Family holidays in Rome
Rome is one of the world’s best cities to visit with children. History comes to life as remnants of our ancient past are ever-present in the Eternal City. Filled with iconic monuments, art masterpieces, and a few of Western Civilization’s most important attractions, families find there is no way to experience all Rome has to offer in a single trip so prioritizing is a must. Mixing structured sightseeing time and wandering through the city’s diverse and lively neighborhoods is the most rewarding approach to understanding Rome. Any visit with children should include joining the locals for the evening passeggiata, strolling Italian-style, down the Via del Corso. Sampling Rome’s best gelato in each neighborhood during the course of a trip will provide excellent exploration motivation for little legs.
The Colosseum, the heart of Ancient Rome, is magnificent to explore with children as this 2,000-year-old amphitheatre is remarkably well preserved and it’s easy to imagine what life was like in the Roman Empire. Movie buffs will see visions of Ridley Scott’s film The Gladiator before them. Pair a visit with a two-hour lesson in dueling just as the Roman’s did at Gladiator School for an unforgettable afternoon.
Villa Borghese gardens
Rome is urban and the expansive green space in the Villa Borghese gardens is a welcome respite, particularly over summer months when throngs of tourists are in the streets. The second largest park in Rome, Villa Borghese Park, contains loads of open green space for kids to run, a few small playgrounds, several villas, one of Europe’s oldest zoos, a puppet theater, paddle boating on a small lake, and even a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Lined with artisans and cafes, the city square of Piazza Navona has been used for centuries as a gathering place and it’s still bustling with action today. The square is car-free so children can have some freedom to play while parents relax with a drink, soak in the magical setting, and admire Bernini’s breathtaking Fountain of the Four Rivers with an Egyptian obelisk and Giacomo Della Porta’s Fountain of Neptune.
Pair a Vatican tour with Castel Sant’Angelo on the banks of the Tiber River. Through the years it’s been a papal fortress, residence, and prison. Although visitors can’t access it today, there’s a secret corridor, the Passetto di Borgo, connecting the building to Vatican City. Dan Brown enthusiasts will remember it from his thriller Angels & Demons. There are many exciting stories behind the Castel to enhance a visit — it’s best to experience this attraction with a kid-friendly tour guide or good podcast for the full effect. The highlight is the spectacular view from the top terrace overlooking the city.
The creepiest place in Rome is undoubtedly the Capuchin Crypt, a set of six chapels under the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church comprised entirely human skulls and bones taken from the 4,000 friars buried there in the 1600s. Bones are nailed to the walls in intricate patterns and the ceiling is adorned with bone chandeliers. Recommended for ages 8 and up. Postcard image by Amie O'Shaughnessy.