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Fun things to do in Venice/Rome for an 11 year old boy?

We will be spending a about 3 days in Venice and 3 days in Rome this summer and I would like to find some things that my son would enjoy. He isn't excited to go on the trip at the moment and I would like to suggest some things that he would enjoy. We will be doing some of the major tourist things in each place but wondering if there are any other things that he would like to do. He is older for his age so something that would be more teen age would probably be better than "kid" stuff.

Posted by
11852 posts

Hi relegated -
Just as if the same question was for an adult, it would help if you could tell us what his interests are when he's at home? "Fun" is a subjective term: what's fun for one person's child isn't necessarily going to cut it with yours. What does "fun" mean for him?

Have you shared any plans/pictures/info about the sorts of things you'll be seeing or could see/do in Venice and Rome? Any specific reason he is not looking forward to this trip?

Posted by
65 posts

Our youngest was 10 when we went to Rome and although he probably wouldn't have picked Rome, he ended up loving it (he has a brother 3 years older for him so he's also a bit on the mature for his age side). I recommend looking at the tours available through Rome Tours with Kids. https://rometourswithkids.com/ We did an evening walking tour of Rome in general, and a guided Vatican tour. Both were outstanding. We also did a food tour through https://www.eatingeurope.com/rome/ and loved it. I actually booked a private tour so that we could move at his pace, so it was a little bit pricey but worth it. He also loved wandering around - there is a Lego store and a fair number of good art stores. Rome was so easily walkable that just wandering was pretty entertaining.

Posted by
65 posts

By art stores I meant art supplies - my kids love to find those when traveling and pick out funky pens, notebooks, etc.

Posted by
1752 posts

I remember the Capitoline Museum had a specific map of the museum for kids. I didn’t have any with me, but i do remember browsing the brochures while waiting to purchase our tickets. Maybe their website might have a kids link.

Posted by
5452 posts

Not try to be rude but:

Does he understand that there really isn’t anyplace like Venice in the world?

Has he heard about or does he know about Pinocchio?

Does he understand about the Roman Empire? That he will be visiting sites built centuries ago?

You’ve said he “thinks” older than he is. Does that mean he’s seen Gladiator?

As far as interesting things to do:
Rome:
Catacombs or Capucin Crypt
Take a Street art graffiti tour
Make him find a place for pizza
Rent Segways
Venice:
Get lost and have him find the way out
Gondola trip
Take a food tour
Ask him to be the official photographer of the trip
http://www.marionettesinvenice.com/laboratorio.htm
Book a glass blowing and factory tour

Posted by
3112 posts

In Rome he might enjoy bicycling in the Villa Borghese, the big public park at the top of the Spanish Steps. He might also enjoy Castel Sant'Angolo, as it's like climbing a castle. You walk up a ramp in the center and then get to view Rome and the Vatican through the parapets. Not sure if these are more young teenager or kids stuff. I'll let you be the judge.

Posted by
973 posts

Claudia reminds me that my then 12yo son - headstrong, reluctant to travel - really enjoyed watching the spray-paint artists in the plaza in Trastevere. We did a Vatican tour with Roman Guy that was either abbreviated for kids, or abbreviated in general (I think the latter) that included a Dome climb - he liked that. I think he enjoyed the Colosseum (we did a Coop Culture tour that included the underground and third tier), but hated the forum. He dislikes ruins generally, we learned. Capitoline museum was ok, Borghese museum was fun-ish because it was small enough that he and his sister could go off on their own for the two hours. They would find cool things they wanted to show us and then find us. But the best thing he did (besides the gelato of course) was the segway ride in Borghese park. Le sigh

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks for the feedback so far, he likes hockey and animal type things. He is interested in the natural history museum that we are going to visit in London before we get to Italy. He doesn't like food, art or walking which is a lot of what will happen. I'm not trying to cater the trip to him only and I hope he is just ignorant and will enjoy things when we get there.

Gladiator would be too brutal for him to watch, he knows about Rome from a biblical perspective but I'm not sure how much beyond that as far as schooling goes.

He is strong willed for sure and has already made up his mind but I am hoping it changes as we are on the trip. I think the Segway tour would be fun even though it is obviously a tourist things. Hoping the gondola ride would be an enjoyable thing as well.

Posted by
11852 posts

..he knows about Rome from a biblical perspective but I'm not sure how
much beyond that as far as schooling goes.

