Our Roman Holiday (The Pope, Gladiators and Gelato)

After a week in Naples, with its lawless streets and swoon-worthy pizza (see my Naples post here) we were headed to Rome for a few days of art, architecture, gelato and gladiator school. We got so much more than we bargained for and loved every second of it. The boys even tolerated our need to visit as many of the ornate churches the vast city has to offer, with the understanding that there would be plenty of sword fighting gladiator moments, soccer games, pizza and gelato to balance the days. A Mass with the Pope was a bonus to this fabulous stop, one we had never dreamed of.

The boys were in awe of the first dozen churches we saw, and even got a bit of art history and biblical studies in the process.

We visited the Pantheon,

the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and so many other ancient monuments.

Along our way we stopped at nearly all the pizza and gelato shops.

After a long day of walking and looking at art the boys were happy to take a little break from the high culture and zip around in the Borghese gardens on these rented go carts.

That was just the beginning of the fun. I’d signed the whole family up for Gladiator school. I figured after traveling together in close quarters for 3 weeks we would cherish the chance to let each other have it with swords!

After our 3 hour lesson we were in full on battle. Rome seems to understand kids (and their parents), and I was so grateful.

We stayed just a few blocks from the Vatican in a lovely neighborhood, made even more special by the exquisite gelato shop across the street from our hotel. We tried on a number of occasions to visit the basilica of Saint Peter, but each time the line was too long, the sun too hot and our feet too tired. On our last day in Rome, just before catching the train for Florence, we decided to brave the lines and see the inside of the Vatican. We showed up early in the morning and the line was already wrapped around St. Peter’s square. That day the line was different. There were far more priests, nuns and people were generally dressed more formally than the average tourists. We thought nothing of it and joined the queue. The other difference was the speed at which the line moved, not more than 10 minutes in line and we were at the door. The guard asked for our tickets and that is when we realized we had not been invited to this party. It turns out we showed up for the festival of Saint Peter and the Pope was conducting the Mass. The guard ushered us off to the side and told us in very plain English that we would NEVER get in, sorry! We stepped aside to discuss our options for the day and to do a bit of people watching. Just then another guard opened the door next to us and invited us in, marching us straight to the front of the church to the standing room near the alter…Needless to say we followed obediently.

Within an hour the basilica was filled with cardinals and then the pope came down the isle, we actually couldn’t see anything but his golden hat until he stood in front of the alter. Not only did we see the vatican that day, but we happened into Mass with the Pope. My husband and I kept pinching ourselves. I’m not sure my boys appreciated this event for the unique experience that it was, but some day they will.

At this age they were more interested in getting one last gelato before we caught our train.

So we went all out with a sundae floating in dry ice, which was almost too cool to eat…

but, we managed!

Related posts:

Turkish Feast Day 1

Turkish Delight Day 2

Turkish Spice Market Day 3 – roosters make bad neighbors!

Naples – pizza, pizza and more pizza.

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29 thoughts to “Our Roman Holiday (The Pope, Gladiators and Gelato)”

  1. Gladiator School? Now that is a riot! And from your laughing it sounds like you had more fun than the boys! And I’m trying to imagine those real long-ago gladiators in the arena fighting while their mom stood on the side saying “Not so hard!”. LOL! Adorable! Your post and your pictures have made me miss Rome so much! Wonderful!

  2. Stunning tale…Holy Mass WITH Pope Benedict!!! You’re right, the boys will realize the magnitude of this later in life. My son-in-law and his family went to Hawaii when they were kids. All three kids were fascinated looking over the rim of a volcano and naturally their parents were patting themselves on the back for raising such appreciative children; when one said “WOW look…a Coke can down a volcano!!” Today all three would grab at a chance to go to Hawaii…

    1. Hi Phyllis,

      That is a riot. My boys were more excited about the gelato, but some day I hope they will look back and realize how lucky they were to be in the right place at the right time to see the Pope.

      Thanks, Zoë

  3. Rome is such a magical and entertaining city to visit…these lovely photos took me back to my trip there a few years ago. This is my first time visiting your blog, and I’m very glad I came upon it tonight. Thank you for sharing. Ciao!

  4. What is the name of the gelato shop you photographed? I went there myself and I want to recommend it to a friend that’s traveling soon but can’t remember what it is called. I’d appreciate the help!

  5. Looks like you had a fun and eventful trip. I love seeing those sights. It is a pleasant treat to stumble across Gelato shops in the US as they are becoming more prevalent…but nothing like the authentic stuff!


  6. Hi Zoe! I’m a new fan and am thrilled to find your blog! I’ve just discovered your five minute artisan bread recipes and I’m totally hooked! I’ve got your “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”, have given a copy to one of my daughters for her birthday and am giving my other two daughters and daughter-in-law copies for Christmas.
    And probably my two sisters. It’s my favorite cookbook, ever.

    What a wonderful trip you’ve had with your husband and kids. The photographs are just terrific and the gladiator school video will be something fun to show them when they grow up.

  7. I always enjoy your posts, just had yet to comment. Your travels have intrigued me, especially since in 2 short months, our family will be moving to Vicenza Italy for 3 years. Thanks for letting us in on a little of what we should expect. 🙂

  8. sure miss your posts- are you retiring from blogging? I love your site and many of your recipes have become our favorites. We want more!

  9. Your post reminds me when we took our two boys on a tour of Italy a few years back and they loved it so much that they want to go back & visit again!

  10. Hi there, my husband and I are planning to go to Italy some time this year. Is there any chance I could get hold of your itinerary? 🙂 Your pictures look awesome! Thanks in advance!

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