So you want to go to Rome with kids? You’re NOT crazy. What could be a better way to bring history to life than ancient ruins from an empire that spanned the globe? This doesn’t even factor in the excellent food, art, culture and the overall energy of this vibrant city.
Rome does have an intimidating reputation, but if you pace yourself and add in some fun kid-friendly activities, it can be great urban destination for every age. The question is: How do you reduce Rome to five activities? It’s difficult, but if I must, here are my picks.
Let’s face it: When traveling with kids, you are just not going to be able to see everything. That’s why a hop-on hop-off bus tour is a great place to begin. It enables families to get oriented in the city and to see what piques the group’s interest to explore later. Additionally, if you don’t get to go back to a certain site, at least you’ve seen it.
You can also use the bus instead of cabs to move around the city. Grab some fresh food and hop aboard to enjoy a moving picnic. Young children often fall asleep, and parents get some time to decompress while being able to pay more attention to the audio history of the sites.
Tour the famous Colosseum and then head to school — Gladiator School! This combination of activities is sure to solidify and enhance your understanding of this early Roman sport. The Colosseum ticket office offers both audio tours and guided tours. As you are leaving, look for dressed-up gladiators — they make for fun family photos.
The Gladiator School, located right off the Appian Way, was hands-down our favorite activity in Rome. Not too violent at all, this fun, 2-hour class includes an interactive demonstration of gladiator gear and training (runs through a mock gauntlet and a one-on-one battle with foam swords).
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What makes a successful family visit to the Vatican? Starting before you arrive. To avoid long lines, either buy tickets ahead of time or book a tour. Given that tours of the Vatican, which include the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Cathedral, will take three to four hours, plan accordingly with kids. Also, having an idea of what you want to see prior to arrival enables you to streamline your visit into a manageable amount of time.
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If you have additional time, I recommend playing with other Roman families in the Borghese Gardens. This huge park has everything a child could want, including large grassy spaces, a zoo, playgrounds, bikes, pony rides and a pond with paddleboats. After intensive sightseeing, it is a great place to let kids be kids.
What makes the Pantheon so terrific is that it is one of the few ancient sites that is still perfectly intact. It’s a very easy stop for kids. There are no lines; just walk in and out at your own pace. Plus, it’s surrounded by gelato shops and close to Piazza Navona.
It’s fun to imagine chariots racing around the beautiful pedestrian Piazza Navona. Decorated with spectacular fountains, this is a wonderful place to hang out. The street performers and artists are fun to watch, and don’t miss Tre Scalini’s Tartufo (“Death by Chocolate”) ice cream dessert.
The food, the bartering and the local scene at the Campo de’ Fiori open-air market make it a terrific stop. The Italian fruit sold there is perfectly ripened; my kids still talk about the figs and raspberries. Even better, we were able to buy a few items and have a lovely picnic instead of going to a restaurant for lunch.
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Editor’s Note: Photo by Nancy Solomon.
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