Best things to do with kids in Rome

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The Eternal City is full of gigantic monuments, ancient ruins and plenty of pizzas: in short, the perfect urban playground for children. From the Colosseum to the catacombs, from sprawling parks to virtual time travel, Rome promises a memorable trip for the whole family.

Is Rome Good for Children?

Kids will love everything from ruins to food (can you say “gelato?”). And Italians have a thing for children; no one will give you the evil eye if you take your little ones to a restaurant for dinner.

Cobbled streets and often out of service elevators and escalators can exasperate parents who take strollers, but overall Rome is proving to be a great destination for families.

Best things to do in Rome with kids

Stunning sights – from the flashy Trevi Fountain to Vittoriano’s white ‘wedding cake’ and the panoramic view from the top of Gianicolo Hill – welcome children around every corner of the Italian capital.

Close-up of children throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain in Rome © Imgorthand / Getty Images

The Coliseum

Probably at the top of your must-see list, the mighty Colosseum fortunately also enchants those under 12. Built in 80 CE, the 50,000-seat amphitheater is bursting with hard-hitting facts to spark your children’s imaginations. In its heyday, the Colosseum was home to gladiators fighting against each other or wild animals (the former were kept in underground tunnels which can be explored via a guided tour). The ground arena would also be flooded with water for mock naval battles to take place, and its first games lasted 100 days and saw 3,000 gladiatorial fights. Streamline your visit by purchasing skip-the-line tickets online. If you are visiting in the summer, be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat for you and your little ones, especially at the Colosseum where shade is elusive. Or, embark on a night tour and avoid the sunburn while having the arena practically to yourself.

A girl eats ice cream in Rome
A little girl enjoying a real Italian ice cream near Gelateria in Rome © TravnikovStudio / Shutterstock

Pizza, pasta and gelato

Italy doesn’t have children’s menus, but luckily it does offer kid-loved dishes down to an art. Pizza comes at once al taglio (by tranche) and thumped (round and baked). Al taglio is often sold to take away, fast food type and serves as a quick and tasty lunch. Oven-baked pizzas populate the menus of table-top restaurants and come with all kinds of toppings. For a classic cheese pizza, ask for a margherita. Warning: a pepperoni pizza will bring a pie garnished with peppers (“peperoni“in Italian means” peppers “) – ask for salami instead. fragola (strawberry), cioccolato (chocolate) and stracciatella (chocolate chips) and allow two or three different flavors in the same cup. Most restaurants can prepare pasta al pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce) or pasta burro e parmigiano (pasta and butter) for children.

Peacock fanning his feathers in the Roman zoo.
Peacock fanning his feathers in the Roman zoo © NikaDeCarolis / Shutterstock

Villa Borghese

There’s no better place for kids to play and stretch their legs than Villa Borghese Park, a 198-acre green expanse just off Piazza del Popolo. The park is full of fun and activities: rent single or tandem bikes up Pincio Hill and cycle through the park, or grab a canoe and set off on the picturesque lake of Giardino del Lago. A replica of a Roman temple, nicknamed the Tempietto di Esculapio, watches over the waters. Playgrounds can be found next to the Giardino del Lago, the Borghese Museum and Viale del Goethe. The park also includes Bioparco, Rome’s only wildlife reserve, home to 200 species spread across five continents. At the front of the zoo, climb aboard a miniature train that roams the grounds during the warmer months. Meanwhile, Casina di Raffaello, a children’s play center, thrills 3 to 10 year olds with workshops, library and bookstore.

A group of children on bicycles at the entrance to the catacombs in Rome
Young people walk through the front door of the Catacombe di San Callisto cave © Sun_Shine / Shutterstock

The catacombs and the Basilica of San Clemente

Little explorers will be delighted to discover the mysterious underground attractions of the capital. The layered Basilica di San Clemente is a 12th-century basilica resting atop a 4th-century church, perched on top of a 2nd-century pagan temple and a 1st-century Roman house. Even deeper under these foundations which date back to the Roman Republic. Think of it as an architectural “lasagna” made up of layers of history. Older children can prowl the Catacombs of San Callisto, a tangled labyrinth of graves where the early Christians rested. Look for the frescoes and paintings that adorn the catacombs.

Domus Aurea and Palazzo Valentini

The capital’s ancient past is brought to life thanks to a savvy virtual reality. Neighboring the Colosseum, Emperor Nero’s Domus Aurea was once a gigantic imperial residence that occupied about a third of the city. Video and VR headsets give kids an exciting glimpse into what the old palace looked like in its heyday: gardens, statues, lake and all. Tours also include a visit to the magnificent frescoes that still stand, a source of inspiration for Renaissance artists like Raphael who slipped underground into the site using a rope. Advanced online reservations are required. Under the 16th century Valentini Palace are the ruins of Roman domus, or ancient Roman residences resuscitated thanks to a multimedia show rich in sound effects. Book in advance online.

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