A visit to the Eternal City is a wonderful way to introduce your children to the beautiful and chaotic life of Italy. Rome is full of amazing historical sites, going back to ancient times, and is where your children can walk in the footsteps of Julius Caesar or a gladiator. It can be a bit overwhelming with children since there is so much to do in Rome. Focus on the top must-see sites and don’t forget to just enjoy being in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
General tips on a Roman vacation with kids:
- The major sites get very crowded in the summer. Purchase entry tickets well in advance. Investigate whether the ROMA Pass, which gives you free/reduced and fast-track entry into many sites, would be helpful for your trip. We loved its front-of-the-line access and its ability to be used as a Metro pass.
- Many of the sites are in ruins and are hard to navigate with children. Investigate private guided tours of the sites to make them come alive for your family while also making it easier to navigate. We used several guides from Absolute Italy during our trip and its guides made sure to tailor our tours to our children’s interests and attention spans. Check out its scavenger hunt tour of the Vatican museums, which looks great with kids! Ciao Bambino can help set up guided tours and Rick Steves has many recommendations in his guidebooks.
- Transportation: Rome is a walkable city but it is quite large. Try to lump your site-seeing into one area a day. Be careful while walking as the crosswalks and traffic lights are mere suggestions to Italian drivers! Also be very aware of motor scooters who tend to come dangerously close to the sidewalk. This is especially dangerous on the side streets, which tend to have small sidewalks, if any at all! I recommend walking with your children on the side closest to the buildings, not the street. The Metro is easy to use but has limited coverage. Some of the stops have neat displays of items found during excavation for the subway. One of the best ways to see the entire city with young kids is the hop-on, hop-off buses. While touristy, they provide your family a fun and safe way to get to the main tourist destinations (and even some that aren’t well known!).
- Getting to and from the airport: From Rome’s Fiumicino airport, it is fairly easy and inexpensive to take the fast train into Rome’s Termini station. If you have a large family or lots of baggage, however, it may be easier to take a taxi or hire a private driver to get you into the city. It is a nice luxury after a long international flight!
- Food: Rome’s restaurants are some of the best in the world! Most trattorias serve fresh, local, house-made ingredients and are fairly inexpensive. Just check the menus to make sure what you are ordering is made in-house (there will be an explanation on the menu). Be sure to have daily gelato as well! Meals in Rome tend to take a while so pick a spot on a piazza so your kids can play while you relax!
- Accommodations: I have never stayed in an apartment in Rome but I am sure that is a wonderful and authentic experience. The major hotel chains have a large presence in Rome. We stayed in the Westin Excelsior on Via Veneto near the US Embassy. The rooms are super tiny so you will need multiple rooms to accomodate a family. Be sure to confirm that your hotel has air-conditioning.
- Weather: Rome is hot during the summer, which can make touring with kids much harder. Go out for the morning, have lunch, and then head back to the hotel for some quiet/nap time during the hottest part of the day. Head out refreshed for a late afternoon tour and enchanting dinner! Have refillable water bottles with you at all times, as the ancient Roman fountains are still in use today all throughout the city.
Don’t miss sites with kids: Websites are not listed as most of these sites do not translate into English. I have tried to describe the site for more information. Note that sites reviewed by The History Mom are marked with *.
- *Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum
- Pantheon: Amazing Roman temple now serving as the final resting place for influential Italians. Don’t miss looking up at the open oculus. Great area for restaurants. Usually free entry.
- *Vatican City (museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica)
- Baths of Diocletian: Ruins of a Roman bath now built into a church. Very interesting to tour! Usually free entry.
- Largo Argentina Ruins: Ruins close to where Julius Caesar was killed. Now home to a large feral cat population that my kids loved watching play and jump from ruin to ruin.
- Villa Borghese Gardens: Great park to let your kids run around and play. Also contains the Rome zoo.
- Piazza Navona
- Campo De Fiori market
- Trevi Fountain
- Spanish Steps
- Churches/Holy sites: Some of the best art and sculpture can be found in Rome’s churches. Most churches are free or have a small entry fee. As you walk around Rome, pop into the ones that look interesting to you! Some churches or holy sites that we saw were:
- Scala Sancta-open air stairs that were brought from Jerusalem. Said to be the stairs that Jesus took to Pontius Pilate. Free entry.
- Santa Croce in Gerusalemme-church with holy relics of the cross
- Appian Way and the catacombs
- Gladiator school: We almost did this on our trip but ran out of time. Through Absolute Italy, your kids can participate in gladiator school. What a fun activity to make the trip more meaningful!
Books to read:
- Guidebooks/travel memoirs:
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up:
Have you taken your children to the Eternal City? What was their favorite site or experience? Comment below!
This page is continually updated.