One of the great things about being in Rome with kids is that many of the city’s main tourist attractions are ideal for families – and are sights you’d want to see anyway. With a few days in Rome, the whole family can see incredible art, get close to Ancient Rome, eat well, and most importantly, have fun.
Here are the top 10 things we recommend to do when in Rome with kids:
10. Visit churches instead of museums to see fine art in manageable bite-sized pieces. So duck into Santa Maria del Popolo to see two incredible Caravaggios and Santa Maria in Trastevere for jaw-dropping mosaics. Don’t miss Michelangelo’s Pieta’ in St. Peter’s. Peek into the church of Sant’Ignazio to admire the trompe l’oeil ceiling or the Church of St Louis of the French for another beautiful ceiling.
9. Villa Borghese. Head to this gigantic park for the green space and the zoo. Kids can pedal a bike or go-kart, or take a ride on the Bioparco Express train which circumnavigates the zoo. The Villa Borghese’s museum, the Galleria Borghese, is fantastic, but I wouldn’t bring my 5-year-old. However, I definitely recommend the museum for kids with an art attention span of 1 – 2 hours. Buy tickets in advance.
8. St. Peter’s and the Vatican. Start at St Peter’s by taking the elevator (most of the way) to the top of the cupola. Enjoy the incredible view, then visit the gigantic cathedral. If your kids are okay in a museum for 90 minutes, hit the Vatican museums. Go straight to the Raphael Rooms and then the Sistine Chapel. Walking at a leisurely kid pace, this route will take the full 90 minutes.
7. Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus. Did I mention Rome is built on seven hills? For anyone carrying a child in a carrier or traveling with a preschooler who refuses to sit in the stroller but can’t walk for more than a couple hours, consider seeing the main sights of Rome from the top of the hop-on-hop-off Big Bus. Catch it at Termini Station where it begins so that you get a good seat, and don’t hop off. Just ride the whole loop (which takes a couple of hours) and listen to the narration on the provided headphones.
6. A Storytelling Approach. Kids can learn a lot about ancient Rome if you book a great guide who basically just tells them stories. Rome has some incredible history, and we find that a storytelling approach keeps everyone engaged and interested.
5. The Pantheon. Cool inside, open every day, and a relatively quick stop makes the Pantheon a winner for kids of every age.
4. Let the kids explore scavenger-hunt style. Have them find fountains or look out for the letters SPQR (= Senatus Populusque Romanus), found all over the city, especially close to their little feet! If they’re a little older have them try to find family crests and symbols. These are carved around Rome – they’ll find lions, dragons, bees, stars, balls, trees, and eagles, to name a few.
3. Colosseum and Forum. This is a great place to paint the picture of ancient Rome for kids. We think the best way to see this very touristy but not-to-miss sight is with skip-the-line tickets and a private guided tour. We also recommend buying a children’s book about Rome before you leave so that the kids already know a little bit about it.
2. Fountains and Squares. Start with the spectacular Trevi fountain, but have the kids look out for others – Rome has fountains. Not only are the fountains themselves works of art, but kids love to throw in a coin or two (and foreign currency goes to the Red Cross while Euros go to the Catholic Church). Have them look out for nasoni, Rome’s drinking fountains which are scattered across the city. Kids can run around in car-free Italian piazzas and get a history lesson at the same time. In particular, don’t miss Piazza Navona, with its gorgeous fountains and unusual shape, and the huge Piazza del Popolo.
1. Gelato. Italian gelato is one of the highlights of any visit to Rome, and will be what your kids are still asking for when you get back home! Make your way through Rome taste-testing gelaterias as you go.
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