Christmas in Rome


As we were packing up our suitcases for a family of six, I get a map out for the youngest to show her where we are going for Christmas. I point to the pink boot shaped country on our world map. She replies, “Yeah! Are we going back to See Word? I yuv da dolphins!” Mom replies, “No baby, we are going to Rome in Italy!” Where do you go from there in a conversation with a three year old who thinks we still live only a few minutes away from her cousin, Issy, in Texas.

Nothing takes the place of being home with family for Christmas, not even Rome. But being in Italy for Christmas was an amazing, unforgettable, and educational trip for our family that will forever be remembered!  Being with Pope Francis for the “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas Blessing, hanging out with young brothers of the Legionaries of Christ, exploring St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum, discovering the lost city of Pompeii, saying our nighttime prayers with Sister Emma in the convent, and eating lots of gelato were highlights for sure!

Come tiptoe through our week’s travels in Rome…

Monday, December 23rd: While Royce toured the Necropolis, where he explored the burial place of St. Peter, located directly below the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, the kids and I headed to the Art Studio for a Mosaic class and a pasta lunch! Since, the kids needed to be 15 years or older for this tour, our guide found something close by for the kids and I to enjoy.


Tuesday, December 24th: All of our walking and driving guided tours were with a lively tour guide geared towards kids, with Katja Hansel, through Rome Kid Tours. I highly recommend this to anyone with little ones headed to Rome! In one day we toured the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Catacombs, the Circus Maximus, the Trevi Fountain, and Navona Square.

Inside the Colliseum

The kids soaked up the history in Rome! Talk about making Roman soldiers, gladiators, and life in the Coliseum in books come alive!


“I learned that the Coliseum is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering and it took from 70 AD to 80 AD to build. It is the largest amphitheater in the world.” Lance

Also, check out these 10 Interesting Facts About the Coliseum!

The Mouth of Truth

Our oldest eagerly wanted to test out the Mouth of Truth known as Bocca della Verità. Does this take anyone back to Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn? The younger ones were not so sure and chose not to try it out. The medieval legend is believed that the mouth of the marble face would close if anyone put his hand in it and told a lie.

Wednesday, December 25th: Happy Birthday Baby Jesus…in Rome!


Nativity Scene at St. Peter’s Square named “Francis 1223-Francis 2013”

We started Christmas day off with mass in Italian with Sister Emma and the nuns of Saint Caterina Volpicelli. The kids enjoyed playing in the beautiful gardens of the convent before we made our way to St. Peter’s Square to see Pope Francis!


I was a bit nervous about taking the kids in such a large crowd, but was quite amazed how calm and serene the crowd was. Like a mother hen, I had dog tags made here with all of our contact information for each kid to wear around their necks. I did not take a stroller, kid toys, or any extra bags or purses. I managed to stuff my pockets with snacks for the kids and carried my camera around my neck, so I could have my hands free to hold on to little fingers. While waiting for Pope Francis, my side ponytail came in handy for teaching the girls how to braid and there were plenty of people around from all over the world to meet. I find it absolutely fascinating that we met a young man from Dallas, Texas! My heart skipped a beat when I saw what I thought was the Texas flag. I eagerly took pictures of it blowing away in the wind. That is when the young gentleman gave me a friendly lesson on this flag…from Chile. I had no idea they looked that similar. That was probably one of those things I was taught in  my 4th grade classroom with Ms. Johnson, but was day dreaming or doodling flowers or hearts in a New Kids on the Block notebook.



For Papa Francesco’s message in English, click here, Urbi et Orbi 2013. That evening we attended mass in Spanish with the brothers and priests of Legionaries of Christ in Rome. The kids were treated to some super cool conversation and coke afterwards with the brothers!

Thursday, December 26th: Our family are HUGE fans of pizza and the best part is making it…together! We headed to a local pizzeria and learned the art in making Roman style pizza!