OK, so learning about Rome and Venice before the trip would likely help! It's hard to get excited about places you don't know anything about? There are books in the library and TONS of info online to help him get a handle on both cities. Doing some research himself - which is something the folks here often recommend for all but young children - will provide opportunities for him to identify some things which interest him and make a few sightseeing/activity choices himself.

You have a terrific teachable opportunity here for a lesson in how to travel! Being involved in the plan and some of the choices can help up the excitement and reduce the whining. :O)

Posted by
82 posts

Yeah the challenge is getting him to do the work now to enjoy it later. The problem with guide books is they are overwhelming, even for me. I need smaller easier to digest content for him, even better would be YouTube content. Will do some looking and see what I can find.

Posted by
1575 posts

Hi relegated,

I often like to suggest watching TheRomanGuy videos. They have many on Rome and one or two on Venice. Sean is the narrator for a lot of them. He is originally from the States and has lived in Rome for over a decade. I believe he now splits his time between Italy and the States since he partnered with a different area of TheRomanGuy.

Sean is laid back, down to earth, really informative and gives some good tips. He has a sense of humor that he sprinkles in some of the videos. He uses easy to understand explanations which really helps the new traveler.

Check out their Venice video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxqJ9sodVQo Venice is much smaller than Rome.

Maybe your son may be interested in the unique book store featured in the video "Liberia Aqua Alta" video play at 6:25. There are gondolas inside the store.

The history behind the Rialto Bridge (first built as a pontoon bridge in the 12th Century) may be of interest to him.

Does he like boats? - A ride or two on the water in a vaporetto (boat-bus)

Some other ideas: National Archaeological Museum of Venice; Bibliotaca Marciana - a library and Renaissance Bldg.; The Grand Canal; Doge's Palace - a Gothic style museum

Posted by
605 posts

Would he enjoy being given a good spotting scope or some good binoculars and climbing to the top of towers in Venice and buildings in Rome?

In Venice, we liked the long topa tour (small Venetian motor boat) in preference to a short and rather cheesy gondola ride. Also, learning to row a gondola-like boat.

Take him to a soccer game?

Do avoid the Vatican for his sake. My husband and I are huge art lovers and museum-goers and were 100% enthusiastic about visiting the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel, but it was our only horrible experience in many trips to Italy.

Posted by
82 posts

Thank you for the YouTube suggestions, I will watch them.

What did you not like about the Vatican?

Posted by
1307 posts

Might he enjoy a rowing lesson with RowVenice.org? I was about his age when we got a family canoe, and loved it.

Posted by
11852 posts

What did you not like about the Vatican?

Nancy will fill you in on her reasoning there but my guess would be because of the wall-to-wall crowds in the most-visited parts of the museums, including the Sistine.

Posted by
529 posts

My dad really enjoyed Lido beach - which would be a great option for a summer day in Venice.
Get the first seat in the vaporetto water taxis.
The Rialto market may be fun- mainly because some of the fish there are kinda gross.
My son enjoyed any ghost walks that there were at that age.
Rome: I went bike riding in the Borghese park - which I think also has a zoo.

Posted by
1868 posts

When we were in Venice with my Grandchildren, we stayed on the Lido, bought a several day (can't remember how many...) day vaporetto pass and visited Venice and the Lagoon islands for "day trips". The kids really enjoyed being within walking distance of the beach whenever we weren't actually IN Venice.

Posted by
605 posts

Oh, the Vatican was not only wall-to-wall people on a January morning, but we were rushed through the entire museum, up and down stairs, through long hallways, in such a fast, packed mob that I could not even turn around and go the other way to find a bathroom, nor pause to look at something. Several rooms were closed due to lack of staff. You cannot go straight to the Sistine Chapel or take a shortcut there, if that's what you want to see most (we actually wanted the MUSEUM, but the rooms we really wanted were the closed ones).

Then once in the equally packed Sistine Chapel (but at least people were more or less standing still), there were very frequent and very loud announcements for people to be silent. Far more disturbing and unpleasant than the excited murmur of the crowd.

I don't know if all days are like this one was, but there's a reason people pay extra to go to the Vatican on an after-hours tour. We have been in plenty of crowds, but nothing like this.

My concern for a child is that he or she would be squashed between adult bodies, unable to see, and maybe even knocked down. And if your son is already not a fan of this trip.....

Posted by
782 posts

We just recently did the Row Venice experience- 90 minutes learning to row on the back canals. I think it was 89 Euros total for up to four people, and lasted 90 minutes, which is much longer than a gondola ride. The rowing is much harder than it looks, and made us appreciate the gondoliers' skills.
Safe travels!

