You are planning on visiting Rome with your kids? That’s a fantastic idea! The Italian Capital is such a bustling city with a huge amount of things to do and see, and you can be sure that your children will love it just as much as you will.
The historic centre of Rome seen through the eyes of a child is a magical world that offers thousands of attractions and activities: the monuments, the fountains and the squares that exude an atmosphere from the past; family-friendly museums, specifically designed for kids; the vast parks, perfect playgrounds in the heart of the city where they can run and play safe with other children; theatres and cinemas for younger audience… And let’s not forget the awesome food, such as pizza and gelato!
Rome does have a reputation for being chaotic, but if you pace yourself and add in your itinerary some fun kid-oriented activities, it can be the greatest urban destination for every age. So, to help out, here are some suggestions (brought you by ItalyXP) to better plan your trip to Rome with kids.
Visiting the Rome with your children can be a very pleasant eXPerience. Our suggestion is to counterbalance the fatigue for the long walks through the historic centre, by stimulating their imagination and curiosity and choosing from the many amazing attractions offered by the city.
For instance, among the Rome’s ancient treasures that might interest your kids is the famous "Keyhole" of the Knights of Malta Square, atop the Aventine Hill, from which you can have a perfect view of the Dome of the Saint Peter's Basilica! Another exciting thing to do, always in the Aventine Hill, is to let them put their hand in the world-famous Mouth of Truth, located inside the portico of the ancient Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin. Also, they can toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain expressing a desire.
With its ancient monuments and ancient ruins, Rome fascinates children much more than any fantasy book… Young kids will be impressed by the size of the Colosseum and its gory history. Exploring the ancient catacombs of Rome or wandering among the ruins of the Roman Forum, as well as the Trajan's Market can be a real adventure! They can be fascinated by the mysteries hidden within the walls of Castel Sant'Angelo, the ancient mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, transformed into a fortress in the middle Ages: through a guided tour you’ll be able to see its ancient catapults, cannon balls, collections of weapons and prisons!
If you head to the Vatican City don’t forget to let them play “hide and seek” in the columns of the Saint Peter's Square and then climb together to the dome of the Basilica. Also, Piazza Navona has a unique charm and the legend of its fountains must be told to the children while admiring them…
The Eternal City is renowned for its abundance of museums, but not all of them are suitable for children. The Vatican Museums, for instance, is one of the greatest museums in the world, but your kids might get terribly bored. So which are the most kid-friendly museums in Rome?
The Explora Children's Museum, designed like a miniature town suitable for children, is organized into different sections where they can learn about society, environment and science. The museum also offers workshops for families with children, with teaching materials and exhibitions to learn more about the world.
The Museum of Zoology, particularly suitable for animal lovers, offers weekends of pathways called "Science Fun", which also includes outdoor excursions into nature. Children (from 5 to 11 years) can explore and play, while at the museum, in the role of expert paleontologists, they can learn about science.
The Time Elevator Rome is a 5D Cinema with 3D vision, multi-sensory effects, motion simulator and Dolby surround sound in four languages (Italian, English, French, German)! Here, your kids can experience with all their senses short movies about the origins of Rome: the legend of Romulus and Remus, the assassination of Julius Caesar, the fire of Nero, and much more! Also, the Technotown, located in Villa Torlonia, offers a journey through time to discover new technologies, with its special effects and its interactive floor.
The Maxxi National Museum of XXI Century Arts is a national institution dedicated to contemporary art. Its peculiarity is to be designed as a large dynamic space, where families can meet and learn together. There are permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, and workshops for children on different subject.
Rome is rich in parks and villas, and even in the heart of the historic centre you'll be able to find a few places to let your children run around and play.
The Botanical Garden, located in the Trastevere district, allows kids to learn about more than 3500 species of rare plants from all over the world. With its ponds and trails, this garden will satisfy the adventurous spirit of your little ones. There's even the Soap Tree, with the leaves that make the foam when rubbed between the fingers, and the Garden of Fragrances, a special garden where children, with eyes closed, can play to recognize plants with smell and touch.
Among the other green oases of Rome is the Villa Doria Pamphili, with its 180 acres of meadows, forests of pine trees, flowers, fountains, lakes and hills: a paradise for outdoor sports, long walks and kite flying. Worth visiting are also the Villa Ada Park and the Villa Torlonia, as well as the Janiculum hill, a green hill with a large terrace from which you can have a splendid view of Rome: this place is also famous for its noisy cannon that every day at noon as an alarm for all the bells of the Churches of Rome, so that they would all chime at the same time in unison.
But the most beloved park by both tourists and locals is certainly the Villa Borghese, a monumental garden in the heart of the city, with ponds, fountains and historic buildings such as the Galleria Borghese, which houses several masterpieces by Bernini, Canova and Caravaggio. In this park of wonders is also a children’s cinema (Cinema dei Piccoli), a pony ride space and, and for lunch there are lots of dining options. You can even rent a family-bike (with four seats) and ride through the park!
Furthermore, within the Villa Borghese is also the Zoo of Rome, which houses 1000 animals born and raised in captivity, according to the principle of the conservation of endangered species; the zoo organizes various activities to raise awareness of extinctions and workshops on biodiversity.
Italian gelato is one of the highlights of any visit to Rome, and will be what your kids are still asking for when you get back home! Make your way through Rome taste-testing gelaterias as you go. Depending on how fast your kids move and whether you're traveling with nappers, you can probably do the sights above in about 4 days in Rome. But I did put them in order of priority (in my opinion) so if you have less time just start at #1 and work your way up the list.
In case you need to use a stroller, you should be aware of the fact that the access to the subway has often no elevators and that the public transport in Rome tend to be overcrowded.
If this is your first time in Rome, you would probably enjoy a tour on the tourist bus 110 that starts in Piazza dei Cinquecento (Termini Station) and runs from 08:40 a.m. to 07:40 p.m - tickets are valid for the whole day. A cheaper way (which most children enjoy) is the trambus, number 19 (Piazza Risorgimento - Piazza Porta Maggiore) or number 3 from Valle Giulia (near the Zoo) to the Trastevere Station.
Near Piazza Venezia, in Largo SS. Apostoli 59/65, you can take a nice break at the book store Mel Ragazzi, a heaven for children, as you can find here all kinds of literature for kids( including a travel guide for Rome in English that will be also useful for the the adults). And don’t forget to relax with your children eating ice creams and pizza: they are so good in Rome that you will your children win over!