Pizza Dough Recipe

1 kilo flour

½ liter water at 12 to 20 degrees C

2 Tablespoon Oil

½ tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

10 grams yeast

(use the yeast that is not activated to let rise for a whole day)


Add your favorite sauce, cheese, veggies, and place in a brick oven to bake! Next add, a glass of red wine, smiles, and enjoy!


Afterwards, we headed out on another tour with Brother Andrew and Brother Adam to see St. Peter’s Basilica, the Spanish steps, and Piazza del Popolo.  What amazing men these dedicated brothers were to endure a day touring with four kids! We were very thankful for their time and wisdom they shared with our family! It’s not every day we get to hang out with young brothers on fire for the Lord and their faith! The evening ended with a gelato dinner…again. We found ourselves eating such large and late lunches that gelato became a favorite for our evening kid approved meal!

Friday, December 27th: This day we toured the Vatican. Our most favorite was seeing and learning about the Sistine Chapel. We couldn’t take pictures, but it was once again a site to see, although very packed because we went late in the day. To get the most out of the Sistine Chapel, it is best to go first thing in the morning. I enjoyed the story about Michelangelo the most and how he came to paint the Sistine Chapel.

For each trip we had a tour guide just for the kids and Flat Stanley!

I loved how our tour guide used lasagna to describe Rome and how each time the city burned down or was destroyed by barbarian tribes, the city just re-built right on top of the debris and fallen structures therefore making layers of all sorts of artifacts and ruins, such as Roman heads and sculptures.

Mosaic Tile

Mom walking on Roman Mosaic Tiles.

Saturday, December 28th: A driving tour to Pompeii was on the list for Saturday! Lane and I got a bit carsick on the way, but oh WOW! This was a very well-liked family tour for sure! To discover a lost city buried in volcanic ashes in 79 AD is hard to imagine unless you are able to walk with your own two feet and explore with your own two eyes! We had twelve feet walking and twelve eyes exploring, each taking away something different and in their own way.


I enjoyed capturing the kids up against Fresco paint that still remained on the walls in some of what was left of ancient city homes.

City streets of the lost city, Pompeii, Italy

Kids just strolling along roads once traveled nearly 2,000 years ago. 2,014-79=1,935 years ago to be exact!

Lost city of Pompeii once covered by Volcano

Thanks for reading! Family & Friends, let me know if you are interested in checking out our Google album and I will pass along! I struggled with this post immensely in picking out which pictures to share. How does one choose from over 800 photos taken in Rome, Italy?

We flew with Ryan Air and stayed at a little convent with the Sisters of Saint Caterina Volipicelli (Casa ferie C. Volpicelli) through Monastery Stays. Thanks to Katja Hansel with Rome Kid Tours , Brothers of Legionaries of Christ, and my best friend, Regina, from high school we were able to successfully tour and get around with kids in Rome, Italy.


And when in Rome with kids, remember frequent  stops for gelato just very well might be essential and sometimes you just have to stop and put your feet up.


  1. Wonderful photos and memories. So good to see Sister Emma. I don’t think we got a photo of her. We LOVE sister Emma. She just radiates the Holy Spirit. ” Bellisimo, Bueno”

    And the garden was enchanting.

    Bruce wants to know how did ya’llend up praying with her at night when she didn’t speak English.


  2. Cecilia says:

    Oh WoW!!! I so badly wish I could be there so I could ooh and ahh over each and every mosaic art creation! And that nativity scene is just some kind of great! I love it! What a Christmas for you all! I’m impressed with your preparations all the way down to tags for the kids. Genius Jessica! I am very envious, but also know you would have all loved to have been home for Christmas even more. Have I seen your google album? If not, I would love too! We could turn it on one night during dinner and just let it show through the pics. The girls would love to see their cousins and I would too!

  3. Cecilia Wagner says:

    I thought of this blog post tonight when Isabelle came up to me and said I have a secret to tell you mommy. She whispered we can have a sleepover tonight with Mary Kate. I love their little minds and hearts that still believe they can get together at a moment’s notice. Of course I teared up and I just told her that was a great idea and we will have a sleepover with Mary Kate as soon as we can. Love you guys

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