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Rome Family Holidays & Breaks

ColosseumColosseum© Archidea | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Saint Peter's Square, Vatican CitySaint Peter's Square, Vatican City© Vika | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Trevi FountainTrevi Fountain© Rmcguirk | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Flying Time 2.5hrs
Carbon Footprint 1.28 CO2
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

There are few better places than Rome to make the past come to life for your kids, whether they're throwing a coin in the Trevi or pretending to be gladiators in the Colosseum. The ultimate school-history project destination, this is one of the world's greatest cities, with countless attractions introducing families to a slice of ancient history, plus like the rest of Italy a hugely welcoming attitude to younger visitors.

Nevertheless, this is also a busy, hectic place and hence one best appreciated with older children, with whom you can do most of your sightseeing on foot and for whom the historic sites will be most engaging. Crowds, heat and a scarcity of clean public toilets make the city less suitable for those travelling with babies and under-fives.  

Things to do with kids in Rome

In Rome perhaps more than anywhere else, there can be a temptation to pack too many sites into one day, so give kids time to let off steam in one of the city's parks and make frequent stops to sample the fantastic gelati on offer in the pretty piazzas.

Explore Imperial Rome. Start your trip with a visit to the Forum, centre of political, commercial and judicial life in Ancient Rome. Bring the past to life for budding historians by viewing the whole area from the heights of the Capitoline Hill first, before heading in to explore the ruined temples and basilicas. (Go early to avoid the crowds and the heat of the midday sun.) Kids will love the Colosseum at the east end of the Forum, where they can follow in the footsteps of the gladiators and let their imaginations run riot reenacting the battles and wild animal fights that took place here.

Walking up from the Roman Forum to the Palatine, take in some of Rome's most relaxing ancient sites and some some much-needed shade. Stroll through the Farnese Gardens before visiting the palace ruins of Domus Flavia and Domus Augustana and letting your kids run off some steam at the Stadium (a former palace garden and racing track). Bear in mind that many museums close on Mondays.

Head for the Centro Storico and the Pantheon – the historic centre of Rome is full of activity. Browse the markets in the bustling Campo de'Fiori or take in Bernini's fountains in the Piazza Navona – a great bet for families and never too crowded, even in the height of summer. The Pantheon, the Roman temple of all gods, and its vast dome are appreciated from the inside. Close-by, the Time Elevator Roma is a 30-minute multimedia ride taking kids on a whistle-stop tour of 3,000 years of ancient Roman history.  

If you have more time, venture south to Piazza Bocca della Verità, where kids can place their hand in the Mouth of Truth, a marble face in the porch of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. According to legend the Bocca della Verità closes shut over the hand of anyone who tells a lie. Also worth a visit is EXPLORA, the first Italian interactive museum for children, in the north of the Centro Storico close to Piazza del Popolo.

Don's miss Vatican City: send a postcard from the Vatican Post Office and explore the rambling rooms of the Vatican Museums, passing Egyptian mummies and portraits of Michelangelo on the way to the Sistine Chapel. Skip the queues by buying tickets online. Take a trip up the dome of St Peter's Basilica, from where you can look down on the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Gardens, but remember to dress appropriately to meet the Basilica's strict dress code.

Visit Castel Sant Angelo, a fortress connected to the Vatican via a covered passageway built as an escape route for the Pope in times of danger. The 58-room museum retraces all aspects of the castle's history, while the terrace offers spectacular views over Rome.

Take kids 5-8 to an Italian-language workshop at the Zaha Hadid designed Maxxi Museum of Contemporary Art.

Escape the crowds by going to Janiculum (Gianicolo Hill), where entertainment includes carriage rides and puppet shows, and where you can enjoy the views and watch the firing of the cannon each day at noon.

Hire bikes and rowing boats at Borghese Gardens, the most famous of Rome's parks, or indulge little ones with pony and cart rides and a visit to the small funfair and to Bioparco, the park's small zoo.

Lastly, don't leave Rome without heading to Tridente to throw a few coins into the Trevi Fountain or to let kids run riot on the Spanish Steps.

The award-winning walking tours firm Context Travel can make Rome more accessible to those with kids with its family walks: Ancient Rome Discovery, Capitoline Museums for Families, Galleria Borghese for Families, the Mythology Workshop, Underground Rome for Families, and Vatican for Families. Walks last 2-3hrs and cost from €220 per family.

Eat

Rome has a restaurant to suit every purse and palate – the restaurants in the neighbourhoods of San Lorenzo and Trastevere are especially popular for their reasonably priced delicious home cooking. Happily for family holidays, children are welcome in all restaurants and are served mezze porzioni on request. Cantina Cantarini in Piazza Sallustio is a good, traditional, reasonably priced trattoria; for pizza, La Montecarlo near Piazza Navona is very popular with locals.

You might even combine dinner and sightseeing with a meal at Ristorante Da Pancrazio, located above the ruins of the Theatre of Pompey: tuck into classic dishes before paying a visit to the ruins of the theatre where Caesar met his untimely death.

In summer, head to Rome's boat-shaped Tiber Island, which fills up with restaurants and bars, plus an open-air cinema, for long lazy evenings.

When to go to Rome

The best time to schedule family holidays or breaks is Rome is early spring or late autumn; July and August are usually hot and humid, leading to bad-tempered children (and parents), and there are just too many tourists around then too (sensible Romans get out of the city). Also avoid Christmas and Easter, when St Peter's is packed with pilgrims.  

The excellent tourist board website for children in Rome, Smart Kids on Tour in Rome (piccolituristi.turismoroma.it), has lots of information on current exhibitions, things to see and do in Rome, getting around, family-friendly places to eat, and much more.

Cost

Like most capitals, Rome isn't the cheapest choice for family holidays or breaks, but 3-night city breaks in a 2-star hotel, including flights, can be had for less than £200pp if you book well in advance.

Those doing the rounds of the historic sites can save money (as well as circumvent the queues) with the Rome Archaeological Card, which offers a saving on entrance to nine major attractions including the Colosseum.

By Zannah Ingraham

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