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rome — family style

Trevi Fountain

A friend of mine recently asked me what I thought about taking their kids to Rome with them, since we had done that many years ago. I can understand why the idea may be intimidating because, after all, Rome has a kind of wild and romantic reputation and definitely an adult vibe.

But, of course I said to take them because, as you know, I’m a big believer in the value of family travel. And, as the largest city in Italy, Rome’s got a rich and colorful history that will interest kids if you present it right and treat them to pizza and gelato between activities!

Alex was 16 and Sara was 14 when we visited, so I did a little research to see what attractions other travelers recommended for younger children. This got me feeling all nostalgic about our own trip, and I started polling my friends for their must-sees with kids. Hey, I will be a grandma one day and need to be prepared.

1. Bioparco di Roma

Kids love zoos, and this one features 42 acres of gardens, habitats and enclosures where you can observe over 200 different species of wildlife. The zoo’s mission is to educate visitors on the importance of conservation, and there are always lots of activities and special events going on. We didn’t have time to visit but, as you can see from the sign outside the Colosseum, below, Bioparco is conveniently located in the center of Rome. It’s open every day during the summer, and is a great alternative to museums and churches, which kids can only tolerate for so long.


2. The Colosseum

I will never forget my family walking down the street, innocently turning the corner and being confronted with the Colosseum. It is a truly remarkable sight which absolutely took my breath away. I found it very humbling to realize this iconic symbol, perhaps the most recognizable sight in Rome, has been standing since the year 80 AD. Designed to hold over 50,000 people, the huge amphitheatre is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and inspires plenty of photo opportunities. Your kids will love the fact that gladiators once fought here, and their imaginations are likely to work overtime.

A number of friends agreed that the best way to experience the Colosseum is with a professional tour guide. They recommended City Wonders, which specifically offers a family tour of the Colosseum. The company handles tickets and reservations, limits groups to 25 or less to ensure a more personal experience, and brings the Colosseum to life for both kids and adults through fun facts and behind-the-scenes stories. I wish we had done this because it would have provided a richer experience than walking through on our own.

Colosseum - Lois and Sara3. The Explora Museum

Now, here’s a museum young children will love because it’s geared right for them! Not only does it feature a variety of interactive activities, but kids under the age of three are admitted free. To avoid overcrowding, visits to the museum are limited to an hour and 45 minutes and, on weekends and holidays, you’re required to book your tickets ahead of time. One of the best things about the Explora? Watching your kids play with the local children, and realizing that having fun together overcomes any language barriers. As for toddlers, who aren’t even verbal yet – well, their smiles will say it all.

Although I’ve visited Rome alone with my husband and together as a family, I’m now eager to go back again one day – with my future grandbambini.


  1. I absolutely agree, Italy (and Rome) is an awesome place to take kids. We took our daughters when they were 8 and 14 (actually, their grandparents took all of us for their 50th Wedding Anniversary…all 15 of their kids and grandkids). The only problem with taking children abroad is that they grow up and believe they can live anywhere (and they do). : )

  2. I do wish we’d taken our kids on more trips abroad. We loved Rome!

  3. Visiting Rome would be such a fun family trip. My hubby was just talking about us traveling to Italy…I will share this post with him.

  4. We’ve trotted our kids around the globe, too, and Rome is one of my favorite family destinations! Climbing to the top of the Coliseum, then down to the catacombs, throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain, eating gelato at a cafe! Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!

  5. We took our sons to Italy when they were 19 and 15. They had both just studied art history. It was one of our best trips ever.

  6. My grandson is Italian and I’d love to take him there when he gets older. I’ll be calling up for suggestions.

  7. I love Rome. I spent a month there a few years ago and was proposed to at the Trevi Fountain. It was a dance, really, him trying to get me there, me knowing why and trying to avoid it… ahh, Roma. Not so much a family place for me. But I did tweet and G+1 this for parents!

  8. Love your photos – and we loved Rome! I wish we could take more family vacations, but now that my kids are working people, it’s so much tougher. Glad we had a chance when they were younger, though.

  9. We loved Rome – we walked everywhere, ate everything, and never said no to the wine. Such a beautiful city.
    We went without our children, who were both under 2 at the time. One day, they’ll experience it in their own way, and make their own memories of their visit.

  10. I agree…the idea of taking kids on a trip to Rome sounds daunting, but you’ve provided some really good kid-friendly options! Maybe some day my family will get to make the trip!

