Before I start my trip report, I just wanted to say that we were lucky enough to share this tour with an amazing group of people including Liz who wrote up an incredibly comprehensive and evocative trip report here: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/best-of-sicily-february-12-trip-report
A little background. I am a married to Matt and the mother of two boys (Gabe aged 13 and Nate aged 11 at the time of the trip). We chose a tour after a conversation with my dad, Stan, and his wife MJ where we mentioned that we were starting to plan another trip to Europe with the boys. They showed an interest in joining us and while I loved this idea, I did not want to be responsible for planning an entire itinerary for a group of 6 covering three generations. I have always used the RS books in our travels so I suggested a RS tour as a great way for us to do this. We all agreed the Sicily tour offered some of the greatest variety in experiences and the food (very important) and the price was right as we signed up for a February Tour. Then I had to figure out how to get us to Palermo! We were really excited once we figured out the cheapest way for us to get to Palermo was through Rome. We made the executive decision to add a couple of days there and see that amazing city for the first time. I was in charge of finding a place to stay and setting up any and all tours for the extended family. While I enjoyed it-this processes made me think signing up for a tour when traveling with an extended family is a bargain in the mental stress department! I spent more time worrying over those 2.5 days than I did on the 11 days in Sicily. My boys and I also prepared for the trip by watching documentaries, relevant RS videos and Gabe even read my copy Mary Beard’s SPQR. I also made sure to include everyone in choosing the key things they wanted to see in both Rome and throughout Sicily. We only had 2.5 days in Rome (this included our arrival half day) and based on family input the important sights/experiences were 1. The Colosseum 2. a food tour and 3. St. Peter’s Basilica. I therefore made our schedule based on these priorities. Note these were not necessarily my preferences but I thoroughly enjoyed everything!
We stayed right by the Pantheon at the Hotel Pantheon and loved it. The location couldn’t have been more central and the staff was lovely. Also our massive family suite had a bathtub and after some long days trekking around Rome, more than one family member relaxed their aching legs and feet in a nice bath! Our goal for our first afternoon in Rome was simply to stay up until at least 8 after not really sleeping much at all on our flights over. All six of us went to the Pantheon and I “led” our own RS walking tour of the Pantheon. We then walked to San Luigi dei Francesi which has the three Caravaggio’s on the life of St Matthew. We really enjoyed this and my husband who had been an art history major was able to give us a little more background on them. We then walked to the Piazza Navona and then crossed back to the Trevi Fountain which was a mob scene, and not really our thing but was certainly an experience. We split up for dinner and in somewhat of a fugue state we wandered around a bit before finding a place that was open, ate and then promptly went back to our hotel and passed out.