- See Also: The best hotels for families in Rome
Top 10 Things To Do With Kids in Rome
Rome is a big, bustling city with a huge amount to see. It can tire out the most high-energy kid and elicit whining from the most angelic toddler (wait, is that an oxymoron?). However a strategic kid-oriented itinerary will make a Rome lover out of any young one.
Below I’ve listed the top 10 things to see with your kids in Rome, all of which are top attractions for adults too. If you’re visiting Italy during July or August, mind the heat: put outdoor sights in the morning or late afternoon, take hats, and fill your water bottles often – all of Rome’s fountains flow with drinking water.
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.
9. Villa Borghese. Head to this gigantic park for the green space and the zoo. In addition, 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 one of the best in Rome, but I wouldn’t take 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 and enjoy the incredible view, then visit the gigantic cathedral. If your kids are okay in a museum for 90 minutes, hit the Vatican museums ideally around lunchtime during the week for fewest crowds, and go straight to the Raphael Rooms and then the Sistine Chapel. (And definitely avoid the Vatican on free sundays.) 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 7 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, I highly recommend seeing the main sights of Rome from the top of the Hop On Hop Off red bus #110. 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. Piazzas aka squares. 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.
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, and give them a theme. If they’re little, have them find fountains or look out for the letters SPQR (= Senatus Populusque Romanus, which means The Senate and the People of Rome in Latin) found all over the city. If they’re a little older have them try to find family crests and symbols which 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. If they have an iPod, download Rick Steves free 1-hour audio tour, tell the story for them from your guidebook, or even better, buy a children’s book about Rome before you leave so that the kids already know a little bit about it. Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in a long line.
2. Fountains. 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). At Trevi, have them try to find the (pretty spectacular) drinking fountain on the right side of The Ace of Cups.
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.
Depending on how fast your kids move and whether you’re traveling with nappers, you can probably do the sights above in about 4 days in Rome. But I did put them in order of priority (in my opinion) so if you have less time just start at #1 and work your way up the list. If you’re planning to be there for more than 4 days I highly recommend buying a copy of the book Rome with Kids, by JM Pasquesi.
If your travels include more than Rome, then these are some of the most popular destinations in Italy to consider.
About the Author: Madeline Jhawar lived in Italy for 5 years and now designs custom itineraries for independent travelers to Italy. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children, ages 3 and 5. More information at www.ItalyBeyondtheObvious.com.
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