It always surprises me how many people assume that Rome is not an amazing city with kids. For me, it is the most family-friendly option of the large cities in Europe. Nancy has covered top things to do in Rome with kids. This is just the tip of the iceberg — there is an endless list of kid-friendly sights to explore.
I asked Context Travel, one of the best international walking tour companies for families (part of our new kid-friendly guides list), to highlight a few of the less usual suspects for families. Unique experiences like these are often the most authentic and memorable for all.
Rome with Kids: Sightseeing Tips
Rome can be a wonderful place for families. Full of history and culture, with a lively unique feel — when done well — can make for an unforgettable family vacation. What Italy has going for it, is that it’s generally a family-oriented culture and children are easily welcomed into most restaurants and shops.
You should keep in mind, however, that while magnificent, many of the sites were not designed as museums. Therefore, most don’t have all the comforts one has come to expect, such as elevators, cafes, and ample seating. For this reason, it’s important to approach sites with a good plan and plenty of tools to keep your kids entertained and engaged. Whether you are in a museum or an archaeological site, you may think about the following suggestions:
If you’ll be outdoors, try to go early in the morning or late in the day. It will be hard to get the most out of activities if you are overheated.
When in crowded museums, try to veer towards lesser-known pieces, as you’ll be able to see more and get a closer look without having to fight against crowds.
Keep the viewpoint of your child in mind. There may be barriers or angles that block their view. They can’t enjoy something they can’t see, so get on their level to see their perspective, or simply ask if they need a boost to adult height!
If you are going to be outside, make sure you bring sunscreen, water, and a snack. Sometimes it can be hard to find a café or simply a shaded spot.
While it’s easy to understand why the Colosseum can grab the attention of your children, there are many other, lesser-known sites that will also do the trick, and will be markedly less crowded even in the peak of the travel season. Interestingly enough, the three experiences outlined below all start south of the Colosseum, pushing out into areas of Rome that are more frequented by locals than by tourists.
Rome with Kids: Explore Off the Beaten Path Activities
A Day In Ostia Antica
You can easily get to the ancient port city of Rome, Ostia Antica, by catching one of the local trains leaving from the San Paolo station, right next to the Piramide metro stop. The ticket costs just 1 euro each way and trains leave every 10 minutes or so in the summer.
Just 30 minutes outside of the city, this attraction is a great option for families as it’s relatively uncrowded and makes a great alternative to Pompeii. You’ll be able to see amphitheaters, bath houses, apartment complexes, and even Europe’s oldest synagogue. The open air nature of the site gives plenty of room for children to wander and not feel boxed in. When you’re finished you might even consider hopping back on the train for a few more stops to take a dip in the Mediterranean, or stop for lunch or early dinner at one of the many restaurants found near the shore.
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Sculpture In a Monumental Setting
Museum visits are a great option for staying out of the sun. One of our favorites is the Centrale Montemartini, located in the Ostiense neighborhood, and just a short walk from the Piramide metro. This interesting collection of ancient sculptures and mosaics — all overspill from the Capitoline Museums — is housed in what was the first public power plant in Rome. The setting makes for a striking backdrop, as early 20th century machinery is displayed next to fragments of ancient sculpture. Centrale Montemartini’s collection is also varied enough to give a good sense of the wealth of the Roman Empire, but small enough so as not to overwhelm your children.
Italian Cooking Lesson
Hands-on activities can be some of the most rewarding and fun ways to learn about a new culture. While museums and monuments are integral to learning about Rome’s history, you shouldn’t overlook another highly important aspect of Italian culture — food! Start with a quick visit to a local market in Testaccio to see how Romans shop for their groceries, and then spend the rest of the afternoon making a delicious meal with the help of a local expert. Kids will be attracted to familiar dishes like pizza, but will also have the chance to learn how seriously Italian take their cuisine, as well as their fresh local ingredients.
At Context, we’ve developed our Family Program to meet the needs of families traveling with children under the age of 12 by pairing them with a scholar trained in visual thinking strategies that will bring the family together for a fun, learning experience.
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Introduction to Rome with kids (book by the Tourist Office)
Customizable favorite kid-friendly activities in Rome (written for NileGuide)
Our guide to kid-friendly walking tours of Rome
Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels Rome
Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels Italy
Italy travel tips – creating a family-friendly itinerary