Rome for kids

Though Rome is not “the” city  for kids here’s a list of suggested places.

Villa Borghese an historical  and very central park that houses the Zoo, train rides,  bike rentals and the Casina di Raffaello (a museum, playground and area for exhibits. Most of the activities are in Italian).

Villa Pamphily the largest city park, with hills, ponds, fountains, and a lot of room for all outdoor activities. Inside the park  there is a restaurant Vivibistrot which also offers  kid’s  menus and picnic boxes. Wide variety of special menus including organic food.

Castel Sant’Angelo first built to be a Mausoleum for emperor Hadrian and his family, then became a papal fortress  where the Pope would take shelter and also imprison his  enemies in gloomy dungeons. There is a section with ancient armoury and a stunning view from the highest terrace. Walk all around the walls to the different bastions, see the firing chambers with cannons!

Saint Peter’s Dome climbing the dome of Saint Peter’s basilica (550 steps) could be  also fun. You may take an elevator and climb only 430 steps. stunning view inside the Basilica and city view.

Vatican Museums If you plan to go to the Vatican Museums then do not miss the Carriage Pavillion  (Padiglione  delle Carrozze) with  gorgeous 19th horse carriages, Pope’s mobiles and a model of Vatican city’s  first train engine . In the Egyptian section instead you can see  two mummies from Thebes dating around 1000 b.C.

Crypt of the Cappuccini this weird cemetery was created by the Cappuccini monks starting from the 17th century by arranging  the bones of the dead monks in an artistic manner along the walls of this crypt . It is located on via Veneto and it is rather creepy but children and teenagers seem to love it.

The Planetarium

Janiculum Hill this could be a fun thing to do. At the top there  is a nice park with great view over the city  and everyday at noon the famous cannon   fires (blanks) once in the direction of the Tiber river to signal the exact time. On the left of the square there’s also a puppet theatre with shows at certain times of the day.

Explora a museum designed for children where they can explore the  aspects of daily life.

Puppet theatre in Villa Borghese

Bioparco Rome’s Zoo is a fairly old fashioned park. There is a small gift store and cafeteria. It is also possible  to do a train ride through the zoo.

Mouth of Truth this ancient  marble disk representing the  face of a river god was probably used as a drain cover. Tradition has it that if a liar puts his hand into the open mouth will have his fingers bitten off! Go early morning or expect to find long line ups to catch a picture.

Giolitti Ice cream splurging! If you want to treat yourself order the mouthwatering  Coppa Olimpica or simply take  a marvelous cone to go! Large selection of flavours to choose from.


110 Open bus:  hop on the red double decker  for a ride through the city.


Travel tips: the Vatican city


Dress code and photography

If you are planning a visit there prepare yourself to go through security checks as you leave the country! (Italy)

No sharp objects (pocket knives, scissors and the like). Water is allowed as long as it’s in plastic, positively no glass bottles. Restrictions for long umbrellas with tips (you must check them!).

You should bring your camera, pictures are allowed (with a few restrictions) but no tripods.

There will be a dress code:  shoulders and knees must be covered so no tank tops, mini skirts or  very short shorts. Sandals, flip-flops are fine, no restrictions for the shoes.

Pictures are allowed  on the outside with no restrictions, while inside the Museums cameras and videos are fine without the flash. In the Sistine Chapel positively no pictures or filming whatsoever. In St. Peter’s Basilica pictures are fine with the flash, while down the Vatican Grottoes pictures are again not allowed. Confused? Well the signs in the different wings will remind you the rules.


Best time to go. Prepurchasing tickets.

Museums are generally busier on Saturdays and Mondays since  they are normally closed on Sundays.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays are much slower.

On the last Sunday of the month the Museums are open and free but from 9 to 12,30  only so the lines are generally very thick ! Inside there is a lot of noise and confusion which is the reason why I’d avoid a visit to the Vatican Museums  on Sunday unless you have no other possibility.

What about Wednesdays? In springtime, summer and fall the Holy Father gives a morning  audience in St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica won’t be open to the public until the end of the audience (approx. 1 pm). So if you intend visiting the museums there won’t be large crowds  since many will attend the papal audience but if you want to see the Basilica exiting from the Sistine Chapel it will be closed. In the  early afternoon instead a lot of the groups attending the papal  audience will go to the museums.

It is true that it is difficult to predict lines, on a cruise day for example there will be  busloads of visitors from the cruiseships or in case of religious ceremonies.

Are you visiting Saint Peter’s? (during the busy season)

If  you decide to visit Saint Peter’s Basilica only, without the museums, expect to wait in line in the square if you get there too late. I suggest going to the Basilica before 9 am or after 4 pm. Normally guides can give tours in the Basilica from around 10 am to 5.30 pm so this is when the line in Saint Peter’s square gets very long.

Do you want to see Raphael’s Rooms?

Well then don’t do the mistake many do!

When you exit the Gallery of the Maps, there is another short gallery with some tapestries and then if you turn LEFT you’ll go to the Raphael Rooms. If instead you’ll go STRAIGHT you’ll take the stairs that lead directly inside the Sistine Chapel. At that point once you get in the Sistine Chapel  it will be impossible  to climb up the same  stairs and go to Raphael’s Rooms since it is a one way stairway. So if you do not want  to miss Raphael’s masterpieces in the Vatican remember to turn left (there is a small sign). After  the Raphael Rooms you’ll be able to reach the Sistine Chapel with a rather long itinerary  through the collection of Modern Religious Art in the Borgia Apartments.

Vatican museums Sistine Chapel tickets

If you plan to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel in the busy season you may like to prepurchase tickets to avoid long lines.

Normally worst days for linewise are Saturdays and Mondays since on Sundays the Vatican Museums and the Sistine chapel stay closed (except the last Sunday of the month when the’re open and free). Though it is sometimes difficult to predict lines.

To prepurchase tickets I always recommend the official Vatican website ( ) where you can buy your admission tickets ( from 60 days before the date required. Sometimes tickets are sold out, but do not get discouraged, try again some days after since  other tickets are often avaialble.

With  other companies offering the same service tickets will  be more expensive.