City break Guide: Rome with Young children
Type the words ‘Rome family travel’ into a search engine and thousands of results will appear urging you to avoid visiting with your kids at all costs.
Dig deeper though and you’ll discover that the problem isn’t Rome itself but the travelers’ approach to it. Try to cram in too much and you will end up with bad tempered children (and adults!) begging to return to their hotel. However Rome is a unique city and in many ways it’s a crime to deprive them of it until they’re older.
The Italians are exceptionally child friendly, most restaurants will bend over backwards to accommodate you and there’s plenty of green parks and even some paddling pools to escape to when it all becomes a little too much. As with most trips abroad with kids the key tip is planning and understanding. If you accept that you won’t be able to see everything and that your two-year-old may not be quite as fascinated by Roman burial grounds as you are then you’re far more likely to have a relaxed, tantrum free and enjoyable holiday.
Here's our low down of when to go to Rome, where to stay as a family and the best things to do with young children there.
• The best time to go to Rome with children
• Shopping for baby products in Rome
• Getting to Rome
• Places to Visit with young children
• Eating out with children
• Family Accommodation in Rome
Aim to visit in May or September. There will be far fewer tourists, it’ll be easier to find somewhere to stay and it’ll be far easier to introduce your kids to the Vatican or Colosseum without a surging crowd pushing you around. Rainfall peaks in October and November when the city sees twice as much rain as London so pack an umbrella if you’ll be visiting at the end of the year!
Away from the station there’s the usual range of small corner shops, slightly larger mini-marts and gigantic behemoth hypermarkets on the outskirts of town. Pharmacies are sometimes expensive, but a reliable option for baby food and baby milk. See our further information on baby milks, food and nappies available in Italy.
It is linked to the city centre by the Leonardo Express. The train costs a rather steep €14 each way but children under 12 travel free if accompanied and under 4s always travel free (although one would hope that they are accompanied!).
A taxi into Rome will cost €45 (this is a flat fare for up to four people and includes luggage, although some taxi drivers will try and add on extra charges if they think they can get away with it).
The cheapest way to the centre of Rome is the Terravision bus which costs €4 per person each way (infants under 24 months travel free but must have a ticket, there are no discounts for children). Tickets can be prebooked online.
Ciampino favored (unsurprisingly) by Ryanair and almost nobody else is the city’s low-cost gateway. In a rare departure from form however the airport is actually closer to central Rome than its busier counterpart. The airport is also linked to the city centre by a Terravision bus which charges the same prices as its Fiumicino equivalent . Alternatively a taxi costs €35 (again this includes up to 4 people and all their luggage)
Central Rome is blessed with a wide range of parks. The Villa Mattei is only a stone’s throw from the colosseum but is a world away from the chaos, hustle and bustle of central Rome. Bring a picnic and a ball and you’ll have a fantastic time.
Many of Rome’s squares have play equipment (slides, swings, roundabouts) tucked away in a corner which is a great if your kids just need to run off some steam.
Often you’ll be able to observe this from a nearby café. If sipping a cocktail while your kids entertain themselves isn’t close to your idea of heaven then I don’t know what is!
Rome’s signature attraction is probably not so appealing to babies and toddlers who will probably be less impressed by the history of the place than you!. However a visit outside of the summer months will be a relaxed one and you’ll get some great photos for the family album.
Do beware of the ‘gladiators’ and other costumed individuals clustered around the outside of the monument. Local rumor has it that many of these are ex-cons and they can get a bit demanding if you snap a picture with them and don’t immediately offer up a fistful of euros for their ‘services’. There are plenty of police around should you encounter any problems.
Metro: Colosseo (Line B)
Explora Children’s Museum
A fairly new attraction (by Roman standards anyway!). The Explora is a hands on experience packed with the usual array of interactive exhibits, touchscreens and things which make loud noises. The museum is almost guaranteed to appeal to children aged four and up but may leave younger children a little baffled. Admission tickets are €7 although children over the age of three are considered to be adults.
Metro: Flaminio – Piazza del Popolo (Line A)
Another of Rome’s staple attractions the Vatican’s history makes it a truly unique attraction and well worth the visit. Do be wary however of spending too long there and be careful to take time to explain things to your children who may find the whole experience a little overwhelming.
There are also specific tours aimed at families and children which will be worth considering if you’re hoping to get the most out of your visit.
Metro: Ottaviano San Pietro – Musei Vaticani (Line A)
Some children are entranced by the sense of history, the noise and bustle of the city and the wonderful Italian food. Many will certainly enjoy the attention from the child loving Italians. Others may wilt in the heat and simply be overwhelmed by the city. Think about your child, what they enjoy and what they’ll get out of the holiday before booking.
When you plan your days, you have to do this of course with your child in mind. Consider mixing sights wiht time in the parks and remember to always carry water and snacks with you (as much for you as your child. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll become dehydrated!). It's not advisable to joing main tour groups with very young children as you may need more stops or struggle to keep up with the pace of a group.
Take a carrier for young children instead of a buggy so that you can negotiate busier area easily.
Don’t hesitate to head back to your accommodation for an hour or two if the heat is becoming a little too much. Rome is a city that keeps going well into the night so you won’t miss much by having a nap (never a siesta in Italy!) for an hour or two after lunch.
If you’re looking for lunch on the run then head into a deli for a sandwich (panino, panini is the plural). Delis will also be able to offer cuts of ham or cheese which even very young children often take to and if the heat gets a little too much then there’s always gelato (ice-cream) which can be had for less than €2 if you look carefully.
If it’s the evening, grab a slice of pizza al taglio. This is how the Roman’s really eat and is an excellent way to keep going if you’re stomach is growling before dinnertime.
Roman restaurants are generally very child friendly and so long as you avoid the very busiest tourist traps waiters and restaurant owners will generally be very flexible and keen to find something your child wants to eat so don’t be scared to ask about simpler meals for kids before you sit down. Most children eat pasta and you'll find one with a simple tomato sauce
Tavola Caldas can be an excellent idea if you’re not sure about what your kids will eat. Similar to British self-service cafeterias in form but not selection or quality tavola caldas will feed a family of four for less than €60.
A great option as in many Mediterranean countries is to buy from the markets. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are fabulous. Take a hand blender with you and make up fresh purees for your baby.
An apartment is an excellent idea if you’re visiting Rome with young children as you’ll have far more space than in a hotel room. And if the children are tired from a day's sight seeing, it gives you space to relax with a glass of local vini while the children sleep. There's also the possible assistance of Roman neighbours as Italians love kids and should your neighbours have kids they’ll often be delighted to help you with any items you may have forgotten and advise on the best places to take your children.
The kitchen is also a godsend and provides a great fallback if your kids don’t take to the cuisine of Rome quite as much as you do. Oh-Rome.com has a good selection of apartments but there are many providers to choose from.
Further readingYou might also enjoy:
A Parents Eye View of Rome
Travelling with children to Italy for information on buying baby milk and food, nappies and the Italian car seat regulations