Italy is renowned for its historical significance, child-friendly culture and exquisite Mediterranean cuisine, making it one of the most fascinating, accommodating and flavorsome holiday destinations for families. When visiting Italy for the first time, Rome is generally the favored starting point. And what a deliriously wonderful place it is to start.
Whether you’re planning a weekend trip or a month-long escapade, there’s an abundance of family-friendly activities to explore and enjoy in Rome. Essentially one giant open-air museum, Italy’s capital is an exhilarating hub of adventure where you can experience some of the world’s most revered art, architecture, food and culture.
Simply wandering the streets and piazzas of the city is enough to engage your little one’s senses and imagination, keeping them entertained for hours as they become immersed in a variety of delightful sights, sounds, smells and tastes at every turn. Mention gladiators, marble giants, and ice cream, however, and they will most certainly be on board for the duration of the trip!
Rome in a Day
If you’re visiting Rome for the first time, a hop-on hop-off bus tour is a great way to take in the main points of historical and architectural interest. It also gives you the opportunity to identify places you’d like to explore further if you have time. You’ll cover lots of ground quickly and be able to jump off and on at various intervals when the kids need a change of pace. Top family-friendly activities and sites include the Basilica, the Colosseum and Ancient Rome, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and Villa Borghese.
If you’d rather explore the city on foot, the Best of Rome Walking for Kids Adventure is one of the most accessible and fun ways for children to learn about the history of ancient Rome. Beginning at the Spanish Steps, your personal Guide will take you on a fascinating 3-hour tour through the city’s cobblestone streets and alleys, aristocratic palaces, and ancient Roman ruins, telling captivating stories and legends along the way.
The heart of Ancient Rome is the Colosseum, where the legendary gladiator games were held in front of 55,000 spectators at a time. This 2,000-year-old amphitheater is incredibly well-preserved and makes for a spellbinding experience for children and adults alike. Whilst standing in the midst of the formidable tiered arches and columns, the sheer magnitude of the structure will blow you away and you’ll suddenly feel very, very small! It’s an experience quite unlike anything else.
After exploring the Colosseum, the Gladiator School and Museum is well worth a visit. Children can take part in a two-hour gladiator training class where they can learn basic swordsmanship and battle strategy, all the while dressed in traditional tunics and leather armor. Just think of the wild stories they can tell their friends when they return home!
Visiting the sovereign city-state of the Vatican can be an overwhelming experience and could easily take up your entire trip. When travelling with children, however, a more structured approach is definitely required. With over 2,000 rooms, a formal guided tour is undoubtedly the most helpful and stress-free way to explore this vast and complex UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For early birds, there is a V.I.P 3-hour Vatican Tour for Families that starts at 7:30am.This is particularly great during the high tourist season because you will enter before the doors open to the general public at 09:00. With an itinerary designed specifically for young visitors, experienced guides make it their mission to keep kids captivated and entertained whilst ensuring adults get the most out of their shared experience.
Clarified and contextualized through visual aids and fascinating tales of mythology and history, your children can explore the main highlights of the Vatican at their own pace, including the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s ceiling, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Galleries of Tapestries and Maps. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and energetic, climbing the 551 steps of the Cupola’s spiral staircase is always a hit.
Unmistakably theatrical in design, Trevi Fountain is not your typical water feature. At 26.3 meters high, it’s enormous and impossible to miss. Built between 1732-1762 and constructed of marble and local travertine stone, it is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. The design depicts Oceanus, Titan god of the sea, rising from the water upon a shell-shaped chariot powered by two winged horses. It’s magnificent.
If the kids are not mesmerized by the monumental vision of beauty before their eyes, they’ll definitely enjoy the tradition of throwing coins into the water. By doing so, it is believed to ensure your good fortune and a return visit to Rome. Ideally, you should have your back turned to the fountain when you toss the coins in. Given the sheer size of it, even the most uncoordinated of throwers is unlikely to miss!
When in need of respite from the hullabaloo of the city streets, Villa Borghese gardens is the go-to place to recharge. Boasting 226 acres of open green space in the center of Rome, it’s an ideal place for parents to relax and children to expend some of their enviable energy reserves. The park features several attractions, including a zoo, puppet theatre, paddle boats, Casina di Raffaello toy library, the Renaissance palace of Villa Medici, Galleria Borghese and reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Or you could just have a picnic and go for a little wander!
Should you find yourself on the receiving end of a tantrum at any point during your family holiday in Rome, a tried and tested solution is gelato motivation. Quite simply, encourage fun, cooperation and good moods all round by getting them to walk as quickly as possible until you reach the next ice cream shop, which won’t be very far. It’s amazing how quickly they transform back to ‘happy’. Works every time!