Rome with kids

Hello, I have planned a trip to Rome for 6 days in January 2013. While planning I have been struggling to figure out what to do and what not to do with my kids when we go to Rome. I have been there already there and loved it, but I do not think they will be so enthusiastic. They are fast learners but not too good waiting in long lines...my kids' ages are 8 and 9. Any suggestions?
Has anyone been in this situation? What did you do? Thank you,

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3303 posts

The Vatican Museums are probably the most boring to a kid. Once inside there are several color coded paths marked on the floor which are based on the amount of time you have. Choose the shortest path. You'll see the most important items and you'll be out of there after less than 2 hours. Colosseum should be interesting to a kid, if you let them know what was going on in those Arenas. Trevi's fountain should be fun. Tell them if they trow the coin right, they can have the biggest gelato of their wishes. Italian kids are told that the Pantheon is a castle with a hole on the roof. For some reason they get excited about that idea. Also next to the Pantheon there is fountain with two spouts. Tell each one to drink out of each. Then close one, the other one will be totally squirted with water in the face (I loved doing that when I was a kid). Some more ideas: VILLA BORGHESE Several activities for kids at Villa Borghese: Biopark, Reptilarium, Museum of Zoology, Pony rides, row boats on the lake, kids train around the park, Little house of Raphael (miniature house), Little Cinema or Cinema dei Piccoli (smallest Movie theater in the world), Casina dell'orologio with the Water Clock (Orologio ad acqua, or idrocronometro). CRIPTA DELLA CHIESA DEI CAPPUCCINI and also Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte (near palazzo Farnese) Lots of dead people skulls and bones. Boys love this place. Also you could take them to the Gladiators' School, so they can see how they could one day become gladiators: http://www.gsr-roma.com/english/gladiatori/htm/scuola.htm
It's on via appia antica. There are other places, but I don't want to send you outside of the historical center.

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2392 posts

The only two sites that have a line are the colosseum and VAtican museums. I would bypass the Vatican museums with younger kids as they tend to get "lost" in the crowds and can't really see much, if any, of the artwork. For the colosseum you can pre-purchase entry tickets online that allow you to bypass the lines, you can buy the romapass and use if for free entry, or you can purchase your tickets at the forum or palatine hill. All three of these suggestions will allow you to bypass the lines at the colosseum. If you do decide to visit the Vatican museums you can pre-purchase entry tickets or a tour online at the official website. This will allow you to bypass the lines outside. The museums will still be very crowded but at least you won't have to wait in the line for hours. I've never encountered a line at any of the other sites in Rome. As for what to take your kids to see, it really depends on what they're interested in. My daughter got a huge kick out the the Capucchin crypt. She also loved the Baths of Caracalla and the Knights of Malta keyhole. I would suggest getting a good guide book and having the kids pick out some things they wish to see. This way they have a hand in planning the trip and you'll definitely see some things they have an interest in. Donna

Posted by Silvia
APO 09649
4 posts

Donna, Thanks, I thought about those two sites already, but planning a week it seems just not much. However you mention Capuchin crypt, Baths of Caracalla and Knights of Malta keyhole. Are those sites in Rome? Any info you could pass to me on those? I will do a search and get more info.
It sounds good, thank you very much for the suggestions! S.

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2392 posts

Yes, all three sites are in Rome. The capucchin crypt is at the end of the Via Veneto near the Piazza Barberini. The Knights of Malta Keyhole is on the Aventine hill and the Baths of Caracalla down the street from the Circus Maximus. There is also the borghese park where you can rent bikes or go to the zoo. Donna

Posted by Stephen
Fort Mill, SC, USA
159 posts

I took an 8 and 12 year old to Rome and they loved it. I'd keep them on a short leash when walking from place to place. Traffic is crazy there! The first recommendation that I have for younger kids is to make sure you give them some down time and let them help plan what you are going to do. If the weather is decent, Villa Borghese gallery and park would be nice. You need a reservation for the gallery, but that can easily be found on-line. The park is massive so they can run around to their heart's content! They might enjoy the Underground tour at the Colosseum. You get to go places that regular tickets don't allow. I also recommend downloading Rick's app with walking tour of the Forum. The kids can listen and guide you through. We also walked into practically every church we saw and were amazed at the interiors of them. IMHO, the Vatican Museum can be a bit overwhelming unless you take the "short" tour. The Sistine Chapel (Rick has an audioguide for this as well) and St. Peter's are both a "must see" as far as I am concerned. You might also consider giving them a camera for their personal use. You can get a cheap digital for less than $100. I see used cameras on Amazon for around $25. If they like taking pictures, they will probably not be too bored with any place that you go. Enjoy!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2442 posts

There's a portion of the wall surrounding the city that you can walk (fee is quite low, a couple of euro, I think), in the San Giovanni area. The Church of San Clemente has an upper church, a lower church, and the Mithraeum (pagan temple cult) at the lowest level - lighting is atmospheric. Check "Ron in Rome" site for what to do of interest to kids. Also, you might see if there's a cooking or pizza-making class you could all go to.

