Rome is enjoyable at any age and will appeal to toddlers, kids, teenagers, and parents. It’s hard not to be amused by cobblestones, gladiators, ice cream, fountains, bicycles, horses, toy stores, parks, and tech museums. These suggestions for things to do in Rome with kids will keep all members of the family smiling.
- Many Roman museums have special activities and workshops for children. The Vatican has created a Family Tour (06/6988-1351) for 5-12-year-olds. It includes an audio guide and map that explores 32 stops from the Pinacoteca to the Sistine Chapel. The kit is available in English for €5 and can be rented from the Antena International office near the entrance to the museum.
- Roman parks are full of fun activities, and Villa Borghese is the safest bet for keeping children amused. There are playgrounds near the entrance at Via Veneto where bikes are available to rent and toddlers can go for pony rides. The park also has a zoo, boat pond, and miniature carousel.
- Once they’ve visited the Colosseum, boys and girls may want to be put to the gladiatorial test. The only way to do that is at the Scuola Gladitori Roma (Via Appia Antica 18, tel. 06/5160-7951, daily 9am-5pm) where they’ll learn about the everyday life of these ancient heroes and practice wielding a sword in a small outdoor arena. The instructors are part history teachers, part sparring partners who passionately re-create ancient Rome.
- Older children may enjoy the challenge of climbing to the top of the Gianicolo Hill, cupola of St. Peter’s, or the Vittoriano monument. All three come with satisfying views.
- Kids can take part in fun, quick traditions, such as sticking a hand inside the Mouth of Truth, tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, and looking through the Buco di Roma in Aventino. They can also watch the changing of the guards every hour at the Presidential Palace (Piazza del Quirinale). The ritual lasts about 10 minutes and is more elaborate on Sundays at 4pm when the mounted Corazzieri regiment takes part in the pageantry. Even using a simple fountain and collecting different denomination euro coins can be fun and form the basis of a treasure hunt-like adventure.
- Explora (Tridente, Via Flaminia 80, tel. 06/361-3776, Tues.-Sun. 10am, noon, 3pm, and 5pm, closed Aug. 13-19, €8), Rome’s children museum, is located in a former tram depot and is filled with hands-on activities about nature and science. Most kids are attracted to the water and fire engine exhibits, and tots can tumble in total safety in the upstairs play zone. On weekends reservations are required to ensure a place in one of the designated time slots, but the museum is less crowded during the week and throughout the summer.
- Zoomarine (Torvaianica, tel. 06/91534, weekends Apr., May, Sept., daily Jun.-Aug. 10am-7pm, €28), on the outskirts of the city, is a combination water park and animal preserve with hourly shows that may not be on par with SeaWorld but still delight young audiences. Dolphins, penguins, and parrots all have their dedicated areas in a park that’s easy to navigate, but crowded, in summer. Shuttle buses depart from the Visitor Center (Termini Station, Via Marsala) from 9:30am and round-trip tickets cost €10.
- At Via Appia Antica, Rome’s ancient road, bikes can be rented at the visitors center and horses are available to mount from the nearby stable. No previous riding experience is necessary and the stable also provides picnic lunches. Ostia Antica is another good half-day excursion that will stimulate young imaginations and help them understand what a Roman town was like.
- CamilloB (Vatican, Piazza Cavour 21/A, brunch Sat.-Sun. noon-3:30pm, tel. 06/683-2077, €18), a block from Castel Sant’Angelo, serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition to the wide variety of items available, there is a dedicated fun zone for kids, overseen by a qualified “brunchsitter.” Try your hand at table soccer or Ping-Pong between bites.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Rome, Florence, and Venice.