Rome is one of mine and Doug’s favourite places; we spent our honeymoon here in 2008 and we’ve always wanted to bring Issy. Ever since we said we were coming to Italy Issy has been excited about coming and it hasn’t disappointed.
Let’s face it Rome has it all; good food, nice people and history round every corner but how do you make the most of Rome has to offer with kids?
Our stay was two weeks but we could have done everything we wanted in three to five days.
If you are staying in the city then it’s a very walkable city. In fact we love just mooching round getting lost and finding little cafes and pizza places that only the locals know about. Amazingly, we were actually able to find our way back to one the other day!
Plenty of people use strollers but if you are intending to use public transport these are not the most practical option.
If like us, you are staying out of town then we’ve found the public transport to be excellent. We’ve tried and tested the buses, mainline trains and metro and have found it easy to navigate, clean and reliable. We simply bought a 7-day ticket (24 euros at the time of writing),validated it and hopped on board. Children under-10 currently travel free.
What to do?
Free Walking Tour
These tip-based tours are an excellent way to get the insider scoop on a place and not break the bank. It’s a great way to see the city if you are short of time or got kids. We find Issy gains far more from doing these tours than going to a museum or visiting a site with exactly the same information.
We did the Rome Express Tour via Freetour.com and it was excellent. At three and half hours, it’s longer than most tours and takes in the main sites but as Jamie said the problem with Rome is what do you cut out!
This enabled us to see the St Peter’s and the Vatican, Castel Sant’Angelo, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navone, Piazza Venezia, Capitoline Hill, Roman Forum, Trajan Market and the Colosseum..
Colloseum, the Forum and Palantine Hill
Few would argue with the Colosseum’s inclusion as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Watching Issy’s face as we walked out of the Metro station was incredible.
The three attractions come in one combined tickets. We paid for skip-the-line tickets (20 euros for Doug and I). You can still take this option with kids. Once you have entered the Forum or Colosseum there is a 2 euro charge for kids skipping the line.
I would definitely recommend doing this. Bare in mind that we were here in low season, the queue seemed endless and there is a separate queue for security which everyone has to go through saving yourself lots of time.
Having been inside without audioguides I would recommend getting one of these or taking a guided tour. There is very little information once you get inside.
If you’ve had enough after the Colosseum, you can go back the next day to visit the Forum/Palantine Hill. If you want to avoid the security queue for the Forum/Palantine Hill enter through the Via Cavour not the entrance by the Colosseum. The queues are much shorter here. We waited in the security queue for 40 minutes.
Another tip is make sure you take plenty of snacks and drinks as we didn’t see any food places inside. Water is freely available throughout Rome so make sure you have a refillable bottle and you should be fine.
Vatican City and St Peter's Basillica
You can’t come to Rome and not visit the Vatican City and St Peter’s Basillica. It’s definitely worth the fee to get in.
We didn’t find the Vatican museum the most friendly to navigate and it’s definitely not a place I would take young kids as in order to see the Sistine Chapel you are herded through crowded corridors and it can become very claustrophobic especially with the rise of tour groups.
Again, there is limited information and therefore an audioguide is necessary to get the best out of your visit. That said, it’s worth it because the art work, tapestries and frescos are amazing. Issy stood in the Sistine Chapel agog and promptly delcared it was even more spectacular than she thought it would be!
St Peter’s Basilica is nothing short of incredible. It’s sheer beauty, size and opulence is breathtaking. It’s power to wow is not lessened by seeing it for a second time. It’s free to enter the basilica but there is a charge for climbing the dome. I’m not sure Issy would agree with me but the view is worth it.
Rather than climb the full 551 steps, we took the lift to the first platform and then climbed the remaining 320 steps. This is not for the faint-hearted and Issy who thought nothing of climbing the uneven steps of the Leaning Tower of Pisa really didn’t like the ascent and descent. She clung to columns at the top and didn’t look down.
A museum designed purely with kids aged from 3-12 in mind. It’s interactive, multi-leveled and allows kids to run around exploring various activities to help them learn about the world around them.
For the younger kids, there is an arts and crafts area, a garden and an area to learn about where animals live. For the older kids there is a shop, an economics area and various activites about measurement.
There is no doubt that not speaking Italian caused an issue with some of the interactive activities such as shopping but there was plenty to keep Issy occupied and we had a lot of fun.
The museum runs four sessions of one hour and fourty-five minutes across the day which includes a free workshop. There is a coffee shop, garden and bookshop to look around if you arrive early as we did.
Rome is built on seven hills and they provide great view points across the city. Capitoline Hill looks over the Forum and from Aventine Hill you can look through the keyhole and see St Peter’s Basilica. Another great view point is the gardens of Villa Borghese overlooking Piazza del Popolo.
On the way to Aventine Hill we stopped at Santa Maria in Cosmedin church and stuck our hand in the Bocca del Verita (Mouth of Truth). Legend says that it was used by suspicious spouses to ascertain whether their husband or wife was cheating. If, when asked, the spouse lied the mouth would close.
We went to the six nations clash between Italy and Wales and had a great time. The stadium is well served by public transport and is also home to Lazio and AS Roma.
Eating out with kids is easy in Rome and providing you don’t go for the sit down option it can be cheap too.
Standing at the counter or taking your food away saves the cover charge and there are lots of nice places to sit and eat lunch. Just watch out for the over-sized seagulls and pigeons.
It’s amazing how much stepping off the main tourist drag can save you. Around the Vatican it can be the difference between 15 euros and 50 euros for lunch.
Keeping Issy engaged
I prepared a Rome Workbook that she had to complete as went round. It wasn’t a complete success but she managed to catch the tour guide out by asking him to answer some of the questions!