Despite a reputation as a highbrow cultural destination, Rome has a lot to offer kids. Child-specific sights might be thin on the ground, but if you know where to go, there’s plenty to keep the little 'uns occupied and parents happy.
A Family Day Trip
- Ostia Antica
Many of Rome’s ancient sites can be boring for children, but Ostia Antica is different. Here your kids can run along the ancient town’s streets, among shops, and all over its impressive amphitheatre.
Kids will enjoy exploring the gardens at Villa d'Este with their water-spouting fountains and grim-faced gargoyles. Nearby, the extensive ruins of Villa Adriana provide ample opportunity for hide and seek.
The nearest beach to Rome is at Ostia Lido, but there are better ones at Anzio, Fregene and Santa Marinella.
- Animal Sculptures
Try to spot as many animal sculptures as you can. There are hundreds around town, including an elephant (outside the Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva), lions (at the foot of the Cordonata staircase), bees (on Bernini’s fountain just off Piazza Barberini), horses, eagles and, of course, Rome’s trademark wolf in the Capitoline Museums.
Cats have had the run of Rome's streets for centuries. These days they like to hang out in the ancient ruins on the Largo di Torre Argentina.
After all those churches and museums, the Bioparco in Villa Borghese offers some light relief.
Food for Kids
Pizza al taglio (sliced pizza) is a godsend for parents. It’s cheap (about €1 buys two small slices of pizza bianca – with salt and olive oil), easy to get hold of (there are hundreds of takeaways around town) and works wonders on flagging spirits.
Ice cream is another manna from heaven, served in coppette (tubs) or coni (cones). Child-friendly flavours include fragola (strawberry), cioccolato (chocolate) and bacio (with hazelnuts).
History for Kids
Everyone wants to see the Colosseum and it doesn’t disappoint, especially if accompanied by tales of bloodthirsty gladiators and hungry lions. For maximum effect prep your kids beforehand with a Rome-based film.
- Terme di Caracalla
Virtual reality brings the Terme di Caracalla back to life courtesy of headsets that recreate the massive baths as they looked in their heyday.
- Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini
Parents and older kids will enjoy the multimedia tour of Roman excavations beneath Palazzo Valentini.
Museums for Kids
Near Piazza del Popolo, Explora – Museo dei Bambini di Roma is a hands-on museum for kids under 12, with interactive displays and a free play park.
- Museo delle Cere
Go face to face with popes, rock stars and footy players at Rome’s cheesy wax museum, the Museo delle Cere.
- Museo delle Mura
Walk along a stretch of the Aurelian Wall at the Museo delle Mura, a small museum housed in one of Rome's ancient city gates.
- Trevi Fountain
Join the crowds and throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. And if the kids ask, you can tell them that about €3000 is thrown in on an average day.
- Bocca della Verità
Put your hand in the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth). Just don't tell a fib; otherwise the mouth will bite it off. According to legend, that is.
Spook your teens with a trip to the catacombs on Via Appia Antica. These creepy tunnels, full of tombs and ancient burial chambers, are fascinating, but not suitable for children under about seven years old.
- Convento dei Cappuccini
One for older kids, the crypt under the Convento dei Cappuccini is a decidedly weird place where everything is made from human bones.
Run in the Park
This is the most central of Rome’s main parks. There’s plenty of space to run around in – though it’s not absolutely car-free – and you can hire family bikes.
A lovely park on the Celio Hill. It's a quiet spot and its grassy banks are ideal for a relaxed picnic.
Atmospheric and popular with locals, this attractive park is a verdant oasis off Via Nomentana.
Need to Know
Getting Around Cobbled streets make getting around with a pram or pushchair difficult.
Eating Out In a restaurant ask for a mezza porzione (child’s portion) and seggiolone (highchair).
Admission Prices Under-18s get in free at state-run museums, while city-run museums are free for under-sixes and discounted for six to 25 year olds.
Transport Under-10s travel free on all public transport in the city.
For an insight into Rome aimed directly at kids, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s City Trails: Rome. Perfect for children aged eight and up, it opens up a world of intriguing stories and fascinating facts about Rome’s people, places, history and culture.