Kids in Rome
Traveling to Rome with kids? Here are some ideas, tips, and tricks:
Rome for Different Ages
Some thoughts on traveling with kids of various ages:
Babies - You can take a baby almost anywhere, apart from some of the most fancy restaurants (and even there you'll probably be OK unless your baby is especially fussy—Italians generally love babies/kids). Just plan on taking it slow, since everything takes longer with a baby! (Also especially babies can find jetlag challenging—in the past we got to experience an empty Trevi Fountain thanks to our baby waking up at 4 AM 🙃)
Toddlers - It can be more challenging to bring a toddler than a baby, since they want to run around everywhere and have more of a "mind of their own". That being said, they can appreciate the delicious Italian food, and there are plenty of pedestrianized streets/piazzas that are fun for them to run around.
Young school-age - At this age, you can involve your kid more in the trip planning, and they can really understand and remember the experience; you can also do more of the "kid-centric activities" (below) like cooking classes.
Older school-age/teenagers - Especially if your kids are into history/archeology/religion, they might be especially interested in some of the sights to see in Rome. Consider inviting them to take an active role in planning (part of) the trip—that way they'll both feel more empowered and be more interested. Mature teenagers can even go on their own adventures if there's something they want to do that's different from the rest of the family.
Strollers vs Carriers - strollers can be awkward to maneuver on the cobblestone streets (and occasional stairs), so we've found more success with baby carriers, but some others swear by strollers...if you're staying at a hotel, you might also check to see if they have "loaner" strollers (that way you can use one if you find it helpful, but you don't need to schlep it around)
Diapers & Baby Food - ...are easily available in Italy, so there's no need to bring a bunch with you
our favorite European "organic" diapers are Moltex, which are available at Naturasì stores (some convenient ones in the historic center are at Piazza Farnese 99 near Campo de' Fiori and via dei Prefetti 13 in Tridente)
Dress code - if you're going into St Peter's (and some other churches), you must have your shoulders & knees covered, so dress appropriately (they are a bit more lenient with babies/very young toddlers)
Melatonin & Jetlag - some friends said that they use this (0.5-1 mg), starting 1-2 days before the trip, to help reset their kids' biological clocks; some doctors online recommend against melatonin for kids <3 years old though
Binoculars - some folks online recommend these for helping kids experience sights like the Sistine Chapel?
Paper & Pens/Pencils - bring a notepad/paper and some stuff to draw with for restaurants and other waits
Fun for Everybody
With the exception of a few of the most stuffy palazzi or churches, almost every sight in Rome can be of interest to kids. Especially with the right framing or tour guides, places like the Colosseum, St Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon, and the many piazzas/fountains can delight people of all ages. Check out main Rome page for a list of my favorite places to see. Similarly, everyone can appreciate great food, especially gelato!
You can also find ways to make ordinary sightseeing more fun/kid friendly, for example:
Races/physical activity - e.g. race up the stairs of the Campidoglio to see the view of the Roman Forum, or same thing at the Spanish Steps (or for more "fun with stairs", older kids who don't mind confined spaces might like climbing to the top of St Peter's dome)
Fun/free water - learn how to drink out of the "nasone" fountains (this short video shows how)
St Peters Square fun - run around to all the "wind directions" on the Piazza San Pietro Wind Rose (this page also notes that there are special spots in the piazza where Bernini's columns all align in 1 row)...also some kids will be fascinated that this is a separate country (and enjoy jumping between Italy & Vatican City, crossing the international border multiple times)
Rubbings - bring crayons or colored pencils and paper to do "rubbings" of interesting textures/inscriptions (like "SPQR" imprinted on many utility covers)
Cat Sanctuary - this is fun for adults too, but Largo Argentina has Roman ruins (it's likely the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated) and a place where you can pet rescued stray cats (Cat Sanctuary website)
Various forms of "I spy with my little eye":
Mission Rome: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure by Catherine Aragon - book for younger elementary-school aged kids recommended by some online, can get it at Amazon & other retailers --> we tried this with Adam when he was 5 and he enjoyed it
On the street: How many different colors of vespa you see? How many "street corner Marys" (Madonnelle stradarole) can you spot?
