Rome, the Eternal City. Between the guidebooks, suggestions from friends, and your own list of “musts” you might end up feeling like you’ll need an eternity just to fit it all in. Add kids into the travel mix and planning starts to take on a panicked, frantic quality.
But it doesn’t have to.
Rome is actually full of family fun with things to appeal to all ages. You just might have to pare down your list of sights to ensure everyone has an enjoyable time. Here are 6 Steps to Exploring Rome with Kids.
6 Steps to Exploring Rome with Kids
Step 1 to Exploring Rome with Kids: Accommodations
We only had three days in Rome, so we opted for a hotel near the Termini Station, Rome’s main train station. With more time, an Airbnb apartment or home could be a better option. In the area around the train station there are myriad hotels and hostels for all budgets and family sizes.
Staying in the area around the train station makes public transportation a breeze while you’re exploring the city, whether you want to take the bus, the metro, or plan on taking a train for a daytrip outside the city. It also gives you a lot of options for snacks and coffee before you head out for the day, or for dinner when you return in the evening.
Step 2 to Exploring Rome with Kids: Walk through History
We spent our first day in Rome on a self-guided walking tour. There are ruins, churches, fountains, and myriad other little treasures concentrated in the immensely walkable central area of Rome.
We began at Trevi Fountain where we were early enough to see them cleaning out all the coins. From there, we visited the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. Along the way there is much, much more to see, so be sure to leave extra time for exploring, popping in to the gorgeous churches, and people watching.
Step 3 to Exploring Rome with Kids: Ruins
You can’t go to Rome and not see the ruins! Plan to spend at least half a day at the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. The Colosseum was much larger than we expected and we enjoyed taking our time wandering through both levels. The exhibits, models, and other displays on the second level are worth more than a cursory look. My seven year old daughter was especially fascinated by the large replica model and by a small rat skeleton on display with kitchen wares.
The Forum and Palatine Hill offer time to wander around in more open spaces after the crowds of the Colosseum. All three of these larger ruins are in the same area and make for a fascinating day of peeking at history.
Step 4 to Exploring Rome with Kids: Villa Borghese
We could have honestly spent our entire day on the Borghese grounds. The paths and trails are beautiful with lush scenery and gardens. There are ponds and fountains as well as massive statues and lots of sculptures and busts scattered throughout the gardens. A small replica of the Globe Theater sits in another section. Add in a large playground (hard to find in Italy in our experience), a zoo, and a couple restaurants and you’re set for the day.
The highlight, though, is the Borghese Gallery. It is tricky to get tickets and deciding to go last minute will not work. As soon as you know have Rome itinerary, I recommend booking your Borghese Gallery tickets for your preferred day. This breathtaking residence is now a museum full of incredible sculpture, intricate mosaics, and timeless classic art.
Step 5 to Exploring Rome with Kids: Downtime
Meal times are quite different and finding restaurants around Italy open at your normal lunch time can sometimes be problematic. Rome, luckily, has more options open earlier and through the afternoon break time. Some stores and restaurants will close around 2:00 pm and open again around 4:30 pm or even later. If you’re prepared to go with the flow and be adventurous, you won’t be put out by unexpected closings.
This mid-afternoon downtime ends up working perfectly when exploring with kids. We took advantage of the time to head back to the hotel and regroup for a couple hours. After some rest, we were ready to head back out some more exploring and the evening passeggiata stroll before a late dinner.
Step 6 to Exploring Rome with Kids: Transportation and Entrance Fees
A Roma Pass might be worth a look, depending on the length of your stay and your plans. In addition to covering your public transportation around Rome, it also offers free and reduced admission to museums and historical sites. If that’s not a good option for you, remember that young children are nearly always free on transportation and often free or a reduced rate at the museums and sites.
Exploring Rome with kids is so exciting. There is no end to the way you could configure your days, but with these tips, you’re sure to plan something interesting and enjoyable for everyone. And, if you can’t cram everything into your first trip, you’ll just have to return for another adventure!