Spotlight Destination: Rome, Italy

Roaming Through Rome!

Rome is rich in history, culture, fashion, and food. 

The “Eternal City” is a destination that never fails to impress visitors with its stunning architecture, iconic landmarks, and vibrant street life. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Rome has something for everyone!

Rome, the capital of Italy, is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the world. Founded in 753 BC, this vibrant cosmopolitan city is famous for its iconic landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican City. 

With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming to plan your trip to Rome. But don’t worry, here is a list of things to do in Rome, hidden gems to discover, and off-the-beaten-path attractions that make this city so special. 

Rome Italy

Top 5 Sightseeing Things To Do in Rome

  1. The Colosseum: The Colosseum was built in 80 AD and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles.
  2. The Pantheon: The Pantheon is a temple that is dedicated to all the gods of Ancient Rome. It was built in 27 BC and is famous for its impressive dome, which is the largest unsupported dome in the world! It’s an incredible sight.
  3. The Vatican City:  The Vatican City is another landmark that should not be missed when visiting Rome. It is the smallest independent state in the world and is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican is home to many famous landmarks such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums. 
  4. The Trevi Fountain is also a must-visit landmark in Rome. It is one of the most famous fountains in the world and is known for its stunning Baroque architecture.
  5. Villa Borghese: The Villa Borghese is one of the most famous parks in Rome and is home to many museums and galleries. The park also has a lake where you can rent a boat and enjoy the scenery.

Top 5 Hidden Gems of Rome

  1. The Catacombs of San Callisto: Another off-the-beaten-path attraction is the Catacombs of San Callisto. These catacombs are located on the outskirts of Rome and are home to many ancient tombs and crypts. The catacombs offer a unique glimpse into the history of Rome.
  2. The Teatro dell’Opera di Roma: This opera house is one of the most famous opera houses in the world and has a rich history of hosting some of the best opera performances in Italy.
  3. The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is another famous theater in Rome and is home to many classical music performances.
  4. Shopping streets: Via Condotti is one of the most famous shopping streets in Rome and is home to many luxury fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. Another famous shopping street is Via del Corso, which is a long street that is lined with shops and department stores. 
  5. Monti Boutiques: If you are looking for something unique, then head to the vintage boutiques in Monti. This neighborhood is famous for its vintage shops and fun, bohemian vibe. Some of the best vintage shops in Monti include Pifebo, Humana Vintage, and Flamingo.

Rome Italy

Top 5 Must-Try Foods in Rome

  1. Roman-style pizza:  The Roman-style pizza is thin and crispy! It is a must-try when in Rome. Some of the best pizza places for your to try include Da Remo, Pizzarium, and Pizzeria La Montecarlo.
  2. Carbonaro: Another famous (and delicious!) Roman dish is carbonara, which is a pasta dish made with eggs, bacon, and cheese. The best place to try carbonara in Rome is at Roscioli, a famous restaurant that is known for its delicious pasta dishes.
  3. Roman Wine Bars: The city has many wine bars where you can try some of the best Italian wines while relaxing amongst gorgeous views. Some of the best wine bars to try include Il Goccetto, Enoteca Cavour 313, and Trimani.
  4. Roman coffee: When it comes to coffee, Rome has a rich coffee culture, and you can find many coffee shops all around the city. Some of the best coffee shops include Tazza d’Oro, Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, and Roscioli Caffè.
  5. Alesso di Bollito: This is a simmered beef dish that has been around for ages! It consists of tender juicy meat that is placed on bread and dipped in its own juices. Truly delicious. 

Enjoy your time exploring the beautiful city of Rome! 

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Flying with kids can be stressful!

Flying with kids can be stressful!

Here are 5 tips on how to keep your sanity when taking kids on a plane trip

Having two little ones myself I find that my anxiety for flying increases a few days before the flight.  It is not because I am afraid to fly but how will my kids be on the flight.  I always notice the “God, please don’t seat them near me” glances our way when we walk on a plane with two little ones.  I even had one older lady tell her husband that she hoped those kids would be good on this flight while we were sitting down behind her.  She kept glancing our way with disapproval the whole flight.  The best part was after we landed and she was getting up she told us they were perfect on the flight. 

Now my husband and I always wait until everyone is off the plane so we don’t have to rush to gather up all our stuff.  As people pass us in the aisle they compliment us on how well behaved our children were.  We always thank them for the compliment but it makes me feel good that I am doing something right to keep my kids occupied the whole flight.  I am going to share with you what we do so you too can have a peaceful and enjoyable flight with your kids or grandkids.

Tip #1:  Bring food and drinks!  I know that you can’t get more than 3 ounces of fluid through security but between the newsstand and Starbucks you can buy milk, water, or juice.  Make sure to bring their favorite container to drink out of so it is like they are drinking the same thing at home.  Also, bring their favorite snack.  It always seems that as soon as they sit in their seat they are hunger.  Having that snack handy keeps from your child having a fit even before the door on the plane is closed. 

