a few days. We spent our last day at the olive farm resting, packing and trying to organise our accommodation, before heading off early the next morning.
We would like to return to Rome one day (preferably when I’m not suffering from extreme fevers and sickness) to see those spots we missed like The Vatican, the Sistene Chapel, the Spanish Steps and many others, but we think next time we might fly in for a few days and then fly out again and avoid the long drives, road tolls and scary areas!