Following our post dedicated to families travelling to Rome, and our tips to enjoy your spare time with your children on own, here is the final section dedicated to what we can do for you: we offer tours and activities especially planned for family.
Up to 6 year old.
Very young travellers manage following short “theme tours” according to the special interests : animals, knights, ghosts… but also gladiators (there’s no better place than Rome!!). Kids with an artistic bent, enjoy our art labs and everybody is in for a gelato tour!
7 to 12 year old.
Theme tours and gelato tours still work very well at this age. But we can also add:
- kids friendly orientation walks in the city centre (the gelato tour is one of those)
- dedicated history and art tours : “Gladiators and games in ancient Rome”, “Every day life in ancient Ostia”, “Mythology at the Borghese Gallery” are some examples.
- kids friendly visits at the Capitoline Museums, Villa Giulia and Centrale Montemartini: these museums are very quiet and it is easier for our guides to play with you and your kids when there is space at disposal and no confusion.
- kids friendly Vatican and Ancient Rome tours
- VR tours (with the support of devices for virtual reality)
- easy bike tours or more challenging depending on their age
- a horse back ride along the Appian Way
- art labs (fresco, mosaic, oil painting and watercolours) combined with special tours dedicated to the same technique (for instance our “best seller” of this section is “Michelangelo for a day)
- food experiences: from walking tours with food tastings to cooking classes (pizza class and gelato lab make them thrilled!),
- underground Rome tours
- “orienteering tour” in ancient Ostia, if they like maps
Several of the above proposals can suit your teens, at this stage they grow up fast and differently one from another, so we need your help more than ever to know what they might still like of the above proposals. About this age frame, we also recommend our article here.
What surely makes them feel “grown up” is a Vespa Tour: if you are able to ride a scooter, you can take your teens with you and – we bet – they will never forget it! Of course you need a good scooter experience! Otherwise just reserve our drivers in addition to the guide. We know that teenagers can lose attention quickly during a sightseeing, but this general overview onboard of a Vespa with short stops can help a lot to keep them interested for the whole tour.
We also arrange “Street art tours” in several suburban areas of Rome: teens usually like the off-the-beaten-path itineraries, the adventurous feeling and this contemporary form of art. Moreover, we can reach these areas by Vespas or bikes, making the whole day an exciting experience.
A tour we especially designed for teens is Angels & Demons tour: inspired by the 2009 American mystery-thriller film directed by Ron Howard and based on Dan Brown’s novel. It is the sequel to the 2006 film The Da Vinci Code. Angels & Demons takes place in Rome and this gave us the idea of following the footsteps of the main character, Robert Langdon, in his thrilling chase through the city. We suggest you watch this movie before your trip to Rome with your teenage travelling companions and then explore Rome and its “Altars of Science” with us!
Following our post about how to best arrange a family trip in Rome when young travellers are involved, here we collected several suggestion on how to spend your spare time with kids in Rome, divided by age groups:
Up to 6 year old.
- Casina di Raffaello (indoor): it is a game room located in the Borghese Park. It’s open everyday except Mondays. It’s free for babies up to 3 y.o. (a ticket applies to older children). Check their website for workshops, special events and updated infos. A nice playground area is just outdoors
- Borghese Park (outdoor): apart from the “Casina di Raffaello”, the park is a perfect location for young children: you can rent bikes and rickshaws, even a boat to row on the small lake. A light train service is offered and drives across the whole garden. You can arrange a picnic and spend the warmest hours of summer days under the shady trees.
- Gianicolo Hill (outdoor): on top of this beautiful terrace overlooking Rome (which will delight grown-ups!) you can still enjoy a traditional puppet show on Sunday mornings: it’s in Italian, but usually young kids like it anyway! And – at noon sharp (every day, rain or shine!) – a cannon shots a ball to mark the time: you will be surrounded by several Italian children with their grandparents!