Tip #2:  If your child is still using a binky or pacifiers make sure you bring plenty along.  This helps to keep them calm and it will also help with their ears for altitude changes.  I find that my children fall asleep with having their binky and the gentle sway of the airplane.  This makes me happy because now I have time to relax and take in a movie too.

Tip #3:  Bring their favorite toy.  The way to keep your child from kicking the seat in front of them is by putting their favorite toy in the pocket in front of them.  They will think you are being silly by putting it there but I find that telling my child that her toy needs to be secured in a seat also and the toy seat is this pocket, I don’t get any questions.  No kicking and no angry older lady glaring at you during the flight, hopefully. 

Tip #4:  Bring the electronic tablet for your little ones.  Not everyone believes in letting their kids watch TV or movies, but I am not one of those parents.  My kids love Disney movies and Nick Jr. educational shows.  Sesame Street is another household favorite.  Download or buy your kids favorite shows on the tablet that you are going to take.  When I say favorite shows or movies, I mean the ones that they watch at home already and ask for by name.  It doesn’t work out well if you decide to buy something new thinking they will like it on the plane.  Don’t risk it, play it safe with something they already know and keeps them calm. (*NOTE: make sure you download the movie to the tablet so that you aren’t required to use the wi-fi on the plane!)

Tip #5:  Bring along your own small pillow and blanket.  Please don’t use the pillows and blankets from the plane on your children.  They get reused and many people use the pillow to prop their feet up after they have taken off their shoes, YUCK!  Having their own blanket that smells like home is relaxing.

Tip #6:  This always happens to me, as soon as we sit down my child says she has to go potty!  Going potty on a plane by yourself is difficult in such a confined space let alone fitting an adult and a toddler in there.  Now we know, go before you get on the plane.  Also, change that diaper right before you board also.  Yes, people change their baby’s diaper right on the snack tray but luckily my husband and I have it down where we can easily change them on our lap in 10 seconds flat! (BTW…wipe down the snack tray before putting your drink or snack on it!)

I don’t think there are any guarantees that your child won’t have a fit at some point on a flight you take with them but I truly believe that I can do everything in my power to minimize the probability.  This has worked very well for us and the proof is from all the compliments that we receive.

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Hotel Rooms, how to tell if they are clean

What is REALLY in your hotel room? 

5 Places You NEED to be Checking


Recently I have been traveling a lot which means I have been staying in a lot of hotel rooms.  Some of the hotels received not so good reviews, so I was cautious as to what to expect in staying there.  For one of the hotels, the reviews consistently said that it wasn’t the cleanest.  I understand everyone has different perspectives as what is clean, but I always like to be prepared.  After seeing several shows on what actually gets cleaned in hotels, I have started a cleaning and checking routine when I walk into any hotel room.    Here is what I do:

      1.  Check the bed/mattress for bed bugs.  I look for reddish coloration, tiny black marks, and yellowish small dots around the edges where the mattress is sewn.  You can also move the mattress back from the wall to see if anything starts to move up the wall.  Needless to say, if I see any of this, I immediately ask for another room.

     2.  Check the sheets.  If there are hairs, discoloration, or any visible stains this to me is a clear indication that the sheets have not been changed since the last person occupied that room.  It has been known for years that the top spread does not get changed between guests, but the sheets must be changed for me to stay in that room.

    3.  Check bathroom.  There are several things in the bathroom that need to checked. 

        a. The shower/bathtub needs to be looked at closely.  Is there hair in the drain still?  Is there mold anywhere including on the shower curtain?  Are the last person’s shower items still there?

        b. I also lift the toilet set to see if there are any stains under the seat and also to see if the toilet bowl has been cleaned.  There are many times I have walked into someone else’s “stuff” still in the toilet. 

        c. I check the towels to see if they are damp.  They may not have been used by the last person, but were in there when they showered and got ready. 

        d. Is the sink area clean?  Is there a new soap dish or is it a re-usable one?  I also bring my own toiletries so I don’t have to worry about the ones they provide, but you should check them to see if they have been used by someone else. 

    4. Make sure the locks on the doors work.  This sounds simple but I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a hotel room and the dead bolt to the door doesn’t work, or the lock on the patio door doesn’t work.  I don’t take those things lightly, as anyone can easily get into my room when I am not there or when I am sleeping. 

    5. Clean all touchable items in the room.  Once most of my checks have passed and I have decided it is a good room to stay in, I get out my antibacterial wipes or a nice cleaning wipe and start to wipe down all things that people touch.  The remote control, the phone, any light switches, all door handles, mini-refrigerators, coffee-makers, etc.  I try to wipe down as many things as I can especially when the kids are in the room because they tend to touch everything!

