The Eternal City awaits! Here are the best bits (for kids).
While the Eternal City buzzes with enough history, art and culture to give us adults an overflowing must-see and do list, the things that float our boats don't float the kids'.
So how do we keep them from miserably dragging their heels across every piazza or muttering 'boring' through the length of the Vatican?
Plan every day with a gelato stop (or two). Rome does THE BEST gelato and yes, we have taste tested gelato from the top to the bottom of Italy so make the most of the Eternal City's eternal flavours in a moment to sit on a piazza and savour 'la dolce vita'. We recommend Flor in our blog post, which conveniently is located, especially if you stay in Rione Monti which we'd also recommend! Have a read here.
Bring good (and comfy) shoes - there's a lot of walking in Rome.
There's also an easy-to-use Metro system with children under 11 travelling free and all transport included in the ticket but don't bother with the bus especially if you have young ones, the buses are tricky to get onto and typically packed. Not all Metro stations are pushchair-friendly so if you do have an entourage, perhaps opt for a taxi?
Taxis are an easy and quick method of transport in Rome and can be flagged or ordered using the Free Now App. All Romans can speak English, they study it at school! It's more whether they feel encouraged to use it or not but generally, everybody is chatty, helpful and proud to show off their city as the obvious centre of the entire civilised world. Remember, kids seats are not provided.
Buy a map - yes, yes, it's old-fashioned but kids love a map and it'll keep them walking. Mark your next destination with an X and challenge them to take you there! Maps also make a great souvenir to look back on one day and reminisce of all the places you visited.
Jump the queues! There are a couple of ways to do this. One, is to book a guided tour of the sight you're planning to visit, two, is to purchase a Roma Card or Omnia Card (see point 9.)
Get an audio guide. Especially at the Vatican!
Book a tour. The Colosseum is jaw-dropping!! To stand where gladiators fought lions is colossally impressive but even more so if someone describes it to you in vivid detail (do be aware that some tales are rather gruesome...) Kid-friendly tours are available through LivTours who organise many tailormade tours throughout the city. They do a fun family one with a scavenger hunt in the Colosseum which is always fun. Rome4Kids organises a fantastic Vatican Museum tour which ends up at the Sistine Chapel. Coopculture is the official Colosseum tour organiser with family tours at reasonable prices, the 'English Didactic Visit' takes you down into the dungeons with access to the Forum for £35, it's a bargain but make sure you book well in advance as they always sell out quickly.
Purchase a Roma Pass or Omnia Card. Look into bagging entry to attractions, free travel, skip the queue tickets and discounts here and there (plus that map we mentioned) with the very well-priced Roma Pass at £52 for 3 days or £32 for 2 days. Omnia costs quite a bit more but includes all the Roma Card has to offer plus entry to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and use of the extremely handy Hop-on/Hop-off Buses which are incredibly useful for tired little legs, just picture... nice nocciola gelato, breezy top of the bus - there's nothing boring about that!
Keep them extra happy (double brownie points) with pizza. Street food Pizza al Taglio and Rome's Pizza Rossa is found in bakeries all over town. It's the Roman way to grab a slice, find some marble steps and take a break in the shade.
11. Stay hydrated at water fountains all over town. 'Potabile' means drinkable but most of them are. Bring a water bottle and keep it topped up - the water is clean and cool, they did invent plumbing after all - it's just what you need on a hot day.
12. Avoid August. Romans exit Rome in August for a reason - it's unbearably hot. No kid (or adult) will enjoy what beautiful Roma Eterna has to offer if every step is a sweaty effort. Have a read on the 'Best Time to Visit Rome' here.
13. We bought a 'Then and Now Ancient Rome' book for our kids which had lots of information and clever superimposed pictures. These are sold all over the city in tourist information points and bookshops. This one from Usborne is a fun way to soak up some history for ages 6-10.
14. Get the App. There are some brilliant age-adapted apps available like Ancient Rome for Kids on Apple and TrovaTrails featuring interactive puzzles and self-solving trails for a family adventure through ancient Rome.
Must see/do's with the kids in Rome:
1. The Colosseum (climb to the highest point)
2. The Sistine Chapel (it's epic)
3. The Cappuccini Monk Crypt (be aware that these catacombs are chock-a-block with real human skeletons, spot-on for teenagers but not for the faint-hearted)
4. Augustus and Cesar Forum Night Shows (atmospheric and packed with history)
5. Leonardo Da Vinci museum (a fun hands-on experience for left-brainers especially)
6. Imperial Forums (ruins are cool)
7. Via dei Fori Imperiali (at night - full of street artists, music and entertainment)
8. Trevi Fountain (make a wish)
9. The Mouth of Truth (test your character)
10. The Pantheon (2000 years old, its unreinforced dome is impressive)