Ada Meets St. Peter’s Basilica

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Ada Chasing Pigeons in St. Peter's Square

While planning this trip I worried about my daughter pestering people. We had successfully navigated the plane ride, and our next challenge was a day of sightseeing. Our first stop was St. Peter’s Basilica, the goliath of all Catholic Cathedrals. Thankfully, Ada was asleep in the backpack. Perfect timing – she was quiet and I was relieved.

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St. Peter's Basilica

We wandered through the cathedral, uttering stunned “WOW’s” at its massive size and golden adornment. Worshipers prayed in the side chapels, enclosed in serenity, while the tourists watched, whispered and took pictures. We strolled for about an hour, our minds overwhelmed and neck muscles aching from ceiling-staring.Finally Ada opened her eyes, pointed up, and joined in with her own amazed toddler-esqe “OHHH…” Beauty-buzzed, and not thinking clearly, we let her out.

At two feet tall, Ada must have seen nothing but a marble runway. She took off running, happily squealing with each bouncy step.  Aaron chased her across the cathedral in his attempt of a respectable run. He grabbed her, we glanced at Michelangelo’s Pieta, and left. Ada spent the next 30 minutes chasing pigeons in massive St. Peter’s Square, while Aaron chased her.

For lunch we squeezed into a nearby pizza shop. Months of studying Italian flashcards paid off and I successfully ordered us two squares of ham and potato pizza. Because the shop was packed with locals, we left and ate it while wandering along the Vatican wall. My perfectionist self fretted: we’re still acting American, eating lunch on the go. But I worried about bothering people at a restaurant. So, we kept going, with another tourist site on our agenda.

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Castel Sant' Angelo

The Vatican wall connects the Vatican with Castel Sant’ Angelo, our next destination. It was originally built as Hadrian’s tomb in 139AD and was later connected to the Vatican by a secret passage (the wall), transforming Castel Sant’ Angelo into the Pope’s hideout during political unrest.

Climbing up into the fortress not only grants you a panorama of the city, but there’s also a little café to rest your feet and enjoy the view with a glass of wine or espresso. Happy to be free of the backpack, Ada toddled around and sauntering up to the tables, making adorable faces at the people at the cafe. Aaron approved of Ada’s quest for attention and followed her with a proud smile. I was mortified.

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View of St. Peter's from Castel Sant' Angelo

I scooped her up and walked into a little museum where again she began to squeal and squirm. I escaped up a tiny staircase – the stone amplifying her giggles – up to the top outside viewing deck. While the view of Rome, the Tiber River and the Vatican was breathtaking, I was too anxious to appreciate the panorama: I was terrified Ada would run into someone or climb over the edge.

With a sigh, I knew the tourist in me was done for the day. I was afraid to look people in the eye, afraid of their annoyed glares. We left and headed for our apartment. But since we cannot read a map, our day of sightseeing had actually just begun. And thankfully, I discovered the power of Italian beer.