The best things to do in Rome with kids
I fell in love with Rome many years ago, when I visited as a single backpacker. I loved everything from its stunning architecture, jaw-dropping historic sites, and quaint cobblestone streets; to its passionate people, delicious food, and even its crazy drivers.
Fast-forward 18 years to 2016 and it was time to go back to Rome. This time with two little boys and a husband in tow. What worried me was would there be enough to interest my boys aged six and eight? This was a city I loved, and I wanted to wander the streets seeing the sights and enjoying the culture.
It turns out there is so much for families to enjoy. It’s just a matter of working out what you want to see and do, and how to make it interesting for the kids.
Here are the things we loved most about our 4 nights in Rome and a few extra we think you will love too.
1. The Colosseum
At the top of our list is the Colosseum. The boys got to pretend to be gladiators and heard great stories of battles and ancient times. We were guests of Tapsy Tours, who specialise in running tours for families with 5 to 12-year-olds. This was fantastic and we all learned so much. The guide managed to keep nine boys from the USA and Australia, and one girl from Egypt thoroughly entertained and engaged. On the tour, we also got to see the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Having a guide to bring the stories to life and so you can skip the queue is totally worth it.
True Italian gelato is the best ice-cream we have ever tasted, and the boys took every opportunity to prove this theory right. Not only was it delicious but it was also a good motivator to get the boys to walk “just a bit further”. Lucky for us we had the help of some wonderful locals who were only too happy to share their favourite gelateria’s with us such as Don Nino’s.
There are hundreds of fountains in Rome but none come even close to being as astonishing as the Trevi Fountain. The boys loved the sheer scale of this fountain and also the tale of throwing in a coin. Try to go early in the morning so you can see it without the crowds – it’s magical seeing it this way. Take a look at our short guide on how to see Rome without the crowds.
4. Pizza and pasta
When it comes to feeding boys, what’s not to love about endless offerings of fresh pizza and pasta? It was so easy to find restaurants and cafes offering kid-friendly food in Rome. The hardest part was deciding where to eat. Luckily we knew of some excellent places to get authentic Italian food, so we could avoid the tourist restaurants. A very wise Italian once told us, if a restaurant needs someone to stand outside spruiking to bring in customers, they can’t be that good.
5. Villa Borghese
Get out of the busy city streets for a few hours and take a stroll through the beautiful Villa Borghese. This enormous park has so much to offer. You can pedal a bike, visit the zoo, watch a puppet show or row a boat. And that’s just to start with. One of the best museum’s in Rome, the Galleria Borghese, is situated there, but we decided not to try it with a six-year-old. If your boys are older and love art, then the museum is a must.
6. The Pantheon
Our boys loved the Pantheon. It’s huge, it’s impressive and it doesn’t take long to explore. It is also surrounded by an incredible array of food and drink such as Caffe Tazza Doro (best ever coffee), Don Nino’s gelateria (fantastic gelato) and L’Antica Salumeria (a top charcuterie).
7. The Vatican
On our last day in Rome, we attempted to see the Vatican but the weather had other ideas. Just before we reached it, the heavens opened in one mighty thunderstorm and there was no going any further. Next time we are in Rome, I will organise a tour of the Vatican specifically designed for kids.
8. Statues and fountains
There aren’t a lot of statues and fountains in Australia in comparison to Rome, so for the boys, these were a real treat. It certainly didn’t take them long to realise that many of the statues were nude which, as you can imagine, caused a lot of giggling and excitement. Ahhh boys!
9. Cannon blast and spectacular views at Piazzale Garibaldi
Every day at noon, the army fire the cannon in a beautiful park that sits above Trastevere. Our boys were so excited to go, but after a seriously early jet lag start to the day, it wasn’t to be. We walked all the way to Trastevere where we spent a beautiful few hours but by 11am the boys had had enough and we headed for home. Maybe next time.
10. Gladiator school
Rome’s Gladiator School looks like so much fun and the boys would have loved it. The problem was, we didn’t have enough time to do everything, so we opted for things that the whole family would enjoy, not just the boys. If you have time, I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed.
What would I change if I had my time over?
Even though we had four nights in Rome, we also had jetlag, having flown from Australia. Next time I would have five nights in Rome. There is so much to see and do. If you won’t have jetlag, then I would say four nights would be a great start to discover this city.
Finding your way around
Make sure you have a really good map because believe me, it is so easy to get lost in Rome. We had bought the GPS mobile navigation app, CoPilot to help us drive around Italy and Denmark. It turns out that you can also use it walking which was a lifesaver on so many occasions in Rome. I have a good sense of direction but Rome is one city, which I find really hard to navigate. It probably doesn’t help that you’re also spending half your time keeping all the family out of the way of fast oncoming bikes and cars!
We hope you’ve found some inspiration for when you visit Rome. Let us know what places in Rome your kids love.