Family Vacations to Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy
ROME: One of Italy's most beautiful cities, with plenty of activities to keep the family entertained (Digital Vision)

Rome, Italy Highlights

  • See the ancient Colosseum, site of gladiator battles.
  • Imagine toga-clad politicians speaking at the Forum.
  • Stand in Saint Peter's Square.
  • Admire Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel and his Pietà in Saint Peter's Basilica.
  • Find your favorite flavor of gelato.

Rome has almost too many attractions: ancient ruins, world-class art, historic churches and museums, as well as catacombs, classy shops, parks, piazzas, and fountains. A summer day in the Eternal City comes with crowds and noise—screeching Vespas, blaring car horns and droning bus engines. Add the frequent stop-and-go traffic, plus the hot Roman sun, and you can see why it's important not to attempt a marathon tour.

If you do succumb to the let's-see-it-all urge, sometime between the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Caracalla Baths, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican, your kids, and most likely you too, will experience a meltdown. So, be good to yourself and block in free time. Pick two or three highlights to visit each day and then stroll the streets, window shop, find a park to play in, and a café for gelato.

The Colosseo (Colosseum) remains one of Rome's primary symbols. Kids recognize this 70,000-person arena, inaugurated in 80 A.D., from movies or history books. Walking through the arched, stone corridors or climbing to the top tiers for a view, kids find it awesome to travel back in time to an era of bloody combat between gladiators and wild beasts.

At the Roman Forum, pass by ancient arches and temple columns. Imagine toga-clad politicians speaking to the masses. The Pantheon, built as a Roman Temple around 27 B.C. and reconstructed by Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D, remains Rome's most intact ancient building, the domed structure an impressive architectural feat.

Basilica di San Pietro (Saint Peter's Basilica) is another symbol of Rome. Situated on Saint Peter's Square and part of Vatican City, the huge Basilica's art includes an altar piece by Bernini as well as Michelangelo's Pietà. Despite the distance crowds must keep from the sculpture, you can still feel the life the artist breathed into this work. The Vatican Museums exhibit more artistic treasures—Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel being among the most famous. A hushed appreciation comes over the crowd as they view the nine panels of Genesis stories. Bring binoculars so that children can see the details up close.

Gradeschoolers think the catacombs, the underground tunnels where early Christians prayed and were buried, are just "icky" enough to be exciting. The Catacombs of Saint Callixtus, a maze of tunnels, reach five levels down.

Be sure to enjoy Rome's outdoor activities. Book ahead to visit the Vatican Gardens. Take time to stroll the grounds of the Villa Borghese, a park. People-watch at sidewalk cafes, cool off with a flavorful gelato, and enjoy a pizza and pasta dinner.

Tip: For your historical tour, consider booking a private guide (make sure they are child-friendly). He or she can make the ruins come to life, answer questions, and prevent you from getting lost.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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