Tips for Visiting Rome with Kids

July 25, 2012 by

Europe, Family & Kids

Rome Tours with Kids and Children

Elephants at Bioparco, Rome

Perhaps you’ve heard that Rome isn’t the most hospitable place for children and families, but don’t be fooled! Families with children of all ages will find no shortage of interesting family-friendly activities around nearly every corner in Rome.

The trick to visiting Rome with kids and keeping your sanity along the way is all in the pre-planning. If your children are old enough, get them involved by sharing ideas for places to visit and setting up a rough itinerary for your visit before you go.

If your children are younger, think about the various ‘equipment’ you’ll need to make for a comfortable stay, whether that means a portable crib, an umbrella stroller, or special layering clothes to adapt to the hot and humid summer temperatures or rainy winters. Keep in mind that Rome means a lot of walking, so plan your itinerary accordingly with various stops along the way, and don’t forget comfortable shoes for the whole family.

Of course, you won’t want to miss some of the ‘biggies’ like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, but the following suggestions are a few crowd-pleasing favorites for children of various ages that you may not have heard about before. Categorized by age groups, you may find you can even mix and match some activities regardless of age, depending on your children’s interests, maturity and energy level.

Rome for young children (ages 3-7)

At the top of the list of things for kids to do in Rome is Explora, the Rome Children’s Museum (Via Flaminia 82). As the name indicates, this is a hands-on exploratory experience for kids, and is divided into four sections – Me, Society, Environment, and Communication – to help them discover their world. Kids can stage a mock TV broadcast or wander around a transparent, environmentally-friendly house, and the typical ‘do not touch’ signs are nowhere to be found.

Rome Colosseum

“Yay for Rome!”

Villa Borghese is a definite must, with something for everyone. Visit the Cinema dei Piccoli, (Viale della Pineta 15) classified in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest cinema. Take a peek at the San Carlino Puppet Theater on Viale dei Bambini (Children’s Way) on the Pincio Hill. There’s a trenino or ‘little train’ that chugs around the park and takes off from Viale Goethe.

Also part of Villa Borghese and a fun stop for families is the Rome Zoo, called the Bioparco, with lots of special areas and exhibits just for children throughout the park.

For the cat lovers in your family, the famous Largo Argentina Cat Shelter is well worth a visit. Here, you’ll find friendly volunteers who run this no-kill shelter for abandoned cats on donations alone, in the marvelous setting of the Largo Argentina ruins. Tell your children the story of how Julius Caesar was assassinated here, and take them downstairs to visit the cat shop and see some of the shelter’s residents. Volunteers give English-language guided tours for free.

Rome with older kids (ages 8-12)

A trip back in time might be just the ticket for this age group, and the Time Elevator in Rome (Via dei SS. Apostoli 20) provides exactly this: a sort of interactive movie attraction with special effects that make it seem more like a ride, taking you back through 3,000 years of Roman history.

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is great for kids!

If you have time for an out-of-town excursion, the Monster Park at Bomarzo is about an hour’s drive north of Rome and is always a favorite with kids. This Renaissance garden has larger-than-life stone sculptures of various animals and ‘monsters’ that your children can climb on and, in the case of the leaning house, in!

No visit to Rome would be complete without two ‘traditions’ that you can teach your children about: the Bocca della Verità  (Mouth of Truth) and the Trevi Fountain. Watch the film Roman Holiday before you leave for your trip, then re-enact the scene at the Mouth of Truth, having each of your children put their hand in the ‘mouth,’ which is most likely an ancient Roman drain cover. If they still have their hands after this experiment, you can be sure they’re telling you the truth – or can you? Then take them over to the Trevi Fountain to throw in some coins, ensuring your return to Rome someday.

Read more about why you should throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Rome with teenagers (ages 13-18)

A perennial favorite with Roman teenagers is LunEUR (Via delle Tre Fontane). This is Rome’s only amusement park (known in Italian as a ‘luna park’) and is one of the largest and oldest in Italy. Built in 1953 as part of an agricultural show, it took on its current form in 1962 and now houses over 130 attractions on more than 750,000 square feet.

What teenager doesn’t love shopping? Stroll Rome’s own ‘Rodeo Drive’, Via dei Condotti, then climb the Spanish Steps where Roman teenagers often hang out, mixing with the endless crowds of tourists. For shopping on a more realistic budget, steer your teenagers towards Via del Corso.

Roman aqueducts

See the Roman aqueducts from a bike!

