Where to stay:
Rome is one of those cities where it is indispensable that you stay in the city center (near the Vatican is also a great alternative) to be able to truly enjoy and soak in the unique atmosphere of the city. Being able to walk everywhere you go, taking the subway when necessary will make your trip to Rome even more enjoyable.
Day 1 – Exploring Rome, Piazza Venezia and Pizzeria da Baffetto
Spend your first day settling in, walking through the streets and alleys of Rome. Make sure to walk by the always beautiful Piazza Venezia and amuse yourself. Find some gelato and prepare for what will be 4 days of intense touristic activity.
Have dinner at Pizzeria Da Baffetto. This authentic Italian family restaurant will have you begging for more. Try to arrive before the crowd, but even if there is a line, believe me, it is well worth the wait! During dinner tell your little ones something about gladiators and you will have them eager to visit the Colosseum on the next morning.
Day 2 – Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Foro Romano, Circus Maximus, Bocca della Verita
Start your day by going to the Colosseum. On your way there you can stop at a Café and get a latte (and maybe share some of the delicious pastries) – remember to eat at the bar so you are not charged nearly double for what you eat. Be prepared to face long lines at the Colosseum even if you have a ticket. The security check is pretty thorough. Do not bring your kids’ scooter as they are not allowed either at the Colosseum or at the Palatine Hill.
After you are done with Colosseum you can take advantage of the proximity and go straight to the Palatine Hill through the Roman Forum. Exploring these ancient ruins and imagining how Rome once was will make you and your kids feel like you went back in time.
Walk then to see Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth). This is an Italian legend that my son was specifically excited about because of a book that we read to him before our trip. There is normally a line, but it dissipates quite fast. Right behind the church where you can touch the Mouth of Truth is the Circus Maximus, an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium. A great place for your kids to spend their energy running around.
Day 3 – Pantheon, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, Cantina & Cucina
Head to the Pantheon in the morning (it opens at 8:30am). Before you go inside that magnificent building have a latte at Tazza d’Oro Caffé – one of the most traditional and authentic coffee shops in Rome. Ask for your change in coins.
Then, walk to Fontana di Trevi, try to make your way through the crowd to the fountain and help your kids make a wish throwing a coin in the water. Make sure to have enough coins so you can make a wish too!
Try to have lunch (or an afternoon beer) around Piazza Navona. A beautiful lively square with one of the most picturesque fountains in Rome. On your way to back to the hotel walk through Campo de’ Fiori and check out the little marketplace.
Have dinner at Cantina e Cucina. If the line is too long get your food to go but do not pass on their lasagna and delicious pasta.
Day 4 – Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, Trastevere
Make your way to the famous Spanish Steps. If you arrive before 10-ish you will be able to take nice pictures before everything is too crowded. There you will have options for a coffee/breakfast, including Caffè Greco – one of Europe’s oldest cafés!
After you are done exploring that neighborhood head towards the Villa Borghese Gardens. One can easily spend many hours here. Kids love getting a break from the go! go! go! at Casina di Raffaello. You can also rent a pedal or a rowing boat and enjoy the beautiful lake in the garden.
During the evening it is time to explore the Trastevere neighborhood. Filled with nice places for dinner and drinks, this lively little area is one of Rome’s best places to wander around. A favorite among visitors and locals! A kid friendly restaurant is Caramella Pizza. More on the bar/pub side you can try Pimm’s Good. When it is night time, walk (it is safe!) alongside the River through Lungotevere until Castel Sant’Angelo. Cross the Sant’Angelo Bridge and enjoy the incredible view of the lit up castle.
*During most of the summer time there will be organized tents with restaurants and lots of things to see all along the margins of the River Tiber. The promenade is enjoyable for both kids and parents!
Day 5 – Piazza San Pietro and The Vatican
Plan to spend your last day in Rome in the Vatican. Its museums are the most extravagant thing you will see in Rome. The Sistine Chapel is the single most elaborate and incredible work of art I have ever seen. Arrive early in the morning and get a guided tour so you can skip the long public lines to all of the museums.
If after the museums you are still up for seeing art you can go inside the Basilica and you will find amazing pieces of art by Michelangelo. If you happen to be there on a Sunday morning you can sit and listen to the Pope’s Angelus. A blessing that lasts about 20 minutes. It happens most Sundays at 12pm and no tickets are required. Security is a bit more thorough on Sundays which may cause lines entering the Vatican.