by Santorini Dave • Updated: December 16, 2018
Best Tours for Kids & Families in Rome
- Gladiator School – My new favorite thing to do in Rome. We did this on our last trip to Rome and both kids and adults absolutely loved it. Instructors are great. Highly recommended. Book far in advance. (Pictured above.)
- Walking Tour: Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill – Excellent guided tour of Ancient Rome. Skip the line to enter all three sites. Very kid-friendly.
- Pizza-Making & Dinner – Learn to make pizza at a local trattoria. Kid-friendly and fun!
- Rome Walking Tour and Gelato Tasting (2.5 hours by Walks of Italy) – A fun evening walk around the sites of central Rome. Less history and more gelato than the usual tour.
- Skip The Line Tickets (Highly Recommended): Ancient Rome & Colosseum Tour (3 hours) • Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, & St. Peter’s (3 hours) • Crypts and Catacombs (3.5 hours)
- Pompeii & Amalfi Coast Day Trip (13 hours by Walks of Italy) – Transportation and guide for Pompeii with stops in Positano and the Amalfi coast. Lunch included.
Best Things To Do With Kids In Rome
Tales of gladiators and ferocious lions will put your kids in the mood for a trip to the Colosseum. Rome’s iconic amphitheatre has been thrilling visitors for almost two thousand years and still today it draws vast crowds. That means queues. The busiest time is from mid-morning to around 2pm, so try to visit first thing or mid-afternoon. You’ll also cut waiting time if you reserve a skip-the-line tour. Alternatively, get your ticket at the Palatino, a short walk from the Colosseum on Via San Gregorio Magno. The ticket office there is generally a lot less crowded and as tickets cover admission to the Palatino, Colosseum and Roman Forum, it’ll save you time.
2. Climb St Peter’s Dome
With its priceless art treasures and hushed museums, the Vatican can be a challenge for parents with children in tow. But all is not lost. One way to keep your nippers’ happy is to climb St Peter’s dome. This landmark cupola, considered Michelangelo’s greatest architectural achievement, commands sweeping views from its height of 120m above the Basilica. To get to the top, you can either walk the 551 stairs or get a lift halfway and continue on foot. Whichever way you go, it’s a steep climb and not ideal for young toddlers or vertigo-sufferers. Tickets cost €7 including the lift, or €5 without. Once back on the ground, you can have fun taking selfies with the Swiss Guards on duty near the basilica. Also, see if you can to line up the columns on the piazza – to do this you’ll need to stand on one of the two floor discs near the central obelisk.
3. Throw Money into the Trevi Fountain
Kids, like adults, love the Trevi Fountain. It’s virtually a rite of passage for visitors to stop off at Rome’s largest and most spectacular fountain and toss a coin into the water. The custom is based on an urban legend according to which anyone who does so will one day return to Rome. Each day large crowds gather to put the myth to the test, throwing in around €3000 on an average day. For years this money was hoovered up by a local homeless man but the authorities eventually put a stop to that and the coins are now collected and given to a local Catholic charity.
4. Enjoy Rome’s Best Views
To impress your children, head to the Vittoriano on Piazza Venezia. This colossal white structure, actually a monument to Italy’s first king Vittorio Emanuele II, contains a number of museums and galleries. More spectacularly, it also provides the best views in Rome. To enjoy these, take the panoramic lift to the top from where you can look down on the entire city sprawled out beneath you. Tickets for the lift cost €7 for adults and €3.50 for 10 to 18 year-olds; under-10s go free.
5. Run Wild in the Park
Let your little ones off the leash in Villa Borghese, Rome’s central park. Formerly the estate of a powerful 17th-century cardinal, this 80-hectare oasis of green boasts a number of kid-friendly attractions. These include the Bioparco, Rome’s zoo, and the Giardino del Lago where you can hire rowing boats to paddle around a small lake. Bikes are also available to rent at various points in the park. For something less strenuous, you could catch a film at the Cinema dei Piccoli, the world’s smallest cinema situated near the park entrance on Piazzale San Paolo del Brasile.
Dark, creepy and full of skeletons, Rome’s catacombs are wonderfully spooky. The subterranean tunnels were used by the early Christians to bury their dead and many thousands of people were interred in them, including popes, saints and martyrs. In all it’s reckoned there are up to 300km of catacombs in Rome. The most famous lie beneath Via Appia Antica, including the 2nd-century Catacombe di San Callisto, the official cemetery of the early Roman Church, and the Catacombe di San Sebastiano, a lengthy network beneath the basilica of the same name. Visits to the catacombs, which are not suitable for children under about seven, are by guided tour only … as you wouldn’t want to get lost down there.