Posted by Silvia
APO 09649
4 posts

Thank you all, for the insights.
I will do some homework and check the ideas you have all share. Happy traveling to all!

Posted by Lee
Dallas
898 posts

We took our boys to London when they were around the same age. Our strategy for showing them around worked pretty well to keep them happy and interested while being surreptitiously educated. It should be easily adaptable to Rome. When we took them to a museum it was with a specific goal in mind. For example, we went to the British Museum to see the mummies which they were keen on. On the way to the mummy room, we went by the Rosetta Stone which I briefly explained to them. Then on to the mummies which fascinated the boys. On the way out I managed to route us by the Magna Carta, which was there at the time, for a quick look. Then we were outta there. We spent about an hour which to us was the limit of what we could reasonably expect of them. Then we went off and did something fun like the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. In Rome, you might visit the Borghese with the purpose of seeing David by Bernini and by Caravaggio (the latter with Goliath's head cut off) assuming that sounds interesting to your children--and to you, of course. To see them you will necessarily pass by other fabulous art works. Try not to give in very much to temptation to see them at your presumably slower pace. But if one of the kids seems particularly interested in something, let them have time to study it, all the while congratulating yourself for bringing them there. Then maybe have lunch or a break at the Hard Rock Cafe which is right on the way to the Capuchin Crypt.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

Culture. That's something our children need much more of. My daughter's 25 years old, and going to the Anne Frank Haus and Dachau were highlights of her life @ 12 years old. She still talks about her worldly touring. Children take in so much more than we give them credit for.

Posted by Marie
Northbrook, Illinois, USA
181 posts

We took our sons, then ages 14, 12 and 10 to Venice and Rome. It was August and plenty hot, but they didn't seem to mind. Top picks - Pantheon (cool opening in ceiling), any outdoor market, Trevi fountain, Sistine Chapel (but spring for a tour - it allowed us to skip a really, really long line), and the Forum/Colosseum. Honestly, my best advice would be to do one sight a day - spend time just walking and soaking up what it's like to be in Rome. We figured our kids would come back some day so we didn't need to show them everything in this trip. Sit by a fountain, have ice cream. Our kids are pretty typical American "gadget/tech" kids, so I wasn't sure how Italy would go over, but they loved it!

Posted by Marie
Northbrook, Illinois, USA
181 posts

Oops - forgot one more thing. We happened to wander into St. Peter's square during a mass being said by the Pope. That was the highlight for ME! My kids thought I was nuts for jumping up and down, trying to get a glimpse of the Holy Father. So you may want to see if the Pope is in town and if he plans on saying a mass or appearing at his balcony. I thought it was cool to see him. Have a great trip!

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

My boys' top 5:
Catacombs--as recommended above Climbing to the top of St. Peter's. There's a gift shop on the roof! Ostia Antica. This was much more fun for them than the Forum. You can get a better idea of Roman life and climb around on some of the ruins. Pedal cars in the Boboli Gardens Leonardo da Vinci Museum in the Palazzo della Cancelleria. Very cool working models of many of his inventions. Highly recommend travelforkids.com. This site lists excellent sites for kids and books to get them interested. It's much more fun to tour when you know what you're looking at...

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7185 posts

You can visit the Vatican without visiting the museum. Although the museum is great, it's probably too much for most kids. Climbing the dome to the roof and going down under the church to the crypt would probably be enjoyable. We did have a long line at the Cappuchin Crypt, they closed in the middle of the day and a line had built up waiting for them to reopen. It's a little bit of a letdown - it's not eerie, dark or spooky in any way - but there are lots of bones. We had good luck arriving first thing at the Colliseum we arrived a little before opening and waited in a very manageable line. By the time we came out, the line had expanded at least ten times (maybe double that). See Trevi fountain at night. It's so much more spectacular then. Remember you can drink from the fountains in Rome, the kids will probably get a kick out of that and using the "nase" fountains. They're a spout of running water with a hole where the nose (nase in Italian) would be. Cover the end with your finger and the water comes out the hole like a drinking fountain. If you want to make a quick stop for some slices of pizza to go, don't accept their offer to sit - If you do, you'll pay a charge for it. I don't mind paying for a table, if I intend to sit awhile and enjoy it.