For teenagers who aren’t easily scared, venture down into the bone crypt and catacombs at the Santa Maria della Concezione Church (Via Veneto 27). Not for the faint of heart, this church has a permanent basement exhibit of bone sculptures made from – you guessed it – bones. Thousands of them, in fact, collected between 1528 and 1870 from nearly 4,000 Cappuchin friars who were buried here. Creepy enough to surprise even the most ‘know-it-all’ teenagers.

Walking and bike tours are also a great way to burn off some energy and offer your kids a unique way of seeing the sights.

Family dining in Rome

Rome gelato

What kid wouldn’t go crazy for gelato? Photo credit: Alex Lecea via Flickr

Most restaurants in Rome are fine for families, but a few places are worth a special mention. Taverna de’ Mercanti (Piazza de’ Mercanti) is probably the most authentic place to dine in old Rome. Housed in what was probably a stable from the 1400s, you pass through the medieval square and torch-lit entrance to climb a dark staircase that leads to a spacious, wood-filled, bustling dining room filled with old-fashioned atmosphere. Children of all ages can find something on the menu, from pizza to pasta and meat dishes, with a poster-sized paper menu you can take home.

Being a kid and eating ice cream go hand in hand, but only the lucky ones get to experience Roman gelato. Take them to Della Palma, just past the Pantheon at Via della Maddalena 20/23, where you’ll find 125 different flavors in the winter and 135 in the summer. Even your pickiest eater will find something to love.

Another option would be to take the family on a food tour of Rome or bring home some Italian cooking skills with a cooking class.

Kid-sized shopping in Rome

Bartolucci

Bartolucci wood shop in Rome. Photo credit: ctbroek via Flickr

Can’t go home without a stop at the toy store? Don’t miss Città del Sole (Via della Scrofa 65), an Italian chain that features a range of educational toys disguised as just plain fun.

You’ll probably see lots of people carrying shopping bags with a wooden Pinocchio on them—that’s because they’ve discovered Bartolucci (Via dei Pastini 98). Crammed full of hand-crafted pine wood toys and clocks with pendulums swinging every which way, the pure sensory overload of this shop makes it hard to keep your wallet in check—you’ll probably end up walking out with a bag of goodies just like everyone else.

Soccer fans in the family? Indulge their adoration of ‘La Roma’ at the AS Roma Store in Piazza Colonna. For fans of local rival team Lazio, the official team shop, Original Fans, is near the Termini train station on Via Farini 34.

-Shelley Ruelle


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18 Responses to “Tips for Visiting Rome with Kids”

  1. alejandra19 Says:

    Any tips on children 0-3? What stroller to use?

  2. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Alejandra. I did a trip with my 7-month old son to Rome and Italy last year. We had a blast. Here are some photos form our trip to Rome if you want to have a look. The main things I learned were: 1 – Try to stay in one place for as long as possible, so that you don’t have to keep moving hotels or locations. 2 – Consider renting a villa in Rome or somewhere nearby. We rented a villa in Tuscany and stayed there for a week. It was wonderful. We could put the kids to sleep, and then hang out making dinner and relaxing. 3 – In Rome try to stay central, so that you don’t have to walk / subway / bus into the city center. Aside from that, don’t worry too much and just have a great time. Remember that you’re not really there to sightsee, and don’t try to cover too much. Go slow, enjoy the view, and have fun. That’s my advice. In terms of a stroller, let me look into that….

  3. Tanya Says:

    For our international travel, we have discovered the smaller the stroller the better. YOu will need to fold it up when going down stairs, down to subways, into cabs — and you don’t want it to be heavy or unweildy. the smallest umbrella strollers are perfectly adequate for anything, even sleeping for the kids. You will often need to carry the folded up stroller, your child and your bag all at the same time — so the smaller the better. Also, some umbrella strollers even fit in the overhead compartment so you don’t even need to gate check at the plane.

  4. agriya Says:

    Food is the one of the major problem in travel for all, every country have different style of food , I hope in Rome food is suitable for all , most of people are like pizza, cakes and ice creams , mostly kids like ice creams very much so for the people they don’t have the food problem in their journey in Rome.

  5. diane Says:

    We are staying near St. Mary Major and we like to pack lunches (sandwiches, fruit, etc.) when we travel on day trips. Are there any grocery stores in the area to purchase bread, meats, cheeses, etc? Thanks.

  6. Betty Says:

    We’re going to Rome and Tuscany over the Christmas holidays. Can you recommend a place to stay for a couple plus toddler?

