Rome With Kids: 7 Don’t Miss Activities

You may remember, we were super lucky to make a trip to Rome over spring break — in fact we arrived in Rome on Easter Sunday! A busy day for the capital of Christianity. I’ve been meaning to write up a little report of our trip for 2 months now, and today’s the day, because there were 3 separate emails in my inbox this week asking for kids-in-Rome advice. : )

We LOVED our trip to Rome. I asked each of the kids to tell me their favorite parts of the trip and this is what they had to say…

Ralph’s favorite was visiting the Colosseum. He said that for him, it was the most iconic landmark in the city and that he wanted to film as much footage as he could while he was there because it was such a cool setting. I agree. It really is an amazing space to wander around. It’s this ancient space that you can be in, touch, and explore.

Maude’s favorite was renting bikes at Borghese Gardens. The “bikes” are made for groups and they’re sort-of motorized — you start pedaling and they help do some of the work. The park was spectacularly gorgeous while we were there. The trees were in blossom! We spent several hours of a sunny day at the park, climbing trees and pedaling around, and would have spent many more hours if we’d had them to spare.

Olive’s favorite was throwing coins in Trevi Fountain. Legend says that if you throw a coin in, you’ll return to Rome someday. There’s something very romantic about the legend that really captured my kids’ imaginations. We had them line up with their backs to the fountain, then they all threw in a coin at the same time. We ended up visiting the fountain 3 times during our trip. It’s a great place to sit still and enjoy a little picnic.

Oscar’s favorite was walking up the Spanish Steps and taking in the views of the city at the top. We bought long-stemmed roses from a street vendor at the bottom, and the kids gave out the roses to strangers as we climbed the steps. We told them to watch for anyone that looked like they’d enjoy a flower. We visited the steps in the late afternoon, and walked along the road at the top for a long time, just snapping pictures. The light was amazing, and Rome’s skyline is endlessly interesting to study.

Betty’s favorite was the food. Sometimes eating while traveling can be tricky for a 5 year old — they crave familiar tastes! But Italian food is easy for anyone to love. Betty ate spaghetti or lasagna or pizza at pretty much every stop and she was never disappointed. Rome has restaurants on every corner, so food was easy to find and we never had to wait for a table — more reasons why Betty has such fond memories of the food. My sister Jordan gave us 2 recommendations for family friendly restaurants and we loved them both!

1. Il Chianti Restaurant (Via del Lavatore 81 Rome, Italy). It is right next to Trevi fountain, doesn’t feel touristy and has the best fresh pasta and pizza.

2. Pictured above, Gusto Store + Restaurant (Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 9, Rome, Italy) It’s near the Spanish Steps. The home and kitchen goods store is fantastic. I bought a water bottle there that makes me happy every time I see it. The restaurant is gorgeous too — and we loved the food!

One little travel food tip: We have such a big group (there were 9 of us in Rome — our 6 kids plus niece Roxcy) that we would try to eat at off hours. Like a late lunch or an early dinner. Then we’d have the restaurant to ourselves and didn’t have to worry about taking up too much space.

June’s favorite was… who knows! I’ll say it was visiting the Sistene Chapel. The visit is a long process. In order to get to the chapel, you walk with your fellow ticket holders through the entire Vatican art collection. It can be tiring for little ones, but every one we encountered was so sweet and friendly and flirty with June that the time flew by.

Everyone’s very favorite was eating as much gelato as possible. We would stop for cones several times each day. Mimi found a flavor she loved on the first day (caramel) and stuck with it. But everyone else tried lots of new flavors. My favorites were black cherry, pistachio and crema (which is milk, I believe). Ben Blair’s favorites were yogurt, cantaloupe and salted caramel.

There are a million other things we loved. Getting to see Michaelangelo’s Moses. Spending time in the Maria Maggiore cathedral which was right by our hotel. Happening on a protest parade. Walking and shopping in Trastavere. Seeing Roman ruins (my personal favorite part). Just being there — walking on the cobbled streets and ancient tile floors. What a city!

What about you, have you ever been? What are your favorite things about Rome? Did you bring your kids? What did they especially love?