Posted by
605 posts

I hope it's clear that the rowing is done standing up. Also, the oar is not fastened in an oar lock, but loose in a notch. Tons of fun, but quite challenging! The women who teach the rowing are very, very patient and helpful.

Posted by
11852 posts

Several rooms were closed due to lack of staff. You cannot go straight
to the Sistine Chapel or take a shortcut there, if that's what you
want to see most (we actually wanted the MUSEUM, but the rooms we
really wanted were the closed ones).

The Sistine is at the farthest end of the museums - a 20-30 minute walk from the entrance - and there's no "shortcut". There are tours which provide entrance before the general public if wishing to see it without the biggest crowds. I'm uncertain exactly which rooms were closed during Nancy' s visit but closures can happen at ANY museum. The Vatican Museums encompass 26 or so galleries, any of which might be undergoing work at any time.

http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei.html

Posted by
82 posts

Funny cause the Sistine Chapel was something he asked about, so would getting a tour before the general public be the best option if we wanted to do that?

Posted by
11852 posts

...would getting a tour before the general public be the best option
if we wanted to do that?

That would be my vote if you want to see the Sistine before it's complete insanity in there. I would book a tour that includes both the museums/Sistine and St Peter's as well. They usually last about 3 to 4 hours or so.

These have been popular choices:
https://www.walksofitaly.com/rome-tours/pristine-sistine-chapel-tour/
https://theromanguy.com/tours/Rome/Sistine-Chapel-Vatican-Tour

These were recently recommended as well:
https://www.througheternity.com/en/vatican-tours/early-morning-vatican-tour.html
https://darkrome.com/vatican-tours/vatican-semi-private-tour

A note regarding "skip the line" promises? Everyone skips the long ticket lines with a tour or pre-purchase tickets but everyone must pass though security checkpoints.

Posted by
511 posts

"The problem with guide books is they are overwhelming, even for me."

Try the public library, children's section. The librarian can help you find books on Italy (history, geography, culture) and Rome, as well as stories set in Ancient Rome. And track down a copy of "Rome: Past and Present" with acetate overlays to help his imagination fill in the blanks when he sees, for example, the Forum. He might also enjoy David Macauley's City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction."

Depending on his reading level, Rosemary Sutcliff's "The Eagle of the Ninth" is set in Roman Britain. Or you could read it to him. There's a PG-13 movie "the Eagle" based on her book that you could preview and then watch together (though I haven't see it).

And that rowing lesson sounds fantastic! My boys loved anything involving water.

Posted by
82 posts

The rowing lesson looks like a lot of fun and that canon is going on the list for sure, that looks super cool.

Will watch the PBS videos, thank you.

Posted by
112 posts

My kids enjoyed the capuchin monk site, Castel San Angelo and borghese park. We also took a day trip to Ostia Antica which is interesting. My son liked being the map/GPS reader for our outings.

One rule we had for our trip was at least one gelato per day. :)

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
84 posts

"Oh, the Vatican was not only wall-to-wall people on a January morning"

Bummer! I always hoped it was less crowded in winter. Was that shortly after New Year or around Epiphany? I guess that the first weak of January must be still busier, but what about the rest of January or February?

Posted by
605 posts

It was January 3rd. Usually winter travel is a great way to avoid over-crowding!

Posted by
82 posts

I ended up booking a full day tour of Rome with The Roman Guys so that will hit a lot of the major sight seeing attractions. I think the rowing in Venice would be fun, I will probably end up booking that as well. Still open to other ideas?

Posted by
45 posts

Relegated, my husband can sometimes have the attention span and interest level of a teenage boy, and one of the biggest factors in his mood and interest level is how long it's been since he's eaten. :) We learned to take frequent breaks for food and I always have some sort of emergency snacks in my bag. Also pacing ourselves with only one major site a day (usually in the morning) and spending the rest of the day in a cafe, park, or on a low-key walking tour. That way it still feels like a vacation!

Does anyone know if we (without a tour) can see the Sistine Chapel first and then backtrack to the rest of the Vatican museum? My husband and I will be going with our 2 year old, so we plan to see the Chapel first (our must-see) and then see the rest of the museum if time and his toddler attention span permits. I love the idea of an early access tour, but know my toddler will not last the full 4 hours.

Posted by
11852 posts

At the risk of hijacking relegated's thread....