  7. Paul Says:

    Hi My kid loved Rome. Due to his age (approx 3) we had a back seat carrier (made by Vango – highly recommended) for the day trips, used local services (easy) and allowed extra time for every activity. He really enjoyed being let loose in the Coliseum, the forum and the ‘mouth of truth’. Most staff (especially at the Vatican) were extremely helpful and the city easy to access. In a nut shell – take the plunge and enjoy yourselves! Now, for the next challenge – taking two lads, one with a nut allergy.

  8. oriana Says:

    If you happen to be not only in Rome but also in Florence there’s a great exhibit that will thrill kids from 6-8 yrs onwards, check this link out: http://www.galileofirenze.it/ oriana

  9. sean Says:

    We are a family of 5. We are going to Rome for December vacation and would appreciate any advice with regards family accommodation. We would like to be near the centre of Rome.

  10. Peter Says:

    Hi, I’m looking for a good camp site in Rome. Can you please recommend? Thanks. Peter

  11. dara Says:

    We travelled to Rome for a family wedding in July. Taking our 3 boys, age 6, 4 and 1 I was a bit nervous about how family friendly it would be. I was blown away by how well our children were received in restaurants and museums.The waiters fawned over the kids encouraging to finish their food, people opened doors and helped us with our two buggys.We stayed in a villa about 15 min drive/ train outside city.One evening our buggy was accidently left in the boot of a taxi we had taken from the city centre.We were amazed when the driver returned the next morning with our buggy, as it really was out of his way!The boys loved the open top bus tour which gave their little legs a rest. Such a great city!

  12. Christine Says:

    My husband, 3year old son and I just got back from Rome. We found an amazing playground right across the street from the Vittorio stop on the A Line. There are some pay rides as well.

  13. Luca Says:

    The Luna Park has been closed for some time now and will be closed forever.

  14. uyghurboy Says:

    Ferris wheel at LunEUR Like Kashgar Eye

  15. Visit Rome for the first Time Says:

    BioParco is for sure one of the best places for kids. Otherwise it could be very nice to discover one of the big parks of the city as Villa Doria Pamphili or Villa Borghese. Near Rome with shuttles every day there is also a beautiful marine park with dolphins

  16. Silvia Says:

    We visited Rome with my five year old son this winter. We managed to keep him going for five hours at the Vatican museums with a reward of two tic tacs for every room. I followed the above tip about the Bartolucci wooden toy store. Unfortunately when I visited the store I was treated extremely rudely by the salesman/owner. I was the only customer in the store and was standing in front of him at the counter while he was on the telephone looking at me. He thought I did not understand Italian and he was telling the person on the other end of the line that he was tired of serving stupid American tourists who could not make up their mind. In fact, if not for having to wait for him I would have made my purchases in five minutes. I would have left as I did not think there was anything special about the toys there. Most were silly gimmicky magnets and egg timers and wall charts. However I waited as I had promised my son the toy earlier in the day as a reward for all the museum visits.

  17. Kay Says:

    Hi, l just got back from a 4 day trip in Rome with my 11 and 9 year old boy and girl. We stayed near the river Tibe in Trastervere a little south from most tourist spots but right near a bus stop for the open deck hop on hop off bus. We had a two day ticket, first trip around to familiarise ourselves where all the famous tourist spots are and then we just got on and off as we pleased. It was the best way to get to places of interest. We were able to see Sistine chapel, Vatican, Capuchin crypt and Spanisg Steps in one day. Near the Trevi Fountain is a great place to shop for local trinkets, ice cream and milano glass trinkets if you like this. We took a local bus out to the cattacombs on Wednesday, quite a long way out and luckyly there are more than one because on wed the first and most famous one is closed. Just to mention my daughter and l cant eat wheat or onions and we found it very difficult to buy food out. My son has a nut allergy again be careful with the gelato. We hired an apartment with a full kitchen and l cooked mostly. I don’t like to advocate this but because it was hot l didn’t want to travel with food so McDonalds was a life saver as we tolerate nuggets and chips infrequently. On a good note Rome has water fountains everywhere so you can fill up your bottle. At the colloseum do not purchase a tour to jump the que(55euro each) while waiting in the line. Wait until you are in the Coloseum approx 15 min wait, and then jump the que and pay extra 5euro per person for a tour approx 33euro for 1 adult and 2 kids. Hope this helps we loved our time in Rome and look forward to going back

  18. Daniella Smith Says:

    family activities like playing toys with our loved ones and vacation in Rome is a big help to strengthen our relationship.

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