P.S. — One of the funniest images from our trip to Rome was the tiny red car at the top. You can’t see the logo in the shot, but it was a Ferrari! The little car on the cobblestone street captures my memory of the city perfectly.

84 thoughts on “Rome With Kids: 7 Don’t Miss Activities”

  1. Never been to Rome, or Italy for that matter, but I hope to someday, especially with my kids.

    Sheesh, your kids are so lucky to have had so many traveling experiences at such a young age! Wow, I felt like going to California or Utah was a trip, when I was a kid, I can’t imagine how neat it must be for all your kids to see the sites & experience the culture. That’s very cool.

    Glad the weather was good for you–I’m sure that really made the trip even that much better. Thanks for sharing your insights & tips!

  2. Thanks for sharing. Mr. Hippie says he is going to take me too Italy one of these days. We will go sans kids, but I think your activity reviews are right up my alley. I can’t wait to go someday!

  3. ahhh rome….i went with my father for the first time and there is just something about seeing cities like that for the first time with family. i remember reading once that Gwyneth Paltrow’s father took her to Paris as a young girl (I think 12) and he told her that it was because he always wanted her to remember that her visit to this city was with a man that would love her forever no matter what. I found that to be so touching and I put Rome in that category too. There are some places that you want to always make sure you have a good memory from that is eternal as the city itself, no matter how many times you go back, or no matter what the future brings – how wonderful that you were able to take your entire family!

    1. Great – I now have a good reason to tell my hubby dearest that we need to take the kids to Europe next time we go. Went to Paris last September and he was insistent that the kids stay home. He needs to tell that story to our daughter!

  4. I have been to Rome as a child (12) and as an adult (but not with my children). As a child I remember being in the square of St Peter’s when Pope John XXIII walked by within an arm-span of where I was standing…laughing and smiling at one and all. Then many decades later, as part of my work, I found myself sitting on dais level with Pope John Paul outside of St Peter’s during a mass celebrated during the Jubilee year and looking down as thousands of pilgrims filled the area on a very hot, very sunny day. Both memorable experiences.

    And of course, I remember the gelato and insalata caprese made with gloriously fresh ingredients.

  5. These are great tips. I always enjoy your posts on traveling. I went to Rome once with my parents, it’s already 7 years ago, but the highlight of the trip was definitely the Colosseum. My dad woke us up at 6 AM and we left for the Colosseum first thing in the morning. We were the first and only people at the ticket office that morning and had the entire Colosseum all to ourselves for about half an hour. Hands down one of the best experiences of my life!

    1. Oops! Typo. It was supposed to say funniest. Isn’t that car the opposite of what you think of when you see a Ferrari logo. Hah!

      I’ll go fix the typo now. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. I went to Rome a long time ago as a new college grad and I have to say that it was not my favorite Italian city, the reasons are many. Seeing as how I absolutely love Venice, Bologna and Florence though, I need to go back and give Rome another try. I really enjoy your travel photos and am impressed that you can get your brood to all appreciate the travel. They seem like such smart kids. Kudos to you and your husband for that. :)

  7. Pinned!

    It’s on my life list to shake the Pope’s hand. We came {this} close to doing it this summer, but the budget didn’t allow for the trip with our church. I hope next year they host the trip again, and that we can go. If we do, this post will come in handy! Thanks. :)

  8. i lived in rome during my semester abroad. i absolutely loved it and fell in love with italy! my favorite part, yes, was the food! it really didn’t matter where you went the food was just so amazing. i had a lot of first there. my first artichoke, cappuccino, gelato (pistachio being my fav), foccacio, gnocchi, radicchio, the list goes on! also, i drank way too much wine ;) and that had a negative effect, i actually can’t stand the taste of chianti!

