After spending a glorious week in the Amalfi Coast, we travelled to Naples by car. Thankfully we were travelling with family, who knew how to navigate the winding cliff-edge roads to Naples. Because we would have gotten into an accident for sure as we were so distracted by the sunny Italian villages and endless shades of blue in the Mediterranean.
We left Napoli Centrale station on a Trenitalia train, for our 1 hour ride to Rome and arrived at Roma Termini in the early evening.
It was during dinner when I realised that, although we had only just arrived, Izzy didn’t seem that impressed with Rome so far. I guess to a 7-year old, what’s the big deal with these really old buildings, right?
In this ancient city, it can be a challenge to keep the kids engaged whilst the grown ups walk around in awe of the rich history that is around every corner. We saw many families in Rome so it is a family friendly destination but unless you are on a group tour the whole time, kid friendly activities are not as obvious.
Here are some fun things we did over 4 days to keep our 7 year old interested and invested during our summer trip through one of the oldest cities in the world.
The # 1 thing that all children will remember about Rome (or Italy in general) is the yummy gelato. My daughter is a gelato/ice cream lover not a connoisseur (well at least not yet), so whilst the foodies argue about whether Rome has the best gelato in Italy or not … the rest of us will eat it!
The challenge we set for her though is to try new flavours that she may not have had before. So it was in Rome that she discovered the tangy sweetness of lemon, the refreshingly cool watermelon, creamy nuttiness of pistachio and more.
At the time of our visit, Rome seemed to be experiencing a heatwave and what better way to cool down than a scoop (or two or six) of Italian gelato!
Colosseum Family Tour
This was a pre-booked activity for our first day and we met Dark Rome (City Wonders) for a family tour of the Colosseum. Along with other families, we met our guide at the Trajan’s Column.
Under the warm afternoon sun, we made our way to the Colosseum itself, and along the way we learnt so much about Roman history and what it would have been like during those ancient times.
Our fun and engaging guide kept both adults and kids interested and stopped occassionaly to play group games and other activities. With each activity and with each answer to a question our curiosity grew and we all became more and more excited.
The excitement reached new heights when golden wreaths were handed out to all the kids – then they felt like gladiators. 🙂 This was a wonderful first experience of Rome and one we won’t forget.
Tip: Do this tour in the first day or two as it will then provide a greater appreciation of and context to the city during the rest of your stay.
Play in the piazza
As early diners, like us, make way for the second round of guests at the restaurants & cafes, we spent many evenings playing and just running around at the nearest piazza.
Free from cars or other modes of transport, except the odd police motorcycle or two, playing here was safe, fun and at no cost to you. Well, if you can resist buying a balloon, trinket or cheap toy from the vendors. But don’t worry they weren’t overcrowded with vendors selling their wares – even during our four days at the peak travel season of the year, we counted no more than 6 vendors at each piazza.
It’s a place where locals and tourists converged and all the kids played, make new friends from around Italy and the world, all whilst getting a sense of history. And it was a surreal feeling to watch her run around, surrounded with buildings, fountains and statues that are centuries old.
Our favourites were Piazza Navona, with it’s beautiful fountains, and luckily the huge Piazza del Popolo was the closest to our hotel.
Hunt for hidden signs
We learnt during our Colosseum tour that the local government of Rome still uses the insignia “SPQR” (Senatus Populusque Romanus) which in Latin means the Senate and People of Rome and is a reference to ancient Roman government. We were told that you could find these initials all over Rome.
So on every outing, Izzy was on a look out as to how many she could find. Eventually we set an additional challenge to find the most unusual place where she spots the insignia.
We went for a relatively simple one and you can choose whatever is suitable. Perhaps if you have younger children, count the number of fountains they can find along the way while older children can look for family crests or particular symbols (e.g. any symbols with a lion on it).
Visit the Pantheon
The most preserved building of ancient Rome, we were all fascinated by the dome roof/ceiling of the Pantheon. Once inside, we walked around viewing the artwork on the wall.
Thankfully I held onto Izzy’s hands as she couldn’t take her eyes off the domed ceiling. She was completely lost in it – the light and outside noises funnelling through the perfectly round opening. We kept wondering what it would be like inside if it were to rain.
To top it all off, the Pantheon is cool in the summer, open everyday and doesn’t take long to get an appreciation of it.
Colosseum for Families by Dark Rome tours (City Wonders)
- 2 hour duration
- Group of about 20-25 (adults & kids)
- Started in the afternoon – approx. 4pm
- Fantastic location – walking distance to most attractions, cafes/restaurants and shopping districts
- Small boutique hotel
- Triple room was comfortable, equipped with everything we needed – although small (like most hotel rooms we encountered in Europe)
- Excellent service
- Doesn’t serve breakfast as they don’t have a restaurant but did offer discount at nearby cafes/restaurants
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