Ancient, sprawling Rome doesn’t initially come across as a top toddler-friendly destination. In truth, absorbing so much history can be a lot even for grown adults. Take some of that pressure off by seeking out pedestrian squares, water fountains and gardens, not to mention copious amounts of gelato, and cherish seeing the Italian capital from your toddler’s eyes.
As kids get older, they have strong opinions about what they want to do and where they want to go during limited school holiday periods, but with toddlers, there is much more freedom of time, fewer opinions and less eye-rolling, too. Chasing pigeons in St. Peter’s Square is exciting; throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain is exciting; eating ice cream on the Spanish Steps is exciting. Get our drift?
So take your toddler to the Eternal City, perhaps pairing it with a stay in Tuscany at an agriturismo or a few days on the Amalfi Coast. After all, it’s about la dolce vita (the good life), not checking off every sight. And since Italians dote on small children, there’s hardly a place where you won’t feel comfortable and welcome.
Yes, you’ve come to Rome to see the sights, but remind yourself that your child is at an age where they are curious about anything and anyone. At a park or playground, marvel in your toddler’s ability to play and get along with other kids who may not even speak the same language. Delight in the opportunity to interact with other parents and acknowledge your shared, universal parenting experience.
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Take advantage of Rome’s wonderful piazzas, like Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo. Kids can run to their heart’s content and gaze at the fountains while parents people-watch. Plus, you are never far from a gelato shop! Bubble vendors and light shows at the fountain near Piazza Barberini provide further distraction and entertainment. Toddlers will also be enchanted by the city’s thousands of nasoni (literally, “large noses), low-to-the-ground public drinking fountains that provide a steady stream of cold water.
The Borghese Gardens, dating back to 1606, are perfect for little ones. Stroll this public park, visit the zoo, pop into an art gallery — it’s easy to while away an entire day here. Explora, Rome’s interactive children’s museum, is also nearby.
To tour the Colosseum, we strongly recommend hiring a kid-friendly private guide who can bring some of the history to life and interact with your child, and who can also be flexible. Or consider visiting Parco di Colle Oppio just in front of the Colosseum and enjoy the views of the exterior while your little one runs free.
If you plan to visit the Vatican with a little one in tow, book an express early morning tour, as the museums are typically crowded and not well suited for young kids. The tour is short and sweet and takes guests through some of the highlights — including, of course, the Sistine Chapel — before finishing outside in St. Peter’s Square.
And if your toddler is on the older side and interested in food, consider arranging a short pizza making class, always a hit with kids. Our Family Travel Advisor team can book this as part of our full vacation planning service.
Tried-and-true advice for families with young children is to stay in central locations that are walkable to sights to minimize time getting where you want to go. The Pantheon/Piazza Navona area is a top CB! pick. It’s convenient for sightseeing and offers charming back streets and an atmospheric neighborhood feel. The Spanish Steps area is also very popular, but nighttime noise can be a problem; choose accommodations that have double-paned windows or face a quiet street. While many of the city’s hotels have limited room for toddlers to run, some of our favorite luxury properties include amenities like a garden or a swimming pool (and they’re in fantastic locations to boot).
Without a school calendar as a prohibitive, it’s advisable to visit during off-peak seasons like spring and fall with your toddler. Crowds thin, lines are shorter, hotel rates are a little lower and it’s much less hot than the peak summer months. If you do visit in summer, be mindful that the sun can be quite strong, so pack ample sunscreen.
Some people may suggest carriers over strollers in Rome as the streets are cobblestoned, but ultimately, it comes down to what works for your child. If he or she prefers a stroller, consider a lightweight version, though it can be a little tricky on rough streets. Some families do schlep around a bigger-wheeled stroller to get over those stones; it’s a lifesaver for when your child is napping or at a restaurant without a high chair, but it’s also a commitment to lift and carry around.
The Metro doesn’t run everywhere, since there is quite a lot of ancient underground infrastructure that can’t be disturbed, so stick with taxis and ride sharing (buses aren’t as stroller-friendly, so skip those). If you’ll need a car seat, we always suggest bringing your own. The best way to get around Rome, though, remains walking, especially in the historic core.
Toddlers are warmly welcomed in virtually every Roman restaurant. While charming family-run venues are plentiful throughout the city, most don’t open until 12pm for lunch. If your toddler’s on a bit of a different timetable and if finding a high chair is a priority, consider hotel restaurants, which have much more flexible hours. They also make it easy to communicate any food sensitivities or allergies. Staples like pasta and pizza will keep most toddlers happy, but the kitchen staff is usually willing to make something to satisfy a picky eater.
TIP: Make a stop by the restroom as long as you’re in a restaurant or coffee shop, since public lavatories are few and far between.
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