  9. I threw coins in the Trevi fountain, but have never made it back to Rome a second time. Still hoping, as it is one of my favorite cities.
    One of my favorite stories of the trip followed a frightening incident near the Colosseum. Trying to get away from a rather aggressive -umm- “admirer”, I hopped onto a bus which drove to the outskirts of the city where everyone, except the driver, got off. Having no idea where I was, I approached the driver (in a near state of panic)and asked him, “Statione Terminale?” Eventually I picked up from our “signed” conversation that the bus would leave in an hour and I should stay seated. He’d get me back to the station.
    About 45 minutes later the bus again filled with the same group of women. Once the seats were filled, he made a speech to the ladies who all turned to face me. They all smiled and waved.
    I have no idea if we took the customary route back to their station, but we spent a good hour winding in and out of Rome. Every time we came upon a notable site, all these lovely women would shout out identifying the place, “San Pietro”, “Colloseo”, “Victor Emmanuel”, “Borghese”. I would smile and nod, and they would do the same in return.
    Eventually we came to Statione Terminale where I left them, and they travelled on back to their lives.

  10. I have a fantasy of waking up in Rome on Christmas morning, and hearing the church bells ring. That city seems so magical.

    My brother is there now with his family, and I’m so jealous!

    Thanks for those great pictures! I’ve heard of these places, but I’ve never seen such real shots. I can picture myself there…

  11. We went to Rome (and Paris) on our honeymoon. Your post brings back fond memories of the trip, and all of my favorite things about it too! Unfortunately, it rained almost every day while we were there so our memories have been a bit spoiled by that. Luckily it didn’t rain in the evenings so our memories of the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain are at night. Your photos are so nice to see in the daylight. Also my favorite meal of *all time* was right near the Spanish Steps. I wish I could remember the name of it or exactly where it is. But some day when I return, it will be fun to find it again. (Spinach filled ravioli with Gorgonzola cream sauce…mmmmm!) And ooooh the pizza……..must go back. :)

  12. Yay to travel with kids! It’s something that seems to scare my husband a little but he is feeling a little more confident after each trip (mostly short and some big). Thank you for the great tips!

  13. My 3 young kids absolutely loved Rome (and so did the grown ups). Many of the items on your list were favourites of ours as well. We hired a private guide and driver from Rome Kids Tours and she was fantastic. I felt like I actually got to enjoy myself and learn something, too. One of our best trips yet!

  14. We travelled to Rome about two years ago with our (only 2!) kids and I echo Gabrielle’s suggestions. We went in July and it was HOT! My daughter (then 2) just adored Trevi Fountain, sticking her head into one of the smaller fountains off to the side and loving every moment of it. The Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Vatican all were pretty easy places to meaner around with kids and the underground made things remarkably easy. We also loved spotting rows and rows of Vespas, the gorgeous public water fountains and the ridiculously inexpensive cappuccinos! The book “Rome with Kids” by J.M Pasquesi also had some great kid-friendly descriptions of many of the sites along with challenges and games (like scavenger hunts in specific churches to find unusual carvings/art that make each place special). Your photos are lovely an I cannot wait to go back, now.

  15. We visited Rome with our 18 months old daughter and using a stroller in the cobled streets of Rome were quite a challenge but it’s an amazing city. People are so friendly and love kids…and even when restaurants don’t offer any child-friendly facilities they make you feel welcome and adapt to your needs and wants. We visited the children’s Museum, which was a big hit. Read more on my Travel site and blog for families:

  16. When I studied abroad, I traveled around Europe. Rome was amazing to me. Your pictures are wonderful!!! I only wish I had all of mine digital now. Memories that last forever though. I loved loved loved Italy! So cool that your kids get to experience all of that! Enjoy

  17. What an amazing Tour! I relished each stop and each word. I seem to hear
    Catholic music (which I LOVE) and smell the various pasta s. And the children! They are Terrific Travelers!

  18. Awww, it’s wonderful to see Rome through the eyes of children! I last went two summers ago, and it was beautiful. I can’t imagine travelling with a large group – you guys must have it down to a science by now!

