After I published my recent article on Italy iPhone apps, Ciao Bambino’s Amie contacted me and said, “Love it! Now, can you do one just for Rome apps?” I assumed, given the number of apps in the App Store, that there would be plenty to choose from to make a Rome-only list – and I was right.
For this post, I tried to find apps that were not only good for any trip to Rome but might be particularly useful if you were traveling to Rome with kids – since that’s the Ciao Bambino audience. Unfortunately, although there are lots of family travel apps out there designed to introduce traveling youngsters to the wonders of (say) Arizona or New York, there aren’t yet apps (at least that I could find) to boil down Italian or Roman history into language that’s more suitable for kids. Which is a lesson to all you app developers out there – get on that, wouldja?
(And if there are great family travel apps out there for Rome and Italy that I missed, someone please let me know!)
Rome iPhone Apps
So, here are a few of the Rome iPhone apps I found that I think are handy and/or just plain fun.
Italian Language Help
CoolGorilla’s Talking Italian Phrasebook – Chances are good you’re going to need some Italian language help while you’re in Rome, so a talking phrasebook is a handy app to have along. This one has 500+ words and phrases with text and audio, to help you ask for directions and decipher Italian menus, among other things. It’s $0.99, and works completely offline.
MemoryLifter English/Italian Basic Vocabulary – If you’re interested in getting some language skills under your belt before you go to Rome, then this flash-card based learning system is a great way to go. It’s easy enough for kids to use on their own, and since it has both text and audio samples for each word, you get the pronunciation right every time. It’s $14.99, and works completely offline.
Latin-English Translation – For (I’ll admit) kind of ridiculous fun, a Latin-English Dictionary will help you and your kids figure out what all that writing on those ancient Roman buildings really says. One app has 95,000+ entries and costs $14.99, and another says it has “up to 1 million entries” and costs $7.99. Either way, they’re not $0.99 apps we’re talking about, but if they give you and your kids the pleasure of decoding the front of the Pantheon (which, incidentally, declares, “M. Agrippa Built This”), then that might be worth it.
Lonely Planet Guide to Rome – LP guides are great, but they’re heavy. And when you’re toting stuff to keep kids entertained on a trip, the last thing you want is another heavy thing in your bag. Although LP hasn’t released its entire Lonely Planet Italy onto the iPhone yet, it has released the Rome city guide. It’s $15.99 and includes all the great LP stuff you’d expect, along with a GPS capability if you want to use it for navigation (it also works offline).
Rick Steves’ ”Ancient Rome” and ”St. Peter’s Basilica” Audio Guides – Personally, I think Rich Steves has a gift for making complex things like Italian art and history easier to understand, which makes these audio guides great for a wide age range. The problem with audio guides is that they’re kind of a solo thing, unless everyone in the famiily has an iPhone or an iPod Touch, but the Rick Steves guides let you read details about each stop on the tour as well as listen to Rick tell you about different parts if you want. So you can definitely use this as a family group, one person reading aloud to the rest of the gang. As I write this, these apps are on sale for $2.99 each, and they work completely offline.
ItalyGuides: Vatican Museums Tour – For a museum as big and as detail-rific as the Vatican Museums, I’d suggest that you book your family a spot on a guided tour (one that understands how to make it interesting to kids would be a big plus), but if you’d rather stick to an iPhone app then this is what you’re looking for. This one is meant to be all-audio, and says it’s “best experienced with headphones,” which does make it a little problematic when traveling as a family. There’s a free “Lite” version you can test, and as I write this the full version is on sale for $4.99. It works completely offline.
ArounderTouch – This app has way more than just Rome, so it’ll apply to other Italian cities you might be visiting (and even other cities outside Italy for later trips). It’s a collection of 360-degree images of major attractions (plus sightseeing information about them), along with some listings for hotels, restaurants, etc. in each city. The image navigation takes some getting used to, but it’s a fun way to get kids interested in what they’re going to see – or what they’ve already seen. This app is free, and works completely offline.
Rome Metro Map – The Metro in Rome is pretty easy to figure out, since there are only a couple lines, but if you want a Metro map at your fingertips there are a few apps for that. Metro Rome has a Metro-only map, and includes nearby points of interest, hotels, restaurants, etc. It’s $0.99, works completely offline, and has a GPS locator available in the newest version if you want that. Rome Metro 10 has the Metro map overlaid on a map of Rome so you see where you are in the city, and provides more basic information about what’s nearby. It’s $4.99, works completely offline, and features optional “Live Info” and GPS locator tools if you want to use them.
Offline Rome Map – Having a good city map is a must in Rome, and when it comes to iPhone maps I’m a fan of the ones that don’t require an internet or cellular data connection in order to work. There are several maps in the App Store that have the word “offline” in them, which is what you’re looking for – most of them also have an option to use GPS location if you want as well, but read the descriptions to be sure. This map by FidesReef, for instance, has both offline and GPS capabilities, and it’s $2.99.
Briscola Pro – You and your family can learn this famous Italian card game before your trip, and then for fun you can hunt for a deck of real Briscola cards while you’re there! There’s a free version you can try out first, and the full version is $2.99.
Roman Mythology – Much of what you’ll be seeing in Rome are the ruins of Ancient Rome, which are full of buildings dedicated to gods and goddesses unfamiliar to most people. There are a few apps that provide some background on Roman mythology – and although they’re not necessarily easy enough for kids to understand, you can probably rephrase what you read so your whole family can learn something. There’s a Roman Mythology app ($0.99, includes gods, goddesses, heroes, places, etc.), an app just for Roman Gods ($0.99, includes all of the Roman gods and goddesses), and a trivia app for both Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses (free, 5 trivia quizzes with 10 questions each).
All Italy Jigsaw – This app might just be ideal for the plane ride over to Rome or any other downtime. It features puzzles from more than just Rome, but that could be handy if you’re visiting more parts of Italy. There are more than 50 puzzles in the app, and it’s $0.99.
About the Author: Jessica Spiegel is the Italophile behind WhyGo Italy, an Italy travel guide designed to help you with everything you’ll need for your trip to The Boot – from your airfare to Italy to figuring out what to do while you’re there and everything in between.
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Our guide to kid-friendly walking tours of Rome
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Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels Italy
Italy travel tips – creating a family-friendly itinerary