- Villa Borghese. Head to this gigantic park for the green space and the zoo. In addition, kids can pedal a bike or go-kart, or take a ride on the Bioparco Express train (Web site: http://www.bioparco.it/english/) which circumnavigates the zoo. The Villa Borghese’s museum, the Galleria Borghese, is one of the best in Rome, but I wouldn’t take my 5 year old. However I definitely recommend the museum for kids with an art attention span of 1 – 2 hours (buy tickets in advance).
- St. Peter’s and the Vatican. Start at St Peter’s by taking the elevator (most of the way) to the top of the dome and enjoy the incredible view, then visit the gigantic cathedral. If your kids are okay in a museum for 90 minutes, hit the Vatican museums ideally around lunchtime during the week for fewest crowds, and go straight to the Raphael Rooms and then the Sistine Chapel. (And definitely avoid the Vatican on free Sundays.) Walking at a leisurely kid pace, this route will take the full 90 minutes.
- Hop On Hop Off Bus. Did I mention Rome is built on 7 hills? For anyone carrying a child in a carrier or traveling with a preschooler who refuses to sit in the stroller but can’t walk for more than a couple hours, I highly recommend seeing the main sights of Rome from the top of the Hop On Hop Off red bus #110. Catch it at Termini Station where it begins so that you get a good seat, and don’t hop off. Just ride the whole loop (which takes a couple of hours) and listen to the narration on the provided headphones. (we sell tickets)
- The Pantheon. Cool inside, open every day, and a relatively quick stop makes the Pantheon a winner for kids of every age.
- Let the kids explore, and give them a theme. If they’re little, have them find fountains or look out for the letters SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus, which means The Senate and the People of Rome in Latin) found all over the city. If they’re a little older have them try to find family crests and symbols which are carved around Rome – they’ll find lions, dragons, bees, stars, balls, trees, and eagles to name a few.
- Colosseum and Forum. This is a great place to paint the picture of Ancient Rome for kids. If they have an iPod, download Rick Steves free 1-hour audio tour, tell the story for them from your guidebook, or even better, buy a children’s book about Rome before you leave so that the kids already know a little bit about it. Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in a long line.
- Fountains. Start with the spectacular Trevi Fountain, but have the kids look out for others – Rome has fountains. Not only are the fountains themselves works of art, but kids love to throw in a coin or two (and foreign currency goes to the Red Cross while Euros go to the Catholic Church). At Trevi, have them try to find the (pretty spectacular) drinking fountain on the right side of The Ace of Cups.
- Finding great ice cream in Rome. Italian “gelato” is one of the highlights of any visit to Rome, and will be what your kids are still asking for when you get back home! Make your way through Rome taste-testing gelaterias as you go.
Alessia Tordi e Daniele Barbera