    6.  Check under the bed!  Some beds you can’t check under, but the ones that you can you will find the most interesting things people leave behind.  I check under the bed because I want to make sure there are no cleaning products stored under there or anything like old food.  This can turn into a bad situation when you have kids who like to play on the floor. 

These are a just a few things that I do to make sure that I have a pleasant stay at any hotels, and to make sure that my family and I are safe. 

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Photos by Mary Yohannan

Traveling to Charleston with Kids!

Charleston, South Carolina

If you haven’t been, why you must go!

 Our family recently took a family vacation to Charleston, South Carolina.  The last time my husband and I were in Charleston we didn’t have any children and we enjoyed the pleasures of Down Home Southern Cooking.  We walked around the romantic waterfront and sat in front of the iconic Pineapple fountain while watching the sunset project beautiful hues of pink and purple onto the bay.  We walked around the entire historic district taking in the sights of various mansions, quaint alleyways, and hearing ghost tales of years that have gone by.   One thing about Charleston is that the historic district remains the same, not much had changed in the past 10 years since we were there last.  Except, this time we had two little ones with us. 

We didn’t have much time at the Pineapple fountain before one of the children had a meltdown and didn’t want to get a picture as a family, but we tried anyway.  The meltdown probably came from a long day of excitement, playfulness, and good food as there is a lot of amazing things to do in Charleston with children.  Every day the kids were exhausted, ate well, and couldn’t wait to get out of the hotel the next day to see where we were going next.  One thing to make sure of when you travel to Charleston with the kids is to make sure they get a good, hearty breakfast.  There are so many amazing breakfast places in the historic district and we found them by simply asking our concierge where to eat.  There is an amazing place on Meeting Street called Toast that has homemade biscuits the size of my hand.  They may be large but they are not heavy. We visited Toast on several occasions as they had some interesting breakfast items that we wanted to try, and the food was consistently good.

Anywhere we travel, if there is an aquarium or zoo, it is a must stop on our itinerary.  It had been 10 years since I was last at the Charleston Aquarium so I didn’t recall exactly what was there.  Our first stop was to the outdoor enclosure which was a nice surprise.  It was a large pool containing several rays.  If the rays come close to the surface of the pool you can actually touch them.  Now if you have recently seen Finding Dory, there is a part in the movie where the animals in the “touch pool” don’t really liked to be “touched” and when the kids put their hands in the water they all start to find hiding places.  I felt like this scene played out when we were at this pool as the rays clearly didn’t want us to touch them because they all stayed at the bottom!  There were two windows on the bottom of the pool that you could look in and see the rays swimming around happily and that kept the kids occupied for some time. 

Inside the aquarium they have several great exhibits including their large tank with a sea turtle that is my size in height.  They put on various educational seminars about every half hour at various exhibits throughout the aquarium and these seminars really kept the interest of the kids.  One seminar was about alligators and crocodiles, and at the end of the seminar our children actually had the opportunity to pet an alligator, which was a huge excitement for a 5-year-old.  After talking with another employee about what fish and rays eat, she gave each of us a small cup with uncooked shrimp.  The kids put the shrimp on the end of a rod and then they feed the rays.  This was a interesting experience because the rays come up to the glass and use the glass as guidance to find the food.  They are quite aggressive when it comes to food and the large rays would push the smaller rays to the side to get the food.  Again, pure excitement for the kids!  I would highly recommend a half-day to do the aquarium, and try to schedule it so you can see the seminars.

The Children’s Museum of Charleston is another must when visiting Charleston with the kids.  It is all one floor and there are seven large rooms each with a different theme.  I personally like the castle themed room, but the pirate ship was a huge hit with the kids.  The seven rooms are: the arts and crafts room, the castle room, water play room, large building blocks room, pirate ship room, the baby play area, and grocery shopping room.  Each room was designed to have the kids engaged in some type of activity and they were able to dress up in various characters in some of the rooms.  It was fun to see the kids dressed up like pirates and running around a pirate ship yelling at each.  I also enjoyed thegrocery store because the kids have a shopping list and then they must go around and pick up the items.  Once they have retrieved all of the items they bring them to the kids sized check-out line and the parents can scan their items.  The kids pay with fake money and they can bag their own items.   

If you have little ones under the age of two, there is a whole area that is enclosed so the kids can’t get out.  They have soft pillows, slides, climbing stairs, and big foam blocks for the little ones to play.  The time flew by so fast when we were here that we didn’t get to go outside to ride the big fire truck or do any of the other outdoor activities.  I would highly recommend the Children’s Museum for either a half-day or if the weather is nice and you can play outside, a good 6 hours. 






Check out next week’s ezine when I talk about how to survive at a plantation with kids!

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Congratulations to Mary! 

She recently earned the distinguished Certified Travel Associate (CTA) designation from the Travel Institute, the travel industry’s oldest education organization.  She completed a comprehensive exam-based training program that demonstrates extensive industry knowledge and experience, and she must continue to fulfill stringent education credit requirements each year. 


Have a Great Week!




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