Last fall, our family joined us in Rome for a week. Our two grandsons were 6 and 4 1/2 at the time so we knew we would need to adjust our touring to fit their needs. 4 and 6 year olds are not interested in history or impressed with being in another country. They just want to do fun things and play. If they learn something, it’s a bonus.
We found it was important to tell them the day’s plan before we set off. We also explained that when you travel sometimes plans change. They coped pretty well if we told them what was coming up next, what we expected of them and when we would eat. And we packed lots of snacks.
We rented an apartment in the Prati neighborhood, which is near the Vatican and very near the Castel Sant’ Angelo. This location turned out to be especially good because there’s a nice playground right behind the castle! We finished up almost every day with playtime there.
Castel Sant’Angelo was our first day’s outing. This is not an “A List” site in Rome so there were no long lines! It was entertaining for the boys and interesting for the adults.
Castel Sant’Angelo is a massive fortress. It began in AD193 as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum. Since then, it has been part of the city wall, a citadel, a prison and a residence for the popes in times of unrest. Now it’s a museum.
Great views from the top of the fortress!
There were several markets in our neighborhood, so we bought supplies for breakfasts and made a few dinners in the apartment. There were some great take-out places nearby too. We were usually out for lunch. I wasn’t sure we could get peanut butter in Italy, so I packed a small jar. We made PB&Js for back-up when we ate out.
Pizza and arancini were a hit with one boy.
The other boy has a sweet tooth.
Gelato was a necessity.
Books and puzzle books were handy to keep the boys busy during the inevitable waits at restaurants and down time at the apartment, not to mention at airports and on planes. (An Amazon Fire for each boy with games and videos helped on the long flights.) In the apartment they liked the cartoons and kid shows in Italian on TV, and we all enjoyed watching Italian cooking shows!
One day we went to the Mercado Trionfale. Strong fishy smells but yummy fruits.
A walk past the Vatican was enough for this visit. There were lots of people and long lines.
The boys needed time at the playground again, and there was a carousel just down the street. That was a big hit.
The Rome Zoo, Bioparco di Roma, is a great place for kids and no crowds!
There are lots of places to play too.
Our favorite day trip was to Ostia Antica. We visited this site several years ago. You can see pictures from that trip here. I knew this would be a wonderful place for the boys.
Founded in 620 BC, Ostia was Rome’s main port for over 600 years. In the 5th century the town went into decline when the river shifted, and the harbor silted up. The town was abandoned, and nature slowly covered and protected the ruins. It is now 3 miles inland.
There are only a few areas off limits. You can walk and climb around most of the ruins.
On our last day, we used the Metro to see several of the iconic sites of Rome. First stop was to walk around the Coliseum. Lots pf people and long lines, but since we did not plan to go inside, it wasn’t a problem.
Then the Spanish Steps.
The Trevi Fountain had huge crowds.
We came back around to the Spanish Steps again after a long slog through more crowds – literally, wall to wall people!
I’ve read it is now against the law to sit on the steps! That’s too bad but understandable. It was against the rules to eat on the steps when we were there (but we broke that rule with a granola bar to ward off a meltdown.)
Everyone was a bit done in by then so one last gelato picked up our spirits!
And one last ride on the carousel.
I made a picture book to help the boys remember their week in Rome. They are pretty young, so we had no expectation that this trip was for them! Really, we did this for ourselves, to spend time with our family in a unique way. We look forward to traveling with them again. Maybe the boys will catch the travel bug. In any event, we hope they will keep their eyes open to a bigger world.