The eternal city can turn infernal if you have cranky children traveling with you. Here are some of our best tips for enjoying Rome with kids and keeping everyone from the littlest tike to the too cool for school teenager, entertained.
Roma Estate – Summer in the City
Fun for the whole family. Every Friday evening from late June to the beginning of August this hilarious troupe performs a family friendly romp through Roman history. The backdrop of the Roman forum is spectacular on a warm summer evening. Sit on the church steps and be prepared to laugh and learn.
From June 15 until September 1, all along the Tevere river bank and Tiber Island (Isole de Tevere) there are restaurants and market stalls that come alive after sunset.. You can have a sit down meal or take-away snacks and walk along the river. After dinner, there are boardwalk style games with prizes to entertain.
Manhole Cover Bingo
Look down and you will notice manhole covers with SPQR stamped on them on almost every Roman sidewalk. The motto for the city of Rome is the Latin phrase, Senatus Populus Que Romanus, The Senate and the People of Rome. What you might not have noticed is that each manhole cover, tombino in Italian, is made in a different place; Roma, Ostia, Salerno, Viterbo, etc. Make a game of identifying the different ones.
Boca di Verita
The most famous Tombino in Rome is the Boca di Verita. This first century sculpture is widely believed to represent the ancient god of the river tiber, and since the middle ages served as a lie detector. Legend said that a lier who placed their hand inside the sculptures’ mouth would have it bitten off! Located near the Circo Massimo, which is a large empty space that is great for kids to run.
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Keep little one’s occupied by having them count steps. The Spanish Steps, the Campidoglio and the nearby Santa Maria in Aracoeli should keep them busy.
Birds Eye View
Once you have counted and climbed to the top of the Campidoglio you can still go higher at the nearby Vittoriano monument. Take the panoramic elevator to the top of the monument and get a 360 degree perspective of the city and beyond.
You could spend an entire day just in the Villa Borghese park There is a zoo, a lake with paddle boats and ducks, bikes to rent, carrousels to ride, cafes to have a drink and a snack and lots of space to run and roam and rest.
The Botanical Gardens in the neighborhood of Trastevere offer acres of green with numerous paths to wander. There are fountains and a rose garden and a even a bamboo forest. Closed Sundays.
Restaurant hours in Rome can be pretty strict. Lunch is from 12:30/1:00 and dinner from 7:30 at the earliest. Tame a hungry child with a slice of pizza bianca or a pizza mortadella sandwich.
Got a picky eater? Just about any restaurant will make you a plate of plain pasta with olive oil and parmesan or plain tomato sauce, even if you don’t see it on the menu. Just ask for pasta bianco or rosso
For little kids, order their gelato in a cup. It is way less messy than a cone.
Older kids might enjoy the beautiful but slightly macabre crypt in The Church of Santa Maria della Concezione on the legendary via Veneto. The bones of 4,000 dead Capuchin monks are artfully arranged into decorative and elaborate designs insode the Capuchin Crypt. The crypt has six rooms. Five that feature unique display of human bones that are believed to have been taken from the bodies of friars who had died between 1528 and 1870. This unique site is more fascinating than morbid, the brothers see it as a mediation on the fleeting nature of temporal life.
Shop ‘till you Drop
Shoppers will love the Tridente area with it’s mix of affordable chain stores and big designer names. The stores Brandy and Energie are where the stylish Roman high school students shop. Stock up on classic Superga sneakers and travel size italian beauty products at one of the many Beauty Point locations.
This easy to reach site is much less exhausting day trip than Pompeii. It is less crowded and has much more shade to rest and green spaces for kids to run. Less than an hour’s train ride and €1.50 away. After some roman ruin exploring you can hop back on the metro and head two stops to Ostia for a day at the beach.
Preschoolers will love the classic This is Rome by Miroslav Sasek. Find a copy in Italian and practice your Italian.
Make the history come to life for elementary and early middle-schoolers with Carolyn Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries series.
Older children and teens can dive into the historical fiction of Steven Saylor and Kate Quinn or the thrilling Angels and Demons written by Dan Brown.