Kid Friendly Itineraries in Rome

Consider it a mission impossible to make a meaningful visit to Rome in one or two days. Rome is not like Florence or Venice, where most major sights are crowded into a compact central tourist district within walking distance.

Just getting from one place to another, with children in tow, is a daunting task. It is difficult to overstate how much more sprawling, chaotic and confusing Rome is compared to any other Italian city or even compared to Paris, London or New York.

But, if a few days are all the time you have, we have outlined a two-day itinerary, followed by a three- and five-day plan for your visit to Rome. In two full days you can at least get a sense of the ancient and sacred that mix to make Rome a living museum.

Remember: Even by taxi it can take 30 minutes or more to travel between most of these major sights, all of which are described in greater detail later in this chapter.

TWO-DAY ROME ITINERARY

Day 1: Ancient Rome

  • Ancient Rome (all day excursion): The Roman and Imperial Forums, the Colosseum, and surrounding sights. The fragments of ancient Rome scattered across the immense Roman Forum were the highlight of our children's visit.
  • Trevi Fountain (before or after dinner): Our kids loved throwing coins in the fountain. Save room for the excellent gelato sold across from the fountain.

Day 2: Sacred Rome

  • Vatican City (4 hours or more): St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums are awesome whatever your religious background. The Sistine Chapel was a high-point of our children's visit. They marveled at how one man Michelangelo could possibly have lain on his back for most of a year painting the famous ceiling frescoes.
  • Catacombs (2 hours): Kids love both the mystery and history of these cool underground burial mazes. Our children enjoyed the visit to Priscilla Catacombs because it was a small, personal tour (just us) that did not go on endlessly. (They are also convenient to the Borghese Gardens, Rome's central park, which is a nice break ÃÆ'¢Ãƒ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€š¬” see below).
  • Piazza Navona (evening): Our kids delighted in the street performers and sketch artists in this lively piazza filed with fountains, sculpture and sidewalk cafes.

THREE DAY ITINERARY

Day 1: Ancient Rome

  • See above.

Day 2: Sacred Rome

  • See above.

Day 3: Rome Old and New

  • The Pantheon (1 hour): Kids are awed that this pagan-temple-turned-church is nearly 2000 years old.
  • Capitoline Hill (2 hours or more): A short walk from the Pantheon, the Piazza del Compidoglio, overlooking the Roman Forum, is an architectural wonder and home to the Capitoline Museums. Kids love the many new interactive exhibits and the gigantic head and foot from a statue of Constantine.
  • St. Paul's Outside the Walls (1 hour): Second only to St. Peter's, this impressive basilica is built over the tomb of St. Paul.

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  • Church of the Bones – Santa Maria della Concezione: Near the entrance to the Borghese Gardens, in a crypt below the church, lies the strange spectacle of the bones of 4,000 Capuchin monks arranged into altars, friezes and chapels.

FIVE DAY ITINERARY

Day 1: Ancient Rome

  • See above.

Day 2: Sacred Rome

  • See above.

Day 3: Rome Old and New

  • See above.

Day 4: Relaxed Rome

  • Campo dei Fiori (1 hour or more): A taste of more ordinary Roman living at this lively outdoor food and flower market (open daily, except Sunday, until 1pm). Kids love to pick out their own breakfast or lunch. For a complete meal, La Carbonara is a good bet for a classic sit-down lunch (listed with restaurants below).
  • Borghese Gardens (2 hours or more): This is Rome's central park, a very quiet, safe and entertaining place for a picnic lunch, bicycling and afternoon fun. Two art museums also grace this enormous public park, notably the Galleria Borghese.

    Any sightseeing expedition you can follow by a visit to the Borghese Gardens will earn major brownie points with your kids.

    Tiny bumper car rides, ponies, bicycles and family peddle-carts to rent plus lots of paths and grass to run in. A great way to end (or break up) the day! This picturesque public park is home as well to one of Rome's top art museums Galleria Borghese which at least one adult can sneak off to see while the children play.

  • Spanish Steps (before or after dinner): The Piazza Di Spagna is a favorite hangout for people of all ages. With children it is best visited in the afternoon or early evening, when the musicians, artists and Italian families are at their most entertaining. The 137 steps are located just below one exit from the Borghese Gardens, so the two can be seen in tandem. A short walk away is Pizzeria Le Grotte, one of the best family restaurants in Rome.

Day 5: Around Rome

  • Cervetri (6 hours or more, including travel): Before the Roman Empire, the great Etruscan culture dominated the Italian Peninsula around present-day Rome and up through Tuscany.

    While Egyptian pharaohs were erecting pyramids, the more democratic Etruscans were constructing far-flung necropoli (cities of the dead) with fascinating burial mounds of varying sizes. The best of these are in Tarquinia and Cervetri, with the latter the closest about an hour by train from Rome and well worth the trouble.

  • Tivoli Gardens (4 hours or more, including travel): Tivoli is where the wealthiest Romans built their summer villas and it remains home to the Villa D'Este and its world-famous fountains. The gardens, hedge maze and whimsical fountains are great fun for kids and wondrous for adults particularly at night during May through September when the monumental sculpted fountains are floodlit. Tivoli is 40 minutes by train or car from the city center.

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