Monthly Archives: November 2010

Shopping for baby clothes in Rome

It hasn’t been easy. Anyone who has stayed in our guest room over the last two years has undoubtedly arrived with a suitcase full of baby clothes and supplies from the US. Even France. Here’s the problem: the birth rate is so low in Italy (1.4) that babies simply aren’t big business like they are in the US. There is no Toys’R’Us, no Babies’R’Us, no Walmart, no Macy’s, certainly no Costco and definitely no Giggle.

There are a few department stores, each with a small, expensive selection of clothes that are shockingly low quality compared to what you’d easily find at Target. But, at last, I have found a few good resources. The fact that it’s taken me two years and (nearly) two babies to do this probably says more about me than Rome though I swear there are more shops and services available now than when we first arrived. But who knows. Anyway, here are my go-to shops for baby clothes in Rome:

H&M

  • Really. They have cute things for babies and kids, all made pretty well and the prices are definitely right. They even have maternity clothes and breastfeeding shirts & bras. There is one store on the Via Del Corso but I can’t promise they’ll have any of the above. It’s mostly a tourist destination for teens. My favorite location is outside of Rome, accessible by car, at the Da Vinci shopping center near Fiumicino (off the Roma-Fiumicino autostrada).

Auchan

  • This is actually a French chain that Paul turned me on to. The quality of most of their things isn’t great BUT the store is huge — think Super Walmart with a grocery store built in — and they have lots of baby gear. In fact, they carry loads of Petit Bateau–all at reasonable prices since the store itself is French. Just use caution on the sizing; they run small. The best location is Porta di Roma.

Zara

  • I haven’t shopped much myself here but friends in Rome swear by this chain for baby clothes. We’ve gotten a few things as gifts and each is cuter than the next. Like H&M, they’re trendy clothes at great prices. Hard not to like! There’s a nice store on the Via Del Corso.

Zeta

  • It’s not cheap but these clothes are gorgeous. And French. There’s a shop right in the Termini train station (in the huge shopping concourse on the lower level) and another at Roma D’Est, the mall outside of Rome. Again, the sizes run a touch small so adjust accordingly. Also, they have fabulous sales, which is when and where Phoebe acquired such a fancy winter wardrobe last year. Lucky girl!

Imaginarium

  • Not for clothes but if you’re looking for nice toys with a huge selection, this is a great store and even better website. We bought a mini-kitchen for Phoebe’s Christmas gift (mums the word), selected for two reasons: It doesn’t have a brand name such as Hello Kitty anywhere on it and the store delivered it in less than a week for 4 euros. They have tons of things for bigger kids too, in fact, more.

Shops that I’ve used but am not enamored of:

Prenatal. Another chain, there’s a pretty big store on Via Nazionale, one on the Via Del Corso and another in Porta Di Roma (and likely more). They have baby clothes, maternity clothes, high end strollers (Bugaboo) and cribs plus a small selection of supplies (bottles, sippy cups) and breast feeding equipment. It’s okay but every time I go there it just seems annoying.

Oviesse. Another chain but don’t confuse it with the new OVS. The original chain carries baby clothes and a few maternity clothes–including one of my beloved new sweatsuits.  They have packs of onesies there, which is actually unusual in Rome. My favorite location, the one that seems to have the most inventory for kids, is on Via Trastevere.

Ikea. Of course–and not for clothes. But for kids’ furniture–including cribs, changing tables, stuffed animals, bibs and even toys–it’s hard to beat. The only problem is the vastness of the place. So huge it’s hard to get through in under two hours, which is a tad too long for girls like Phoebe. My favorite location is Porta di Roma, which is newer, bigger and seems nicer than the southern location (and both are reachable via public transport). They deliver but it’s been an ordeal in my experience.

MORE ideas here — some I’ve tried, some I haven’t but if you’re looking for something in particular, give it a shot. In the meantime, shout with any ideas about where I can buy a glider chair! I’d love one in the upholstered chair style…

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The morning routine

They say toddlers thrive on routines but I’d say it’s helpful for our whole family to have one. Every day starts around 7am. Typically Phoebe beats the alarm but every once in a while gets an extra few minutes, and there is definitely no snooze button in the nursery. Then it’s up for a little play time and off to breakfast.

Getting dressed is decidedly her least favorite part of the morning but we get it done, every day.

Then it’s brushing teeth, washing face and combing her hair with Daddy–a much more popular activity.

Then our growing brood ambles down the street to a local bar for coffee, water and raisins (the last one we supply ourselves). Sometimes Phoebe rides in the stroller, sometimes she pushes her own.

Guess which one she prefers…

We picked this particular spot because it’s on the way to the subway for Paul but more importantly, the barristi are welcoming and friendly every day, shouting “Buongiorno!” the moment we walk in.

They always know our order and Phoebe is like a miniature celebrity. (Even on days like today when she spilled my macchiato all over the table and floor…nothing like mopping up at 8am.)

Sometimes there are parking problems. Giving up the stroller is hard to do.

Unless you have raisins to look forward to.

Then we say goodbye to Paul for the day and head off for our errands.

Without a moment to lose!

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Filed under Life, Phoebe

Italian coffee

Coffee is an art in Italy with as many different varieties as one can imagine, possibly more. Cappucino is the standard morning drink and pregnant ladies like me often opt for something with less punch: a latte macchiato. This is a glass of steamed milk “stained” with coffee, sometimes topped with a sprinkle of chocolate. (Not to be confused with a cafe macchiato which is the opposite: a shot of coffee with only the smallest hint of milk.)