Posted by Murali
Austin, USA
8 posts

Silvia Don't worry about the kids and have a great time. As long as you plan well and build in breaks for them so that they don't get tired they should be fine. Take some snacks as you visit places and don't try to over-do. Rest and food are the only things that are important. Your kids are lucky to be able to see world's greatest sights at such a young impressionable age. Trust me they will talk about it at school once they are back. Also make them keep a diary or draw pictures or buy them an inexpensive camera for pictures. Also, winter is the best time to visit southern europe, imho, winters are not typically very harsh and a light jacket suffices. We have been to Europe for the past 3 winters (just finished a trip to Rome and Vencie) and our children are now 7 1/2. They really look forward to these trips. best Murali

Posted by Silvia
APO 09649
4 posts

Wonderful insights! I have already checked a few of the recommended places, and I even got a response on the Gladiator School-. I am posting it here if anyone else needs it. Thank you all. The info is dated Dec 14, 2012. Dear Silvia, Our classes are organized and led by members of the Gruppo Storico Romano (in English) – specialized in Roman life's re-enactment and Gladiatorial combats. Each session (almost two hours) includes an introduction to Ancient Roman History (in our Museum) and a description of the Gladiator's life. Following this first part, wearing "military tunics", the teacher will introduce you to the basic techniques of gladiatorial fighting. All the participants, at the end of the training, will receive a special certificate of accomplishment. Our rates : for 1 person the price is 100 euro, for 2 people 150 euro, from 3 to 5 people 200 euro, from 6 to 10 persons is 250 euro for every additional people exceeding the number of 10, the price is fixed on 20 euro/person. The lesson of 2 hours, includes : the visit to the museum, the training with individual wooden sword, roman citizenship's certificate, soft drink, the supply of the "roman military tunic" that you will wear during the class and....as many pictures as you want to take in the Gladiator School !
Please note that on the prices the VAT (21%) will be added, and the courses, in case of needs, must be canceled, by e-mail, within 24 hours before the scheduled time. In the event that the course is not canceled in time or the customer should not be present, the Gladiator School will charge half the due amount .

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

One note about St Peter's and the Vatican museums in January: If it's not right around New Years, you might be pleasantly surprised about lines. The two times I've been in Rome in late January, I didn't find meaningful lines at either site, particularly midweek. In fact, last time I walked into the Vatican museums with no wait at all. If you go, your kids might enjoy the Egyptian collection and some of the more dramatic statuary (eg, Laocoon). They might also enjoy the Scavi tour through the excavations under St Peter's (preChristian cemetary, etc), although you should reserve (through the link on the Vatican website) as soon as possible. They might also enjoy one of the "underground Rome" tours, which take you into several of the sites excavated under current buildings; I've done one through Context Rome, but I know various companies offer them.

Posted by Will
Morehead, USA
8 posts

We just got back yesterday with three: 7,9, and 11. No kid likes a line. We spent 9 days, all in Rome. The Romans we met love children. The kids loved it all, and we had a ball. Rick is right. Stop after a one great thing, then decompress. Pretty much if Rick says to do it, then do it. While the gladiator thing sounds interesting, I don't think you should waste your precious time. If you want Disney, go there. This is ROME!!! Here is what we did. Every family is different, I just want you to know our kids did great with this.
Gelato every day- :) Old Bridge three times... Gigliotti's was wonderful, too. Ride public transit-a big hit Vatican Museum-they loved it. 7 year old still in awe about Sistine Chapel. Don't be afraid to go there at all. Reserved on line for a 1 pm slot and didn't wait at all. Doubt you will find a major line in January, anyway. Spent about 3 hours. Hey, if you want to study Raphael, don't take your kids... BUT, show them Raphael, for the love of GOD! Showed Vatican guard Rick's diagram in the Sistine Chapel for the short cut, and he ushered us through. Colosseum, then next day, Forum. Ate at Cafe Dello Studente and at Cafe Luzzi-family run, and awesome both. Luzii a little better. Spent 12 Euros each for each meal. Forno de Campo de Fiore- All I can say is YUM. YUM! Pantheon- we went at least three times... Great coffee and amazing hot chocolate two blocks away at St. Eustacchio il caffe. Kids loved standing at the bar. Pizza at Pizzeria IVO in Trastevere was wonderful. Full of Italian families. Threw coins into Trevi Fountain. Pizza by the slice at a place called Pizza Florida in Largo Argentina. Super market Despar was great. Have fun!

Posted by Will
Morehead, USA
8 posts

Sorry, typo. The correct spelling of the gelato place is Giolitti.

Posted by Yvonne
Heidelberg, BW, Germany
3 posts

Ostia Antica and the Christian Catacombs of St. Callixtus near Via Applia are great for kids! They might also like to see the pyramid.

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
994 posts

I have three grandsons, and I'd definitely do the Gladiator School! Don't be ridiculed out of it. It sounds like a fun and educational activity for kids this age! Also there are also Segway Tours through Rome that are very highly rated on Trip Advisor, which will reduce some of the walking through some of the more difficult areas like the Collisseum area and give a great "over-view" for the kids. I'm Roman Catholic and would NOT skip the Vatican museum, Or St. Peters, because I think there's a lot there the kids would enjoy. Rent the earphones and skip the tour guides, and do it at their interest levels. There are years ahead of them for the more sophisticated and in-depth things later. Make it fun and they'll want to come back! Have Fun!