- EXPLORA (indoor): check the website for the updated activities, opening times, prices and services of the “Museum of the Children”. It is within walking distance from Piazza del Popolo (Flaminio stop on metro line A or tram line).
- Swimming pool (outdoor): during summertime many hotels open their pools to external guests (Parco dei Principi, Aldrovandi, ES, Exedra, Hotel del Gianicolo, Hotel Villa Pamphili, Waldorf Cavalieri…) and this could be a refreshing break for your children. There are also public pools such as the Piscina delle Rose in EUR district (B line of the Metro, Palasport stop) or the amusing water park Hydromania leaving the city.
- Public playgrounds (outdoors): apart from the public parks (Villa Pamphili, Parco degli Acquedotti, Villa Ada, Villa Glori, Villa Torlonia…) there are several nice playgrounds around the city. We like the one at the back of the Auditorium (tram line n° 2 from Piazza Risorgimento to the end in Piazza Mancini)
- Libraries and bookshops (indoor): usually young kids like relaxing in the quiet atmosphere of a library or a bookshop. In the city centre we recommend the children public library “Biblioteca Centrale dei Ragazzi” closed on Saturday p.m., Sundays and Mondays and located within walking distance of Campo dei fiori (Via San Paolo alla Regola 15-18).
From 7 to 12.
All the above activities can still be interesting to older children and we also add the following:
- Catacombs (indoor): every day of the week there is an open catacomb, just check their websites (for instance San Sebastiano or San Callisto). Despite being ancient Christian cemeteries, they are not gloomy and usually fascinate children with their underground tunnels and little engraved symbols similar to their own drawings! If the weather allows it, you can plan a short excursion to the Appian Way where these catacombs are located and have a picnic on the grass.
- Climb St. Peter’s Dome! Don’t tell your children there are 551 steps to reach the top of the highest dome in Italy, but let them count the steps one after another! They’ll love it and they (and you!) will enjoy the breathtaking view from there. This is a physical activity you can promise them after touring the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.
- A theme park dedicated to ancient Rome has just been opened (July 2020), its called Roma World and it can be reached by shuttle from EUR Palasport metro B stop.
- The School of Gladiators: a gladiator instructor of the Gruppo Storico Romano will teach you how to fight with wooden swords and will train you. Dressed in a gladiator tunic, you will learn the basic techniques of gladiatorial sword fighting and take part in a gladiatorial combat. This is also the opportunity to ask any questions about the gladiator life and to touch good replicas of the weapons they used. You will come away with amazing photos of a unique experience taking a leap into history!
Chose the suitable activities of the previous lists (for instance, the school of the gladiator usually appeals at any age, including dads!) and here you have some extra ideas:
- Capuchin Friars Crypt (indoor): not far from the Spanish Steps and Trevi fountain there is a creepy ghostly crypt that teenagers usually find fascinating: five little rooms used as a cemetery and praying chapels by the Franciscan monks are completely decorated with the real bones of the deceased friars! The surreal atmosphere should not distract from the miraculous preservation of the bones and the spiritual significance of this unusual decoration.
- Technotown (indoor): nothing compared to huge Science Museums in other major capitals of the world, but if your children like technology, this might be a suitable break from main visits. It is located in a beautiful park (Villa Torlonia) along the Nomentana (and we offer an off the beaten path tour over there, even by bike) and it is open every day except Mondays, for children over 8.
- The Museum of Video Games: Vigamus is a small museum, but the selection of vintage video games is amazing and you can try them all. Video games are part of contemporary culture and art, therefore learning their evolution can be a break from all the “ancient stuff” and “church stuff” your kids will be exposed to during a trip in Italy…
- A day at the beach (outdoor): if your teens love the seaside, you can treat themselves to a day at the beach. The sea around Rome is not spectacular, but beaches are fun! You can eat fresh fish, play beach volley, meet new friends and wait for a sunset drink or a night of dancing! As I’ve often been told by foreign friends, no trip to Italy is complete without a day on the beach, such is its unique atmosphere! The closest beach is Ostia Lido, which might be a nice relaxing time after a visit to the excavations in Ancient Ostia. Otherwise you can pick from Santa Marinella, Fregene, Anzio, Nettuno or the clean waters in Circeo National Park.
