Rome is a magical destination for families, but as with any successful trip, the proof is in the planning, so here are my top tips (and those of my wife and four children, who are never short of feedback on one of our family trips) for the perfect family trip to the Eternal City...
Yes, it's terribly boring not being able to spontaneously wing it like you used to as a couple, but the fact is that family holidays take Hannibal-and-elephants-crossing-the-Alps levels of planning. By definition, when travelling as a family you're restricted to school holidays, which means every other family in Europe might have had the same idea, so I had booked tables in all the best family restaurants, recommended by our expert Europe consultants and our clued-up local Concierge (on whom more later). I could let you in on these little gastronomic gems but we want to keep them our little secrets for our clients. Suffice to say we had what was agreed as the best ever pizza (this from children spoilt enough to have a grandmother who lives in Italy) and generally ate very well. 'But it's Italy', I hear you say, 'of course you ate well'. It's true, the holy trinity of pizza, pasta and gelato (ice cream) is pretty unbeatable, but you can eat surprisingly badly in Rome, so insider recommendations (like ours, for instance) are golden.
When in Rome, roam. It's a remarkably walkable city, with the main attractions all within realistic reach of little legs. That said, no one knows your children, or their tolerance levels, better than you, so you'll have to be the judge. If they are up for a wander this is by FAR the best way to explore, because one of the joys of a Rome family vacation is stumbling across a 2,000 year-old temple tucked away down a back street. If you schedule in some strategic gelato pit stops for energy boosts you could have them walking far further than you'd imagine possible. On one day, for example, even our seven year-old walked over six miles - some 18,000 steps (thanks Apple Health app).
Ice cream and temple discoveries aside, another great way to keep children interested and really taking in what's around them is to set challenges. For instance, who can spot the most examples of the symbol of Rome: the iconic she-wolf suckling the twin founders Romulus and Remus. Or count the most (of the 2,500) nasoni public drinking fountains across the city. The children loved learning to stick their thumbs under the tap so that deliciously cold water spurted up into their mouths from the hole on top, much as the locals have done for the past two millennia. The nasoni also mean you can go an entire long weekend without buying a single plastic water bottle, as you can replenish your Chilly bottles as you go. Another game to play in as religious city as Rome is 'spot the clergy', the excellent invention of friends of ours who are regular visitors. It's one point for spotting a priest, two for a nun, three for a priest on a bicycle, and so on, 'and twenty for seeing a cardinal drinking a negroni' explained my friend Andrew.
Don't Try Too Much
Rome is the gift that keeps on giving, so even if you don't throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure you return, in all likelihood you will. For that reason, don't try to pack to much into one family trip. You can even consider theming your visits - Ancient Roman Rome, Religious Rome, Renaissance Rome - and still have more than enough to see and do on a long weekend. Take your time, soak up the atmosphere, and come back for more another time.
Planning a Rome family vacation? Get in touch and we will be happy to help.