A regular cafe latte is also a lovely morning treat. It’s a bigger glass with more milk and more coffee, more like a latte that one would order at Starbucks but don’t expect to get a “venti” anything in Italy. While the name is Italian (“twenty”, as in 20 ounces), giant cups of coffee are not. Neither is a large takeout container or a couch nestled in the coffee shop. Almost all coffee is consumed at the bar, standing. It’s a quick part of the day, usually repeated several times. It’s also considerably cheaper than a Starbucks run; usually about one euro.

If it’s not morning, it’s not common to order anything with milk. After 10 am it’s customary to simply get a cafe, a shot of espresso. If your stomach can’t take that kind of thing, which mine certainly can’t pregnant or not, you can plead your straniero status (“foreigner”) and just order a cafe latte. Leave a little tip to make up for it; besides, tipping is also more of an American custom than Italian, but certainly appreciated everywhere.

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Hello third trimester

At 30 weeks I can report that all is well with LTB (“little tiny baby”). I had my 8-month appointment today and now know two things: she’s apparently the size of a cabbage and it looks like we’re on track for her arrival on February 1, or close to it.

A new crib has been purchased as well as sheets, long-sleeved onesies and fleece footie jammies so cozy that I might try to snuggle up in them myself. Besides the growing pile of loot for LTB, other things are expanding around here too…

And more to come…

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Shipped from America with love

As part of Paul’s sometimes amazing job at FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization which is a UN agency headquartered here in Rome), we were allowed our first shipping allowance from the States this summer. This meant shopping, shipping and waiting. Shopping, then waiting.  Then just waiting.

We bought most of our stuff ahead of time online. Since it wasn’t clear yet whether our new baby would be a boy or girl, the options were limited there. But we knew one thing for sure: Phoebe needed summer clothes for next year and they were on sale now, so… Away we went, stocking up on shoes (and not a moment too soon because Phoebe was down to one pair of hand-me-d0wns just to get her through), summer clothes and diapers of all things. I have a soft spot for Seventh Generation and those good people at Diapers.com gave us discount on top of discount when we ordered in bulk, which we did, making our new stash about a tenth of the price that we’d normally pay in Rome. Oh, and we got a double stroller. (It’s big, but it’s double. So, it’s staying.)

By the time we got to Florida, it was waiting for us. Most of it anyway. Then we picked up a few more things and Paul’s parents graciously arranged for their delivery when we went back to Italy. Cut to three months later and… Yes, it took three months. Blame our over-shopping which put us in the “ship by boat” category instead of plane, but I prefer to blame the Italian customs department in Milan who kept our things there for weeks. Weeks. By the time we finally received our stuff, we hardly remembered what we’d ever shipped. But then we saw the shoes.

Phoebe went straight for the sparkly Mary Janes. That’s my girl.

Step 1: Get in a box.

Step 2: Get serious about putting on some new shoes.

Step 3: Get help.

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Pictures from Prague

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Olive picking again

It was Paul’s second favorite day in Italy.

And this time he had help.

We went back to the Bowen’s beautiful place for another olive picking day.

The Covers came too (plus Dan, Amy, the little guys, Jim & Cindy and even more friends!)

Everyone was either picking or cooking. (The lunch to follow was once again a feast to remember. Thank you Neva!)

Well, everyone over 4 feet tall…

And the finished product awaits.

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A pretty weekend in Prague

Off we went on a mini-jaunt to Prague, the last time I can fly before Baby Mathews II. This city has been on my list since my friend Dana went in the 90′s and bought me a pair of earrings “on a bridge”. Nothing had ever sounded so exotic 0r charming. A short 15 years later, there I was on Charles Bridge myself. But our road to Prague wasn’t exactly… fresh.

Our trip started on Wednesday afternoon. All packed up we hopped into a cab bound for the airport. That’s when the trouble started, again. For the fourth time in a row, Phoebe threw up in the taxi on the way to or from Fiumicino. Yes, I’ve had motion sickness all my life but she doesn’t. The only times I’ve seen her loose her cookies have been under one of these two specific conditions: going to or coming home from the Rome airport. Once I was driving our own car and we weren’t even flying that day, just dropping off friends. The next two times were in the cab, coming and going from our trip to the States, and now Wednesday. It’s awful. You have to clean her up, clean the cab, change clothes…then ride on a plane. This time wasn’t so bad and the flight short but still, not a great way to start.*

However, when we arrived in Prague, everything was great. A beautiful hotel right in the historic center, complete with giant bathtub, separate area for Phoebe’s crib and best of all, room service. We spend lots of time in hotels when traveling with Phoebe; she goes to bed at 7pm and we’ve learned that it’s just better to enjoy adventures during the day and let her get lots of rest at night. Plus room service is fun.

The first day we walked, shopped, ate (Goulash? Nothing like what I thought it was: elbow macaroni with ragu and somehow corn?) and made our way up to a super scenic park at the top of the city. There was a nice little playground for Phoebe, which she enjoyed thoroughly. The next day, more of the same, but we also went to the Prague Zoo which had the best thing of all…a petting zoo. For about an hour, Phoebe and Paul pet each and every miniature goat in the place, several times. She loved it; we had lunch and strolled home. A great day of sunshine and sights.

It’s a mellow place and we’re relaxed travelers these days. Breakfast at the hotel, hot chocolates for the road, shops, sights, street musicians. Prague was our kind of place.

More photos to come but for now…

*For the taxi ride home, we had three air sickness bags and two plastic shopping bags. Paul even had two of the air sickness bags open and poised for the entire trip. Nothing. Phew. Our streak is over!

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