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The best things to do in Rome for families can be as thrilling as rafting along the Tiber or as mellow as taking in a film at the world’s smallest movie theater.

A metropolis with a difference, for adults much of Rome’s historic center is a fever dream of famous monuments and stunning classical architecture. Entering a rambling alleyway filled with bright flower boxes and ancient doorways can trigger a sense of awe and excitement, fulfilling a much-longed-for vacation vision.

Children are, for the most part, immune to the allure of Italian ambiance, Renaissance masterpieces, and significant pilasters. They seek excitement, novelty, and unhealthy quantities of gelato. Fortunately, the Eternal City has these in abundance. Here is a guide to the best things to do in Rome for families.

Be Entertained at the Colosseum

Rome for families - Colosseum


A visit to the Colosseum is easily one of the best things to do in Rome for families. Its similarity to a stadium ensures a quick understanding of its purpose in young minds.

Its blood-soaked history brings the ancient world to vivid life, all the more so with the chance to dress as a gladiator and try a bit of sword play.

Join a family-friendly guided tour to get the most out of the experience. An experienced guide will be able to lend that sense of detail and realism that’ll have you envisioning the tiers upon tiers of baying, toga-ed Romans and the contests that took place here as you enter into its formerly sand-strewn heart.

View inside the Colosseum


While it’ll be shady in some parts of the renovated hypogeum beneath the arena floor, there is no roof on this ancient arena. Early arrival ensures you don’t have to contend with a high Roman sun and so much promising juvenile interest being wilted in the heat.

Read: Italy With Teens: Best Things to See & Do

Roam the Villa Borghese

Lush landscape of Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

There are two wonderful things to know about the Villa Borghese when in Rome with children. First is that it is 198 acres of landscaped escapism set in the heart of the beautiful Italian city.

Second is that it’s found on Pincian Hill, at the top of the Spanish Steps, so your younger family members will already be well exercised by the time you reach the park.

Villa Borghese’s name refers to the stately villa at this impressive park’s heart. It was once the early 17th-century home of Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s art collection. The park grew out of a vineyard connected to the villa.

Elegant exterior of Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

For those interested in art, the cardinal, it turns out, had a good eye. Within the villa, you’ll find works from Caravaggio, Da Vinci, and Bernini, among many others. But if your children aren’t inclined to absorb renaissance-era masterworks, happily the park offers a wealth of other options.

These include curios such as the Cinema dei Piccoli which has the honor of being the world’s smallest movie theater by the number of seats. There’s also a full-scale copy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and a water-powered clock or hydro chronometer from the 19th century.

Lake within Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

There’s also the opportunity for some family bonding when you hire a row boat to cross the lake, or join a cycling tour.

Read: How to Spend 3 Unforgettable Days in Rome

Cool Off With Gelato

Gelato flavors at a store in Rome


One of the most attractive elements of an Italian vacation with the kids in tow is how easy it is to find things that they like on the menu. Even for the pickiest eaters, there’s always the gelato that Italy is known for.

Closeup view of Gelato


Your children may ask, “What’s gelato?” And you may choose to highlight how gelato differs from ice cream in being both lighter and heavier. Lighter, in that it’s made with about a third less of the butterfat, and heavier in that it has less air held inside it, due to gelato being churned more slowly.

Have fun trying all the different flavors, from rich, dark chocolate to pistachio, tangy peach, and decadent Nutella.

Marvel at the Pantheon

Beautiful exterior of Pantheon


Even adults can become oversaturated with baroque ecclesiastical interiors resplendent with gilt, so a visit to the Pantheon acts as a kind of architectural palate cleanser.

Enter beneath the granite columns of this Roman landmark and the eye is drawn upwards from the ornate marble floor to the wide hole in the roof—the only source of light in what is Rome’s most ancient temple.

View inside the Pantheon


This natural lighting method is fascinating for children, especially if it rains, with the drips being drained away by the slanting floor. Less interesting for the young may be the factoid that the Pantheon’s roof is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

Visit with a guide and they’ll tell you more about the history of this fascinating structure. This is the spot where, according to legend, Romulus was seized by an eagle to be born off to join the gods.

Crane Your Necks in the Vatican Museums

View inside Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are some of the best art museums in Italy—a huge and extremely popular trove of artistic and cultural treasures.

Here, you’ll find not only Michaelangelo’s frescoes illuminating the roof of the Sistine Chapel and Bernini’s pulpit in Saint Peter’s Basilica, but, with a displayed collection of 20,000 priceless pieces, a good deal more. For teens studying art in school, this is the dream.

Rome for families - Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums

If you’re on a family trip to Rome and you want to avoid the busiest times, aim for a small group or private after-hours tour.

Use a visit to the lauded Bonci Pizzarium, just a short walk from the museums, as a pizza-shaped reward to focus young minds and get successfully through the onslaught of papal grandeur.

Toss a Coin in the Trevi Fountain

Majestic Trevi Fountain in Rome

Trevi Fountain

Looking a little like the last remnant of a Caligula-era theme park, the obvious charms of the Trevi Fountain tend to go down very well with younger visitors to Rome, not least as this is one of the best spots for a selfie.

The jostling fountains, the slabs of travertine stone, and the sheer scale of the fountain all amount to a superb stop in Rome for families. A couple of things to consider are that it is at the junction of several fairly busy roads (“Trevi” means ‘three ways’), and you’re not allowed to splash around in the fountain à la Anita Ekberg.