Last part of this blog post is what we can do for you during your stay in Rome with young travellers: tours, activities and experiences tailored on these age ranges are collected here.
Rome offers a lot to families with children: many open air attractions, the food every child loves, curiosities for any interest or age, and professional guides with a special attitude with kids (yes, thats us!)
At A FRIEND IN ROME we do not offer standard kids tours, but a selection of itineraries and well prepared tour guides who have the experience and good will to manage a tour for a whole family, keeping the youngest involved.
We rely on your help, you know your children better than anyone else and we need your support to interact and keep them interested. Before coming to Rome, let us know if there are special need and interest in your family, so we can be prepared. And we recommend reading this other post, with suggestions on family trips from Conde Nast Traveller magazine
It’s important to prepare your children with books, stories, cartoons or movies about our city, our artworks and history: they will be curious to see what they have been introduced to and eager to learn more.
This is what we can do for you:
- we help you planning: we know how much every activity/visit requires, we know distances, best accommodations and restaurants for families, how to celebrate a birthday during the trip or any special day… Just contact us at email@example.com , we are here to help!
- we can give you several suggestions on how to spend your spare time with kids in Rome, see this special post divided by age groups
- we offer here a list of tours and activities especially planned for families with children or teens, divided by age groups
Last “meditation” about travelling (see n° 1 and n° 2) is coming from my personal experience as a mother of a 14 year old boy and as a tour guide meeting a lot of families with children: when your travel companion is a teenager you just have to keep in mind they do not have the same urge of “seeing it all”. You are travelling across the planet, you know how much this costs to you in terms of money and time and you are aware you might not have the chance to be there again soon. Of course this feeling is not shared by your children, they have their life ahead and they just want to enjoy their holiday (despite the presence of their parents, eheheheh!)
What I learnt about this specific situation is the following:
- the program of the day should not be packed, plan just one main activity and be sure there will be enough time to relax in the hotel or at the beach/pool… (of course there must be free wifi signal there!)
- better to plan the main activity in the morning, otherwise they will never get out of bed (but – if possible – do not plan a very early start, it is physically harder for them than for adults to wake up)
- teens get easily bored if they just have to stand in front of something or slowly walk and listen, listen, listen to a guide. They need to *do* something in order to feel involved: plan a trekking, a rafting (BTW the picture above is my rafting in Bali with my son, summer 2017), a bike tour, an art lab, a food tour or a cooking class if they like eating and are curious about food …whatever keeps them active. In any case this would not be a waste of time for you: it is a chance to see a country from a different prospective, meet more people (both local and other travellers), going places you haven’t considered which might turn out to be wonderful
- check if there are interactive museums, virtual reality experiences and everything exploiting modern technologies (check our blog post about what Rome offers): teens generally appreciate these venues and it can be a good break during a sightseeing day
Do you have any other tips? Let’s transform this post into a Decalogue, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be glad to update this post.
It is becoming more and more common to have a technological support during an archaeological tour to better understand the site: we have always exploited the power of images to give you an immediate view of the aspect of the Colosseum, the Forum, the Circus Maximus in the Imperial Age. Recently immersive and multimedia experiences reached an incredible quality and we do recommend to book one of those “shows” during your stay to enjoy the brilliance of marble floors, bright frescoes and glittering mosaic tiles of the luxurious interiors of the bygone days. According to us, this is not substituting the importance of a traditional guided tour, when you have an expert at your disposal to explain details in front of each monument and – above all – to interpret the historical, political and social importance of the buildings, which represent an “age” and a (lost) society with its vision of mankind.