Erin, there are some companies which sell early-access tickets to the Sistine WITHOUT a guided tour of the rest of the museums. Here's one:

https://darkrome.com/vatican-tours/sistine-chapel-early-access

Note that they state that you can, "Discover the Vatican artworks at your own pace afterward." So yes, you can backtrack but you might be fighting your way upstream, sort of speak. Still, it appears to fit the bill for your family. I haven't used this company but I've seen a fair amount of recommendations for their products.

Posted by
11197 posts

For both relegated and Erin: just so you know, Nancy's Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel experience is the same one I had - in 1994! If I ever go back there, it will be with an early morning or late evening tour, to avoid the mobs. If I can't get one of these, I won't go back at all.

Remember, I live in New York, so I'm used to crowds. The problem in the Vatican Museums isn't just crowds - it's tension. EVERYONE just wants to get right to the Sistine Chapel - which unfortunately is at the very end of a very long path. When people finally get there, they are frustrated and angry ("It's not fair that I have to walk all this way. Why couldn't they just put it closer to the entrance?"). While in the Sistine Chapel, they start talking. As the noise builds, the guards start loudly shushing everyone; there is somewhat less noise for about a minute, then the talking starts again, then the shushing. Between that and the very palpable tension ("I came all this way, I've seen it, can we just get the #&@ out of here now?"), I couldn't wait to leave.

This tension is what makes it so much worse than crowds at, say, the Mona Lisa, who didn't have to traverse a long one-way path to get there and back, so they don't feel as trapped or angry.

Summary: particularly with a 2 year old, you MUST get an early entrance tour, or you'll be sorry! I don't like being so negative, but as you can see, even though it was 25 years ago, the experience is still memorable - and not in the good way the rest of Rome was!
Rome is one of my favorite places; the Vatican Museums, not so much.

Posted by
11852 posts

I love the idea of an early access tour, but know my toddler will not
last the full 4 hours.

Erin, The Roman Guy (another highly rated company) has an early-access guided tour which is only 2 hours long. This one wraps up in the basilica so you'd need to bring your toddler in a back carrier instead of a stroller (and I'd ask about the carrier when booking as some tours don't allow them). Last I knew, strollers were not allowed in the basilica (they are OK in the museums) but could be checked at the entrance. The issue with tours which access the back passage is both the stairs and entering from a different location.

Still, if interested in the shorter guided tour I'd just ask what to bring for touring with your toddler.

https://theromanguy.com/tours/italy/italy-best-sellers/vatican-gold-tour-with-sistine-chapel

Posted by
4509 posts

I traveled with kids all over Europe (ages 5-teens).

My kids loved the gondola ride in Venice. Also, they loved going up to the top of the tower at St. Mark's square.

My Son was 7 when we first visited the Sistine Chapel. He was in awe of the art. At that time you could stay as long as you wanted. We sat on the floor, and with a guide book, I explained many of the frescoes to him.

My kids loved the Coliseum. My pre-teens and teens still enjoyed most of the adult stuff.

When I talk to my Son today that was under age 10 when we did these travels, he doesn't remember much of it today. My Daughter was age 11-15 and remembers it all.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi,

We're heading to Rome and Florence in three weeks with our 11 year old daughter. When she was 7, we went to Paris and Barcelona and were fortunate enough to discover these books that are geared toward kids and are like scavenger hunts around the city. She really enjoyed trying to find everything, and they helped her be more engaged and aware of her surroundings. I found it's even fun for adults! Luckily they have them for both Rome and Florence (no venice, though). Here's a link for the one for Rome. https://www.amazon.com/Mission-Rome-Scavenger-Adventure-Travel/dp/098922676X

Posted by
3 posts

I would echo the scavenger hunt idea. We have travelled all over the US and Europe with our boys since they were small. I have an older son who loves every single sign in every museum and one who never picks up a book, wants the next snack and wishes there was a cool car museum in every city. Each trip I make a “junior ranger” type book for them (if you are familiar from the US National Parks). That enables my younger to have things to keep him engaged that might not necessarily be historic or in a museum. For example, for our this trip to Italy they are called Bella Boxes, the size of postcards. One of the things to find in Rome is “the wedding cake” monument. It works for my distracted-by-a-squirrel now 16 year old!

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks for the suggestion, I just booked the row Venice that should be fun. We actually enjoy geocaching so we are planning on doing that while we are over there. We also bought some trackables that we are going to leave in each major city we stop in and give them a goal of traveling around but making their way back to us. If anyone is curious about this you can get more information here

https://www.geocaching.com/track/