      1. We will be in Rome in May with our young grandchildren. Where did you stay and would you recommend it? Thank You!!

  19. When I went to Italy with a group of kids from my school, we visited the Vatican and our tour guide handed everyone their own ticket to put into the turnstile. When my turn came, I slipped mine in and started walking through, kind of to one side so my front leg made it through the gap between the end of the turnstile and the barrier on the other side before the turnstile locked! For some reason, my ticket hadn’t worked! And there I stood, stradling the metal bar of the turnstile in the middle of the Vatican, with hudreds of people in line behind me. What’s a poor girl to do?! So I just hopped my other leg over, figuring I had payed for a ticket and it wouldn’t matter. Not so. Some Italian guard came running over to me, throwing his hands all over the place, screaming at me in Italian. I of course had no idea what he was saying. My tour guide yelled back at him and I timidly continued in at a gesture from my tour guide. It was an eventful entrance, that’s for sure.
    Other than that, I loved the gelato in Italy! Oh my goodness, I wish I had some right now! Oh and skinnydipping off the coast – appropriately scandalous for a flirtatious country like Italy. ;)

  20. We went to Rome when my oldest was small, before we had our other four kids. I loved it! I liked it better than Venice or Florence, though those are great too. We went with another family, whose five were your kids’ ages, and I seem to remember their kids liking the Church of Bones, the Parthenon, and St. Peters. The Forum was my favorite, but I took a Roman history class in college. :) What a great opportunity for your kids! I’d love for mine to have the same, but don’t quite know how we’d swing it. :) Travelling to places like that really enriched our lives in a great way.

  21. Thanks for this post! My husband and I just returned from ten days in Italy and I fell in love with Rome! I loved Maria Maggiore too and seeing Moses — and loved that the woman on Moses’ left is Rachel. Anyway, I better stop or I’ll end up writing a whole post here. Thanks for sharing. Your pictures are just perfect.

  22. My hubby and I visited Rome back in August (why, why August??) of 2006. I remember it distinctly because this right after there was some terrorist issues on planes flying from London to the US and we were living in London. I was terrified to fly from London a few days after, but security was super high. I have fond memories of the ice cold water from the public fountains. That and the ridiculously priced Coke (I always called it Coka throughout Europe, is that common??) I bought from a newsagent shop. But oh, the gelato!!

  23. Poor June isn’t the only one who might need some sweet encouragement from visitors at the Sistene Chapel – I’ve heard it can be a wait, and I’m sure I’d require some of the same myself! I am so keen to visit Rome though, and with or without a flock as lovely as yours I have no doubt that it will, one day, make a marvellous travel destination.

  24. Just back from Rome and echo Borghese and Gusto recommends. Passed a gorgeous set of steps one day and realised had seen on your blog. Pepped under the stairs near it and found the gelaterie you had suggested. The Interweb rocks!

  25. I traveled to Rome in college while studying to be an art teacher. I was gas imaged by everything! We were on one of those pre-packaged school tours and I would constantly ask our tour guide what this building or that budding was used for. Her response was always a nonchalant “oh it’s just another church!” that line still cracks me up whenever I travel!

  26. wow… your view of rome looks so romantic and wonderful! your pics are great! it looks like it wasn’t really busy when you were there either? we spent 1 whirlwind day there, april 30th and let me tell you… it was PSYCHOTIC! honestly! we were staying in florence at the time and just hopped on the high speed train to spend the day in rome. arrived around 8:45am and spent about 10 hours touring all the big sights of the city. we used those hop-on, hop-off buses. that worked fabulously!! but seriously, the city was soooo packed. it didn’t have the ‘romantic’ feel i was hoping it would. too many cranky people… pushing their way through… hot temps… then rain a bit… not the best day to tour rome since it was the day before their big labour day national holiday (may 1st). who knew that people would actually wait in line 5+ hours to see the vatican museum?! we took the “shorter” route and went with a prebooked tour… and we STILL waited around 3 hours. it was nuts. so that’s why i’m enjoying your photos b/c that wasn’t the rome we saw, unfortunately. also, when we went to the spanish steps you couldn’t even see the steps b/c of the hoards of people. crazy! trevi fountain was no better. you had to elbow your way down to the bottom. definitely NO room to picnic! ha ha! but i totally agree with you… my most favorite part? seeing all the ruins. so incredibly amazing! and to know some of the background and see those old structures? wow… just took my breath away. it was a beautiful city… the eternal city… but i, honestly, much preferred our time in florence. much slower pace…easier to get round b/c it was smaller. ;) just my 2 cents!