In main archaeological museums of Rome you find now videos of virtual reconstructions, also on YouTube you find a lot (we have a dedicated playlist of good videos here), but if you are looking for the immersive experience, simply enquire us and we can offer you special tours “with goggles” in the city centre, at the Baths of Caracalla or Diocletian, and we especially recommend the experience in ancient Ostia. If you are travelling with children/teens this is definitely a good idea (and by the way, there is a videogame museum in Rome, not too far from the Vatican, which might be a good break for them: it is called Vigamus and our 13 year old “tester” approved it…He also approved all the following list for you!)
If you wish to experience virtual reality independently, book one of the following:
- Viaggio nei Fori: only from April to November as it is outdoors enjoying the breeze of the night and the imposing ruins of the Forum of Caesar and the Forum of Augustus. In the first one, you walk through the area for 55′ while in the Forum of Augustus you’ll be sitting on a bench for approx 40′. A recorded audio explanation in several languages is provided and there are three shows each night. We loved both of them.
- Domus di Palazzo Valentini: a fascinating path in a real ancient domus (noble residence) with virtual reconstructions and audio explanations. Not to be missed, your understanding of ancient Rome throughout the city will be increased a lot!
- Domus Aurea: this visit is only available during weekends as a restoration project is going on during the week days. The tours help to support the huge expenses of the restorations. The site is the real Emperor Nero’s Golden Palace and during your group tour (approx 75′) you will stop in the “Volta Dorata hall” for a 3D immersion supported by visors. Amazing!
- SUPER tickets at the Palatine hill entitle you to book the VR experience inside the Domus Transitoria, the palace of Emperor Nero destroyed by the fire of 64 AD. Also you have access to video reconstructions on the domus of Livia and domus of Augustus, still at the Palatine
- L’Ara com’era: at the Ara Pacis museum during the evening it is possible to book the experience recreating the look this Augustan “Altar of Peace” had more than 2000 years ago, when it was painted in brilliant colors and surrounded by the empty “Campus Martius” instead of the hectic city!
We appreciate your help to update this list as soon as new experiences will appear and if you have a comment on these shows, we will be curious to know your opinion and feedback!
And if you want to keep up with the locals, remember to order fritti as a starter – from supplì (the roman rice ball hors d’oeuvre) to fillets of baccalà (salt cod) to fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers stuffed with an anchovy and mozzarella). Here is a non-exhaustive list of my favorite pizza places:
- Bir and Fud: in Trastevere and not just for pizza. Craft beer, unusual pizzas, mouth watering antipasti and dessert. Better to reserve a table, as it gets full immediately!
- Alle Carrette: when I’m next to the Colosseum I go there, a little alley, few tables outside and a lot of space inside, but still you’ll have to wait. Because pizza here is really good!
- Emma: my last discovery near Campo dei Fiori/Piazza Navona. And not only for pizza! Great ingredients, polite service (which is not always the case for pizzeria) and not-to-be-missed desserts.
- La Montecarlo: informal, noisy, genuine, cheap pizzeria near Piazza Navona. Only cash payment.
- Nuovo Mondo: this is how a pizzeria looked like in Rome until 30 years ago, with paper-thin pizza, simple fast services, few good items in the menu that the waiter can tell by heart, cheap price and a noisy “true Roman” atmosphere just next to your elbow! Located in Testaccio, a district to explore if you wish to feel like a local….
- Dar Poeta: we will never state one as “the best pizzeria in Rome”, but this is a damn good one! There’s usually a bit to wait before being seated, but it’s worth the wait. Try the delicious calzone with ricotta cheese and nutella to end dinner! And afterwards, a walk in Trastevere, of course!
- La Pratolina: not too far from the Vatican, this is a pizzeria where you will be surrounded by more locals than tourists, which is becoming rare in the centre of Rome. Pizza is really good, so it’s always full: remember to reserve your table in advance. Only for dinner.