Beautiful Trevi Fountain in Rome

Trevi Fountain

But while you’re not allowed in the water, your money definitely is. Have your child turn their back on the frothing immensity and, with a toss of the coin over their left shoulder, to ensure, or so the legend goes, their return to Rome.

The coins themselves are harvested regularly by the municipality and help fund a local food bank.

Besiege Castel Sant’Angelo

Bridge leading to Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo

Castles are always a welcome stop for a multi-generational trip. In Rome for families the best fortification to visit has to be Castel Sant’ Angelo.

This easily identifiable cylindrical fortress was originally conceived as an ostentatious tomb for the ashes of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Sited by the River Tiber, it became a bulge in the Aurelian Walls several centuries later when its primary purpose switched to one of defense.

View of Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo

While this was not a wholly successful transition, the castle today is a place to let off steam. Kids can race along the battlements, gasp at the dungeons, and consider the medieval weaponry displays.

For adults, the Italian castle offers much more; with its ever-changing role in the city, the history is fascinating. Sant’ Angelo’s purpose through the centuries switched from fortress to prison to papal retreat in times of danger. There’s also a connecting passageway to the Vatican.

Raft the River Tiber

People rafting River Tiber

River Tiber

As with the Thames in London or the Seine in Paris, it’s always recommended to try to navigate a city’s river if you have the time.

Journeys along these historic waterways offer an intriguing alternative side to the city and can provide a welcome break from museum-hopping along busy streets.

People rafting River Tiber

River Tiber

While a river rafting trip may conjure images of wild rapids, it’s important to understand that the Tiber, by the time it slips its silver grey course beneath the arches of the Roman bridges, is a mellow waterway.

A river rafting excursion will see you paddle along its gentle course as your guide points out St. Peter’s Basilica, the Palazzaccio, and Castel Sant’Angelo from an entirely fresh perspective.

It may or may not be reassuring to know that, as the myth goes, a she-wolf saved Romulus and Remus from drowning in the Tiber prior to their founding of Rome.

Get an Education in Pizza

Plate of Roman pizza

Roman pizza

One of the best elements of the experience in Rome for families is the prevalence of pizza, and you’ll breathe in the scent of baking pizza dough as you explore the city.

While this western fast food mainstay may not seem like an opportunity to educate the youth—and yourselves—on the particularities of authentic Italian cuisine, it absolutely is.

Rome has some of the best pizza in the world, and the first thing to know is that traditional Roman pizza, or Pizza Romana, is not the pizza that your children are likely to be familiar with.

Neapolitan pizza—round, with a crust—is the style embraced by the west at large. Pizza Romana, on the other hand, is famously thin and cracker-crisp. The two styles are known as “pizza alta” or “high pizza” for the Neapolitan version and “pizza bassa” or “low pizza” for Romana.

Slice of Roman pizza

Roman pizza

As it doesn’t have a crust, you’ll find the toppings on a Pizza Romana stray perilously close to the edge. It supplies a feeling of having received good value for money when you pick up one of these lightweight delights at the city’s innumerable outlets while on the move between ancient Roman sites.

For a “pinse”, a kind of flatbread pizza that claims to be Pizza Romana’s ancestor, stop into Pinsere on Via Flavia in the Sallustiano district.

Read: What to Eat in Rome

Check Out the Baths of Caracalla

Historic site of Baths of Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla

Like children, the Romans loved a good bath. As such, a visit to the Baths of Caracalla may help your brood feel a sense of kinship with these ancient forefathers of modern Rome.

The site is a large, open space dotted with umbrella pines. There’s plenty of space for families to relax and be themselves. And, despite being only a quick stroll from the Circus Maximus, the baths are often not very crowded.

Historic site of Baths of Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla

This is the city’s second-largest bathing complex and you’ll find within its footprint of striking, honey-stone ruins evidence of gymnasiums, libraries, and, of course, the extensive garden. You’ll also see its restored underground network where slaves maintained the flow of warm water to the steam-filled rooms above.

If you’re an Olympics fanatic, you might also recognize the baths as the venue for the gymnastics in the 1960 Summer Olympics. Today, it’s often employed as a romantic backdrop for operas by Puccini during pleasantly warm July evenings.

Cycle the Appian Way

Rome for families - Appian Way

Appian Way

One of the city’s most storied addresses, the Appian Way is an ancient Roman road that connects the capital with the port of Brindisi in southern Puglia.

This “Queen of Roads” leads out from the tangle of the capital’s traffic before stretching serenely for 360 miles towards the sapphire blue waters of the Adriatic.

Public funds are being put into upgrading the route, with its basalt slabs, museums, and archaeological sites being spruced up for travelers eager to visit historic locations such as where Spartacus was crucified in 71 BC.

People biking along Appian Way

Appian Way

With the advent of the e-bike, a trip along the Appian Way is a great choice in Rome for families interested in discovering the quieter side of the city.

If your family isn’t ready for a bike tour, a stroll along it is also highly recommended as one of the best places to explore Rome off the beaten path.

Start at the Via Appia Antica visitor center for information and planning. If walking a long distance road with kids sounds arduous, the good news is that there are superb bus services available.

Read: Best Beaches Near Rome

Rome for families - Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Explore everything there is to do in Rome for families and experience the Eternal City’s remarkable artistic, historic, and cultural heritage—not to mention its gelato—on a cruise to Rome. Browse our cruises to Rome and book a vacation to this stunning country today.

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