  11. We took our kids a few who were teenagers at the time and it was so much fun. They really appreciated seeing the historical sites and enjoying the fabulous food! It was one of our best trips.

  12. Our family had a great time in Rome. I have always meant to write a blog about it. My son had just read “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown, so I used ambigrams and poems as clues for him to tour us around Roma. It was awesome!

  13. Pamela Lear says:

    We saw Rome as part of a cruise in the Mediterranean with our kids when they were 17 & 13 (almost the same ages as your kids, Lois!); it was wonderful, memorable trip and I highly recommend it. It’s very valuable to take your children abroad from a younger age; as long as they aren’t spoiled with everything being fancy and upscale. They should be able to see and experience some of the varieties of peoples and customs of the world.

  14. I would love to visit Rome someday!

  15. Rome would be awesome to take the family. I wish we had done this with the kids, but we always have grandkids.

  16. Jessica @EatSleepBe says:

    Wow. What an amazing family experience. I’d love to go to Rome!

  17. I have a nine year old that I would like to take abroad, but I have concerns about the long flight. Any suggestions?

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Tricia, here’s a post by my friend, Estelle, who recently took her daughter to Australia! She has some good tips here. http://musingsonmotherhoodmidlife.com/2014/06/24/family-trip-australia/ I think the key is tiring them out first because most flights to Europe are overnight flights, which make it easier for kids to fall asleep. For the time they’re not asleep, movies and food work wonders! I hope you decide to go, and I’d love to hear all about it!

  18. What beautiful pictures! I would love to travel to Rome with the kids!

  19. We have been to many places but this looks amazing. Need to out this on my bucket list.

  20. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    We also visited Rome as a family and had a great time. Great sites, amazing history and memorable meals.

  21. I have never visited Rome before (or been out of the country for that matter) but it’s most definitely on my must-see list! I’ll have to keep the places outlined in the post above in mind, too 🙂

  22. I have never been to Rome before, but I would love to go. We have always traveled with our daughter I guess I was one of those crazy Mom’s who never thought I shouldn’t! Great tips and great list of places to go.

  23. I’ve been to Rome twice. Once with girl friends and then on my honeymoon. I’d go back in a second with my kids when they are a bit older. Right now they are 3 and 5.;)

  24. oh sigh…Rome. I have been there twice–once with the love of my life and once with my best friend. I feel I can never get enough of the food, the culture, the sites. Just one glimpse of the familiar sites and the longing returns doesn’t it?

  25. I had no clue there was so much family friendly stuff to do in Rome!

  26. sounds like an awesome trip, rich in history. Must have been neat to be in the Colosseum!

  27. Elisebet F says:

    It looks amazing! My husband has been to Rome, but I haven’t yet…I hope to one day. I would love to experience the culture.

  28. Ann Bacciaglia says:

    I really want to go to Rome with my kids. My late husband went about 20 years ago and loved it. A trip to Italy is on my travel bucket list.

  29. I’m not sure I would have thought to do the Colosseum tour either but I’m glad you said something. I’ll remember that.

  30. We visited Rome before children and loved all of Italy. Hope to go back someday. Lovely photos, Lois.

  31. Looks like you took them at a great age! We love family travel too! Italy someday I hope!

  32. Oh man, I’m jealous! I want to visit Rome one day! And yes I am a big believer in Family Travel as well!

  33. I have a toddler so want to hold off on traveling those extremely long flights with her. She has done a 14hr flight but it wasn’t non stop and she was much younger so slept through most of it. That won’t happen now. Great pics by the way.

  34. I haven’t been to Rome yet, but loved Florence and Tuscany. I checked out the Family Tours at the Coliseum. Pretty cool!

  35. I believe in family travel as well, thank you for sharing family friendly places in Rome. I never thought of Rome for family travel because like you say it has that romantic reputation, thanks for sharing : )

  36. It looks like you and your family had a great time. Travel is a fun way to connect with family. I plan on visiting Italy one day – all of my grandparents were from Italy; three from Sicily and one from Naples.

  37. Italy is one place I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go, and I agree that family travel can be a wonderful thing (as long as you have a good dose of patience and realistic expectations!) I can’t imagine seeing a new place like that without my kids.

  38. Loved Rome! Actually loved all of Italy. And we did take our boys with us–they had a blast.

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