For a family bike ride, strike south to Via Appia Antica, aka the Appian Way. This legendary road, the most famous of ancient Rome’s consular highways, is flanked by lofty pine trees and lush green fields peppered with woods and crumbling ruins. Sections such as the stretch near the Basilica di San Sebastiano are traffic-free and ideal for relaxed, albeit bumpy, cycle rides. You can hire bikes at the Appia Antica Regional Park Information Point at Via Appia Antica 58-60. Bank on €3 per hour or €15 per day. To get to Appia Antica take bus 660 from Colli Albani metro station (line A) or bus 118 from Circo Massimo station (line B).
To show your kids what an ancient Roman city would have looked like, take the train out to Ostia Antica. Rome’s main sea port, Ostia was abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire and it eventually came to be buried in river silt. As a result, it has survived in remarkably good shape. Its headline features include a wonderfully preserved theatre and a baths complex, the Terme di Nettuno, adorned with mosaics. There are also plenty of amusing details such as an ancient café with a menu frescoed on the wall and a public toilet with open latrines set in a stone bench. To get to the site from Rome, take the Ostia Lido train from Stazione Porta San Paolo next to Piramide metro station. Get off at Ostia Scavi.
An excellent way to prep your kids for a trip to the Colosseum is to sign them up for a session at Rome’s Gladiator School. Here expert instructors from the Gruppo Storico Romano (Historic Group of Rome) will kit your budding gladiators with tunics and training swords, and teach them a series of basic combat techniques. Make it through the two-hour lesson and they’ll be rewarded with a certificate of participation. The school, located just off Via Appia Antica, also has a small museum with a cache of replica uniforms, armour and lethal-looking weapons. Courses, which can be booked through the school’s website, are best for kids over about 8.
10. Tour an Underground House
When exploring Rome’s ancient ruins it’s often difficult to know what you’re looking at. That’s not a problem at the Domus Romane, a series of excavated houses beneath Palazzo Valentini. The dwellings are brought back to life by video projections and sound effects which illustrate what they would once have been like. Visits should be booked in advance, either online or by phoning ahead. Best for older kids and teens.
11. Feast on Fast Food
Fast food Roman-style that is, so instead of burger and chips, think pizza and gelato. Sliced pizza, known in Rome as pizza al taglio, is a much-loved local speciality and there are hundreds of takeaways serving it across town. One of the best is Pizzarium (Via della Meloria 43), a short walk from the Vatican Museums. Another favourite Roman bite is the supplì, a fried croquette stuffed with rice and mozzarella. For something sweet, get stuck into the local gelato. Romans take their ice cream very seriously and the city is awash with excellent gelaterie such as Venchi (Via degli Orfani 87), renowned for its decadent chocolate creations, and Fatamorgana (Via Laurina 10), which serves unusual innovative flavours alongside more classical offerings.
12. Take a Lie Detector Test
Telling a fib can be a costly business in Rome. According to a popular Roman legend if you put your hand in the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) and tell a lie the mouth will slam shut and bite it off. The mouth in question belongs to an old man whose image is etched into a round marble disc. This was probably part of an ancient fountain but now sits in the portico of the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. To prep for your visit check out the famous scene of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn at the Bocca in Roman Holiday. Apparently, her reaction when Gregory Peck pretends to lose his hand was entirely genuine as the scene was unscripted and she had no idea what he was going to do.
13. Look out for Cats
You don’t have to go to the zoo to see animals in Rome. Head to Largo di Torre Argentina and you’ll come across some of Rome’s favourite four-legged friends. The Largo, a sunken area of ancient temple ruins where Julius Caesar was murdered, is out of bounds to humans but home to a thriving community of stray cats. These feline residents are looked after by volunteers from the cat sanctuary in the Largo’s north-eastern corner.
As well as cats, Rome’s streets are full of animals. Most are carved in stone, though. Look carefully and you’ll find lions, horses, bees, wolves, even an elephant near the Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
14. Go Toy Shopping
If you’re looking to win your kids over after a day’s sightseeing, make a beeline for Bartolucci (via dei Pastini 96-99) near the Pantheon. An old-fashioned toy shop, this magical store doesn’t have an electronic gizmo in sight. Rather its brightly-lit interior is packed with colourful wooden toys ranging from ticking cuckoo clocks to long-nosed Pinocchios, planes and rocking horses. For more toys, push on to Piazza Navona where Al Sogno (Piazza Navona 53) is a historic emporium known for its extravagant window displays and comprehensive stock of cuddly animals.
15. Explore a Museum
There are few child-specific attractions in Rome but one is Explora, a dedicated kids’ museum a short walk from Flaminio metro station. Aimed at under-12s, it has hands-on displays, water features, and interactive exhibits. A particularly popular feature is its life-sized model of a train-driver’s cabin. There are also workshops where your kids can make stuff. Visits are in two-hour time slots so try to book ahead and fix an entrance time.
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