Art "treasure/scavenger hunt" - e.g. print out photos of famous pieces of art in a museum for kids to find, or make a list of things for them to find (e.g. a bunch of tour companies run these for kids, including Rome4Kids recommended by CN Traveler)
"Marble animals" - lots of the statues and fountains in Rome have animals on them, including the following (Rome4Kids has this cute video advertising their tour on the same subject):
Bernini's elephant at Piazza Minerva (near the Pantheon, which has its own dolphins at Piazza della Rotonda's fountain)
Barberini bees (on the St Peters baldochino and Piazza Barberini's fontana delle api, both by Bernini)
various animals in Piazza Navona (Bernini's Four Rivers fountain has a lion, snakes, armadillo, dolphin, and dragon...also the nearby Fontana dei Libri has a deer, the symbol of Sant'Eustachio)
Trevi Fountain has a few (large "hippocamp" mythical sea-horses but also a snake fed by Salubrity to the right of Oceanus)
turtles in the tiny fontana delle tartarughe
wolf heads at the fontana di Santa Maria in Trastevere
horses and a copy of the Capitoline she-wolf statue at the Campidoglio
Lions at the fountain at Piazza del Popolo
Lions at Fontana dell'Aqua Felice (aka Mosè, between Via Veneto and Termini)
peacocks at the Cortile della Pigna in the Vatican Museums
Obelisks - you could do a whole scavenger hunt just tracking down the dozen+ ancient obelisks scattered around the city (including big ones at St Peter's Square, Piazza del Popolo, and Piazza Navona but also smaller ones like 2 near the Pantheon and one at the top of the Spanish Steps)
"Spot the saint" - older kids might like figuring out who is depicted in a painting/sculpture (Ada Palmer has some blogposts starting here, or also see this video)
Groceries - go to an Italian grocery store & see what is the same/different, and maybe get some special treats/snacks (similar: outdoor markets like the one in Campo de' Fiori can be fun for all ages)
Piazza buskers - some kids will love the various street performers and vendors in the big piazzas; the last time we went to Piazza Navona, our 2-year old spent an hour playing with someone making bubbles and then dancing to some musicians
Throwing coins into Trevi Fountain - this is fun for everyone, but especially kids!
Parks & Playgrounds in Rome
Especially if you've got younger kids or toddlers, it's great to blow off some steam at a park. Unfortunately there aren't quite as many playgrounds (area giochi) in Italy as in many parts of the US, but here are some parks & playgrounds near touristy areas:
Villa Borghese - a big park not far from the historic center, and also the home for the Galleria Borghese (beautiful museum that requires reservations—probably not the most kid-friendly place but OK if your kids aren't too fussy and/or are into art/sculpture)
the park itself is a nice place to relax, run around, and otherwise experience some nature in a city that doesn't have much of it
Playgrounds (area giochi per bambini) - at the southern end (near the Edicola della Musa sculpture and Porta Pinciana entrance, Google Maps) and northernwestern end (near the Arco Romano, Google Maps), although the latter is a bit smaller
Casina di Rafaello - outdoor & indoor play area designed for kids 3-10; exhibits & workshops are paid but other services are free
Bike rentals - this is a popular way to explore the park
Bici Pincio - rents 2 or 4 person e-assist "Risciò" bikes, as well as more "traditional" 1-person bikes, instagram page shows rates/hours; locations near the Terrazza del Pincio and Porta Pinciana
Ascol Bike - similar bikes to Bici Pincio although they also have single-person e-bikes; Ascol's Riscìo rates seem a bit higher (e.g. €25 / hour versus €20 at Bici Pincio for a 4-person Risciò as of 2022), located near the Bioparco di Roma on the northern end of hte park
Boat rentals - you can rent a rowboat at the little lake (laghetto) that is overlooked by the 1786 "Temple of Ascepius" (Tempio di Esculapio, which has a monumental oak next to it); from their FB page it looks like they're open most days from 9:30 to 7
Terrazza del Pincio overlooks the Piazza del Popolo and is near the following:
San Carlino Puppet Theater - runs kid-centric puppet shows
Water clock (Orologio del Pincio) - clock that works by water flowing through it!
[Merry-Go-Round/Carousel (Giostra) - looks like it got closed down in 2020?
Cinema dei Piccoli - in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's smallest cinema, often has kid-friendly movies, and occasionally will have versione originale (subtitled in Italian, not dubbed)
Bioparco di Roma - zoo in the northern end of the park
Eating - there are a few espresso bars/kiosks that get bad reviews, and one fancy hotel restaurant (Casina Valadier with its Hortus Bar) in the park, so your best bet is probably bringing a picnic lunch (Maoli looks like a nice salumeria just outside the Porta Pinciana entrance?) or eating outside the park (some of the best gelaterie like I Caruso and Come Il Latte are ~15 min walk from the park)
Not sure about these
Segway rentals - might be good for older kids?
Tourist "train" - I think this is just a little bus that looks like a train?
Piccolo Slalom Baby Karts - various arcade-type games/go carts but apparently very expensive?