- Li Rioni: traditional warm atmosphere not far from the Colosseum.
- Spizzo: brand new place, in suburban Rome (Prenestino), really off-the-beaten-path, but your effort will be rewarded. Great pizza with modern mix of flavours and suggestions to combine pizza and wine! This is where we can also teach you how to prepare a good pizza yourself. And it will taste even better!
- Al Tettarello: in Monti, a good trattoria, but also remarkable for pizza.
Any great discovery you wish to add? Let us know by mail to email@example.com . And if you wish to learn the difference between Roman pizza and Neapolitan pizza, watch this video!
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- Forno Boccione: the bakery of the Jewish Ghetto, the best place for “ricotta e visciole” pie, a tart with sheep cheese and sour cherries. They also have a version with chocolate chips and ricotta and you can buy just one slice (which is enough for 2 people!)
- Pasticceria De Bellis: haute patisserie here, where a mini-cake becomes a piece of art. Next to Campo de’ Fiori.
- I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza: near Campo dei Fiori, a Sicilian corner in Rome! You find here great cannoli, but also the almond pastry, pistacchio specialities, rosolio….
- Innocenti Biscottificio: located in the nice quiet side of Trastevere (Via della Luce 21), this cookie factory seduces you from far by its wonderful smell and you have the chance to taste many different kind of traditional Italian cookies for moderate price… Try the little “meringues” or “brutti ma buoni” (literally “the ugly but good cookies”!) and you’ll be back again and again!
- Pascucci: just few meters from the Pantheon, that’s the place for milkshakes (“frullati” in Italian) since 1937. I remember going there when I was 5 and ordering my “Monterosa”, a cherry flavoured smoothie… still it’s my favorite. Try also the traditional Amalfi, based on mix citrus fruits.
- Pompi: the temple of tiramisù to take away… different versions (pistacchio or strawberry, in case you don’t like coffee… but, are you sure you do not like coffee? Anyway, try tiramisù!!!). Two central locations, near the Spanish Steps (Via della Croce, 82) and next to Trevi fountain (via S.Maria in via, 17) and one shop near the Vatican (Via Cola di Renzo, 313)
- Pasticceria Regoli: near the basilica of S. Maria Maggiore, this is another traditional address since 1916, still managed by the same family and still serving one of the best “maritozzo” in town, next to millefoglie, profiteroles, tiramisù, mont-blanc and so on….
- Pasticceria Romoli: a bit out of the centre, but still worth a visit, maybe when you go to S.Agnese catacombs and the beautiful Costanza’s mausoleum. Here, among other specialities, try the “torta della nonna”, grandma’s cake, a vanilla and lemon custard pie sprinkled with pine nuts.
- Said: you have to go the extra mile here (which is worth, as San Lorenzo neighbourhood is so interesting!), but this is a real chocolate factory founded in 1923 and now converted into a cafè-bistrot-restaurant-shop…. a winter break there is a fabulous experience!
- Bar San Calisto: this is our favorite bar in Trastevere, “vintage” style as all the bars looked like when we were kids (no website either), not fancy at all but welcoming and cheap, serving great coffee and the best hot chocolate in the centre of Rome. With whipped cream on top, of course.
- Pasticceria Valzani: in Trastevere, another classic stop for a sweet break. You still find here traditional roman recipes like pangiallo, mostaccioli and panpepato. But also a great Sacher torte, endless pralines, cannoli, meringues…..
- Zum: just around the corner of Campo dei Fiori, this is where you try all versions of Tiramisù you can imagine. Few seating for a little break during your sightseeing (or during our tours!)
