Visiting Rome with kids can seem overwhelming, but it is a wonderful city to enjoy with children, who will love the ruins, the people, and the gelato! The city is beautiful any time of year, but the crowds will vary depending on weather and school holidays. Our best advice is to have a plan and make reservations for the more popular tourist sites, but leave time for wandering the squares and enjoying la dolce vita.
Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Rome with Kids
From the airport to the city
Do not plan on arriving at the airport, taking a shuttle to the train station (Termini), and then a taxi to your destination. You will be jet lagged and you will have dead tired children and luggage in tow. Arrange for a driver through your accommodations ahead of time. The cost is comparable to the shuttle/train/taxi formula.
From Termini train station to your hotel
Termini is not a place you want to hang out for a long time, nor is it a place where you want to stick out like a sore thumb. With kids and luggage in tow, it’s hard to hide the fact you are tourists, so be sure you know how the taxi system works.
There is only ONE official taxi stand outside the main entrance on Piazza dei Cinquecento. Licensed, official taxis are white, with a TAXI sign on top, a Rome crest on the door, with the letters SPQR. They will also have the taxi license number on the door. Do not try to flag down a taxi on your own at the station. If your group is larger than 3 people, look for a van that can fit everyone in your party. Vans are not as common, but they save you the option of taking two separate taxis and paying double the fare.
Using the Metro vs. Walking
We did not use the Metro system while we were in Rome, but have on previous visits. It is very efficient and easy to use but we walked everywhere. Were there complaints about all the walking? Yep? Did we care? Not really. We always tell them it’s exercise and it’s good for them. We give them gelato and they stop complaining.
Where to Stay
The location is fantastic, right around the corner from the Sistine Chapel and less than 10 minutes walking to the Vatican. The owner was amazing. He arranged transportation from the airport and answered any questions we had prior to arrival. After getting us settled in our room he gave us an overview of the city and highlighted the main attractions and restaurant recommendations on a map. He also explained that the fully stocked kitchen was available to us 24/7. Although our room was snug for a family of five, the hospitality, cleanliness, location, and abundance of food more than made up for it and we would highly recommend it to visitors.
Navona Gallery and Garden Suites is a quiet oasis in the heart of Rome just steps from Piazza Navona. We recommend the Michaelangelo Suite which is perfect for families. The apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen, a stocked refrigerator with everything you need for a continental breakfast, and a private terrace, for enjoying afternoon coffee (or vino).
Sistine Chapel/Vatican City
Our best tip is to avoid Rome during major holidays. The crowds are crazy and things close for no rhyme or reason. Purchase advance tickets for the Sistine Chapel through their ticket office. They will send you a voucher that confirms your tour time. Upon arrival, skip the queue and begin your tour. This is very useful when visiting with kids. *Note: You will still have to wait in line for security at both the Sistine Chapel and Vatican. Sometimes lines can be very long, so we recommend going first thing in the morning or in the early afternoon.
Let me save you some heartache (and money). Do not wait in the long line at the Colosseum. Go to the Forum (or Palatine Hill) and buy your ticket there. It will cover entrance to each of the sites and is valid for two days. Better yet, buy your tickets online. We toured the Forum and Palatine Hill on a different day and were equally impressed by the ruins there. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore. The kids loved every minute of it and never complained about the four hours we spent between the three sights.
What’s not to like about an enormous fountain with a giant statue of the Roman god Neptune standing atop a shell shaped chariot pulled by sea stallions? The fountain re-opened in November 2015 after 17 months of renovation. Children and adults of all ages flock to the Trevi Fountain for people watching, coin flipping, and of course, gelato eating. I think there are no fewer than five gelato shops surrounding the fountain, so take your pick and find a flavor that suits you. Before leaving, turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your left shoulder. Legend has it this will guarantee a return trip to Rome.
Piazza Navona is one of my favorite places to take the kids in Rome. The piazza is pedestrian friendly so children can run around and parents don’t worry about them getting hit by cars or the ever present Vespa scooters. The place is lively, filled with tourists and locals alike admiring the beautiful fountains or lounging at the multiple cafés ringing the piazza. There are plenty of little shops along the perimeter where mom and dad can grab a cappuccino while the kids burn off some energy. Now that’s what I call a time out!
On our first visit to the Pantheon, the boys were unimpressed. Old building, columns, enormous hole in the roof. Big deal. Then, we returned during a torrential down pour. The water came rushing through the ceiling like a raging river, drenching those of us that were standing nearby. Our kids will never forget the sonic boom of thunder as it resonated through the dome and the screams of terror shouted by hundreds of people at the same time. Yes, the gods were angry that day, but it was something we will remember the rest of our lives.
Definitely our favorite place for a “Where’s Waldo?” moment. The kids didn’t understand at first. Then one of us left and walked to the bottom of the stairs and attempted to find everyone in the middle of all the people sitting on the steps. It was quite difficult given the crowds.
It is also fun to check out the McDonald’s next to the Spanish Steps, one of the largest in Europe. The lines inside will be long, but it’s one of those things you should do since you’re there. Trust me on this one, especially if your kids can’t take one more meal of pizza and pasta.
Time for Gelato
Yes, gelato recommendations always come before food. We tried four different gelato shops and some we tried more than once (it is vacation). Here were our two favorites:
Giolitti, Via Uffici del Vicario, 40– Giolitti has been dishing gelato since 1890 and everyone loves it. Go in the front door, pay for your gelato at the register up front, get a ticket, then get in line to order your gelato. Enjoy the creamy goodness outside like everyone else because there’s an extra charge to eat inside.
La Gelateria Frigidarium, Via del Governo Vecchio, 112-One of the trendy, newer gelato places. Good selection of flavors, including the option of dipping your gelato in chocolate. Yum!
We ate pizza and pasta at many restaurants that were not worth mentioning, so here are the ones we would recommend.
Cantina e Cucina, Via del Governo Vecchio, 87- On a cute, mostly pedestrian street off of Piazza Navona is this charming little restaurant. The focaccia bread is delicious and we enjoyed the pasta, risotto, and pizza. The waiter was very friendly, my son even gave him a hug when we left. It began to rain as we were leaving so they let us borrow their umbrellas and told us to bring them back the next day! Now that is what I call customer service.
Mastro Ciccia, Via del Governo Vecchio, 76- Right across the street from the above restaurant, is Mastro Ciccia. The place seemed to be equal parts locals and tourists, and plenty of families. Our kids raved about the wood fired pizza and my husband and I really enjoyed the pasta. On our way out we realized they offer a pizza making class. Guess we will have to try that on our next trip.
Trattoria Antonio al Pantheon, Via dei Pastini, 12- Found this place after we made a mad dash in the rain from the Pantheon to the nearest restaurant recommended on Trip Advisor. Our waiter was outgoing, food was delicious (pizza and pasta as always), and the atmosphere was warm and cozy. A convenient location and friendly service always makes a winner in my book.
Have you thought about visiting Rome with kids? Do you have a favorite place to add to the list?
Looking for other Roman resources? Check out a few of our favorite books!
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