...Roam the Gnome has a nice rundown of kid activities in Villa Borghese
Parco del Colle Oppio - a park just north/northeast of the Colosseum, not far from the Monti neighborhood
There is a small playground (Google Maps) but it's nothing much to write home about
Villa Celimontana - there's a playground in this park just SE of the Colosseum; on some days there's also a guy who gives pony-drawn carriage rides to children
Castel Sant'Angelo - the castle itself might be of interest to some kids, but it's also surrounded by a park/moat that provides benches/shade and some greenery...as of 2019 there is also a nice little playground with swings & a play structure / slides
Villa Doria Pamphilj - the western side has a play area (Google Maps) ...also Villa Sciarra between this park & Trastevere isn't bad
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II - not far from Termini and Santa Maria Maggiore, this park has a bunch of Roman ruins and a playground with swings, climbing ropes, and slides (Google Maps)...there's also a racetrack/car thing that you can pay to ride?
Piazza di San Cosimato (Trastevere) - has a small playground
Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus) - no playgrounds, and not much shade (so not great for the middle of the day in the summer) but it has a lot of space to run around, especially if you want to pretend to be a Roman charioteer
Gianicolo Belvedere - no playgrounds but a beautiful view
Giancolo Puppet Theater (Teatrino di Pulcinella al Gianicolo aka Il Teatrino dei Burattini del Gianicolo) - puppet theater...not very good information online but looks like it mostly runs on weekends from 10:30 to 1?
Giardino degli Aranci (Aventine Hill) - no playgrounds but a nice, shady park with a beautiful view and (depending on the time of year) the smell of orange blossoms
Parco degli Acquedotti - good for an "escape", this park feels less urban; possible to combine with a trip to the Appian Way and/or Catacombs
Giardino Famiglia di Consiglio (Testaccio) - at Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice Parco Cestio has a nice little playground; also in Testaccio are two smaller playgrounds at Parco Cestio and Parco dell Resistenza dell'8 Settembre (Google Maps)
Cooking Classes - these can be fun for both adults and kids; some are more kid-centric than others.
InRomeCooking - has a bunch of classes that look nice
GetYourGuide - aggregator for various tours, etc but also has has a bunch of cooking classes that are kid-friendly (including a gelato making class at Gelateria Verde Pistacchio and a Pizza-and-Pasta Making Class rec'd by CN Traveler although they rec'd for kids 12+) --> we did the gelato making class, and it was a fun introduction (we didn't learn anything special but our 5 year old enjoyed it)...the space is small so I wouldn't recommend for groups >7 or so
Gladiator School - this place off the Appian Way trains kids (and adults?) in the basics of being an ancient Roman gladiator, rec'd CN Traveler
Explora Children's Museum - just outside the Villa Borghese park, north of Flaminio metro/Piazza del Popolo; rec'd CN Traveler for kids 3-12 although they also have a section for 0-3, Mama Loves Rome and Learning Escapes have nice blogpost reviews
[also see Bioparco Zoo, above under Villa Borghese]
In Rome over the summer and want to cool off? Here are some options:
Hit the beach - this is what many Romans do; the easiest place to go is Ostia since the metro runs all the way to the water, but there are many other beaches not too far away (Elizabeth Minchilli likes Paradise Beach in Maccarese)
LunEUR Park - this is an amusement park near EUR that includes a "Splash Zone" water park (which has different tickets from the rest of LunEUR) with big water slides, etc
Public Swimming Pools - most of these are not particularly not super kid-friendly (they seem to be "lap swim" and "swimming lessons" type places) but you might find one that fits your needs...note that most of these pools will require swim caps (cuffie)
Piscina Delle Rose - near EUR, is a giant Olympic-sized pool that hosted the 1960 Olympic Games and now is open in the summer for various kinds of activities, including some kid-friendly times (they sometimes have blow-up slides and bouncy-castle type stuff)
Roma Uno Centro Sportivo - in Trastevere, one of the closest public pools to the Centro Storico but it looks like it's mostly lessons (not "free swim")?
Hotel Swimming Pools - a handful of hotels around Rome let non-guests pay a fee to use their pools; this could be a fun splurge?
Grand Hotel del Gianicolo - on Gianicolo hill, lets non-guests use the pool starting in May (in 2022 it was €35 / adult and €25 / child 4-10 on weekdays, €50 for adults on weekends/holidays, kids up to 4 years old free), email firstname.lastname@example.org for info if you can't find it on their website
Rome Cavalieri - very fancy hotel on Monte Mario overlooking the Vatican/city (their main hotel restaurant is the 3 Michelin Star La Pergola) that charges pretty steep prices but seems very nice
Aldrovandi Palace / City Suites - on edge of Villa Borghese, €55+ / day
Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel & Spa - also on edge of Villa Borghese