And to conclude… if you wish to satisfy your gluttony and your hunger late at night, maybe after a long walk or a bit of clubbing, you can join the young Romans in this little ritual, the “night cornetto”! Bakeries (or better said cornetterie, which only bake cornetti, not bread) work all night to prepare cornetti for the following day and you can buy them hot, when they are just out of the oven and filled in many different ways (Nutella filling is the most popular, but try also the wholemeal cornetto with honey!) You will surely meet young “urban tribes” chatting and indulging in this whim out of those places:
- Dolce Maniera : Via Barletta, 27
- Il Cornettone: Via Oderisi da Gubbio, 215
- Il Maritozzaro: Via Ettore Rolli, 50
- Dolce Alba: Via Albalonga, 64
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Shall we explain why gelato is good? I don’t think so… Gelato is part of our culture, like pizza or pasta, fashion, soccer, wine… These are not commonplaces, but statements about our everyday life. In Italy there are more than 35.000 gelateria and Italians eat an average of 75 cups of gelato each year (6 kilos!). This implies we know how to judge a good gelato and how to skip tourist traps. Here is our selection divided by areas, but suggest your discoveries!
- Pantheon: San Crispino, GROM, Cremeria Monteforte, Giolitti
- Piazza Navona: Da Quinto, Gelateria del Teatro, GROM
- Vatican: Hedera, Del Monte, Gelateria dei Gracchi, Fata Morgana
- Piazza del Popolo: Fata Morgana, Gelateria dei Gracchi
- Spanish Steps: Bar Frattina (try the “cremolato” !)
- Trevi Fountain: Cecere, San Crispino,
- Trastevere: Fior di Luna, Fata Morgana
- Largo Agentina: Vice, Alberto Pica
- Piazza della Repubblica (train station); Verde Pistacchio, La Romana
- San Giovanni: Fassi, an institution (and we can visit the lab together!)
In any case, do not line for a gelato longer than 5 minutes! We have so many gelato shops and no one can be considered ” the best in town”… Gelato is a pleasure, if you have to queue too long, part of the pleasure is lost already!
And do not forget our local tradition in Rome, the “grattachecca“!!! It is the best relief for the hot summer days and if you have to queue for that, well, this is an experience and you’ll feel like a real Roman! My favorite is “Sora Maria“, the kiosk along Via Trionfale, near the Vatican, but you have several other opportunities (Piazzale Ponte Milvio, where the summer movida is! Or Piazza del Porto di Ripetta near the Spanish Steps, or “Fonte D’Oro” and “Sora Mirella” near Trastevere and finally, Porta Cavalleggeri just next to St. Peter’s square).
Remember… “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream. And that’s kind of the same thing!”
PS. Do not forget we offer the Gelato Tasting Tour in the centre (children love to evaluate best gelato while sightseeing!) and we can arrange a “Gelato Making Class” for you!
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Even this year there will be the historical parade along Via dei Fori Imperiali, just in front of the Colosseum, ending at Circus Maximus (the ancient chariot race track) where the ritual ceremony of the “digging of the trench”, a ri-evocation of the foundation of Rome, will take place: Romulus, Remus, the Vestal Virgins, the she-wolf…the whole tale will be much clearer afterwards!
PS. The historical group arranging the parade is also offering our activity-tour “Gladiator for a day“, a fun way to learn about ancient history!
Buy a ball, rent a bike and “live” the cheerful atmosphere of the gardens next to the Roman families.
Why not to buy some freshly baked bread or “white pizza” (we do not say focaccia in Rome, but pizza bianca), mortadella, salumi or your favorite cheese, a bottle of wine, a good crostata or the unforgettable Pompi tiramisu’ and go to Villa Borghese? After your pic-nic and a nap under the trees, you have several cultural options. You are in the “Park of the Museums” and you can chose among the important Borghese Painting Gallery (but remember to book it), the interesting Etruscan Museum housed in the Renaissance Villa Giulia, the Modern Art museum La Galleria Nazionale or just a pleasant quick look at the House of the artist-workshop-museum Pietro Canonica dedicated to an Italian sculptor of the XIX century.
And remember… Relax, you are on holiday!