  27. aw i absolutely love this!! brings back such good memories :) my husband and i visited in april and ate at il chianti twice in our 4 days there!! we loved it, too!

  28. Too hard to pick a favorite in Rome. Been there several times and never get tired of it! Each time I discover something new. Last time we were there we ate at the most amazing restaurant near the Borghese gardens. We sat outside and their were lighted balls in the trees. Gelato is always a hit too!

  29. Wow, thanks! Your pictures are always gorgeous! Brings back great memories, my husband and I went on a bus tour of Italy from where we were living in Germany. I fell in love with Rome and would go back now that we have kids. Will file all the restaurants and shop you mentioned for that time…. Your water bottle must be really special are we going to see a picture? :-)

  30. Hi Gabrielle,
    I loved this post since we were just in Rome 8 days ago and loved it too. Wish I had your restaurant recommendations before though! I do wonder where you stayed because that is the tricky part of going with a large group. We rented an apartment and that worked but I want to know what worked for you and what area you were based. We think next time we’d like to stay by the Pantheon. One thing that was especially fun is we hired a professional photographer to take our pics in front of Colloseum and surrounding areas. Great memories for us, we were in Italy for 19 days. Recommend Venice, Verona, & Lake Como! (in addition to Tuscany but I know you’ve been there)

  31. I loved this post! We leave for Rome in two weeks so this was a nice little taste of what is to come. We are taking our children this time so we are definitely planning a more kid friendly trip. We’ll definitely check out the restaurants!

  32. My husband lived in Rome from about age 9-13. When his parent’s friends came to visit he would take them on tours of the city while his parents were at work. His absolute favorite thing in the city was the crypt beneath the Capuchin church of the immaculate conception. One day his Boy Scout troup hiked around the walls of the old city. It’s about 25 km or so. Probably a bit much if you are just there for a few days, but a great hike. There is also the flea market each weekend at Porta Portese where you get a real feel for the city and its people.

  33. P.S. In August there is the Carabinieri horse demonstration which is the last exibition of the Piazza de Siena horse show. My husband says it’s pretty incredible.

  34. Lucinda Harvey

    Thanks for the memory reload. Our famliy lived south of Rome for four years. Loved your pics and stories. Brought back all of the fun we had. We have friends living there now, I am going to send then your link. They will love the kitchen store!


    p.s. the little red car in the top pic is actually a Fiat 500. They are made by Fiat near Turin. That little car revolutionized Italy after WWII. Trust me, I know. I have a 1971 Fiat 500 in my garage. It’s celeste (blue)

  35. I believe “Crema” means cream :-)

    I once went to Rome with my mother, on a mother-daughter-trip. It was a wonderful warm October week and I enjoyed every minute :-)

  36. You were joking speaking about a Ferrari? weren’t you?
    That’s a very, very old FIAT 500. In Italy we use to put a sticker on these tiny cars and the sentence on it usually says: “My other car is a Porsche” or “I have a Ferrari in my garage”.
    Ciao, Lella (Italy)

  37. I just was informed of our site today! and love it!
    At first the idea of a family trip to Rome was for my 50th, but that was just too far away, so every year I get closer I actually reduce the waiting time, so it looks like it may be 2014, however I’ve left off the key variable of the equation so I don’t give away my true age…..
    I am so excited to go, and my kids too.

  38. I found this post so refreshing. Most of what I hear today is how horrible it is to travel with kids- Don’t do it! My husband and I have one child an 18mo old, but we’re excited to add more. We both love to travel and yet always wonder if the two are compatible. When we were in France/Italy two years ago we saw lots of Europeans traveling with kids- they made it look so easy. I like how you stress enjoying each moment, buying gelato, giving away flowers, throwing in coins- making memories. You’re a great example of mothering! Thanks.

    My question then concerns money. Traveling as a couple is expensive, traveling with SIX kids seems astronomical. How do you make that work?

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