Three days in Rome isn’t a lot of time, but this is about the average amount of time many of us have to explore the city before setting out to see other parts of Italy. Traveling with kids can definitely slow you down, but we think it does in a good way. Read along to see how to explore the sights of Rome with kids, while still squeezing in a little downtime.
“I’m so glad it is you and not me”. This is what we heard on repeat before we left for our ten day Italian vacation with our kids, who were three and 11 months old at the time. Honestly, I was a little freaked out too. It sounded good in theory, but how were we actually going to survive this trip? It may sound crazy, but it ended up being one of our most enjoyable family vacations yet. Rome was the perfect way to start, before continuing on to Tuscany.
We visited Rome in April, when the weather was pleasant and the crowds smaller than the summer months. Don’t get me wrong, it was still extremely crowded, but much less so than it could’ve been. The spring weather was perfect for walking, which just so happens to be our favorite way to explore destinations. We left our hotel every morning, loaded the kids in the strollers, and came back after dinner in the evenings. The cobblestone streets offered just enough vibration to put the kids right to sleep midday, which left us more time for sightseeing.
PS- Check out this post for more info on how to plan a trip to Rome with toddlers. I’ve covered all the common logistical tips and planning questions.
Day 1 in Rome with Kids
Land and Check-In
We landed around 8am, after a long night of no sleep. Jet lag is bad enough, but ours was compounded by not sleeping at all on the plane. By the time we got through customs and to our hotel it was mid morning. Luckily, they let us check in early. We got settled into our room and immediately headed out for the day.
We knew we needed to get some sunshine and fresh air to help survive the day. By this point, we were absolutely starving. It had been a long time since the airplane breakfast. We were staying near the Spanish Steps, so we walked into the first place we could find. It was by far, the most touristy of tourist restaurants. They had pizza with hotdogs on it, but we were like walking zombies and just needed to refuel. While it wasn’t ideal, we didn’t care enough to waste the energy looking elsewhere. (We also vowed to spend a little more time considering our food options for the rest of our 12 days in Italy).
Get Your Bearings
After lunch, we decided to walk around the city to get our bearings. We made our way to the Pantheon (which allows strollers) then Piazza Navona, Piazza Venezia, and Campo de Fiori. We spent a couple of hours checking out these areas and taking in the scenery. Our daughter loved the Pantheon, and was so proud to have her picture taken there.
We then crossed the Tiber and headed toward the Trastavere. This area is a bit slower paced. I’d read a lot about it having a much more local feel. By this time the kids were sleeping in the strollers, so we decided to stop for a drink at a little tavern. When the kids woke up, we headed on back toward the Vatican City.
When we arrived at St Peter’s Basilica, we immediately got in line to go inside. It was about 4pm at this point, and after about 20 minutes we realized it just wasn’t in the cards. The kids were baking in the sun and we were all exhausted from the long flight. We decided we would skip and try again later.
Looking back, we probably only had about 20 more minutes in line. You win some, you lose some. We sat along the perimeter of St Peter’s square to let the kids run around and take it all in. It is massive and breathtaking to see in person. When we visit historic places like it I always try to take a few moments to really let it sink in all the amazing things that happened there over the years.
We left the Vatican and headed back toward our hotel, passing the Castel St Angelo. Too tired to venture out for dinner, we ate at our hotel (after reading great reviews). We had the courtyard to ourselves since we were eating so early. We finally made it in for bedtime around 8pm.
Day 2 in Rome with Kids
Turns out the little guy didn’t adjust to the time change as quickly as we had hoped. He slept terribly, so day two started out with multiple espressos at breakfast in the hotel courtyard.
Golf Cart Tour
Prior to our trip we booked a golf cart tour of the city for our second day. It provided the perfect way to see a little bit of everything while getting our bearings. There are several companies you can go with. We chose ours due to their great reviews for being family friendly. Our driver was extremely patient with the kids, even stopping several times and asking the cafes to help out with bathroom breaks. He let us spend as much or little time at each stop as we wanted.
We started the day at the Colosseum then headed over to Circus Maxiumus. From there we drove by Capitoline Hill and Altare della Patria (the “wedding cake building”) then on to the Trevi Fountain. He also took us back to the Pantheon and by several other major sights. We ended our tour in the Piazza Navona, where we spent quite a bit of time letting our daughter enjoy watching the street performers.
After asking our driver for a restaurant recommendation and realizing it was already on our list to try, we made our way to Buccone for lunch, which ended up being one of our favorite restaurants in Rome.
We spent an hour attempting naps in the room, but gave up and headed back to the Trevi fountain area to spend the afternoon. We stopped at a little cafe for aperitivo after wandering all the different alleyways and streets. Even with all the tourists, dusk in Rome is magical. All of the lights coming out of the cafes and osterias gives the streets the perfect glow. We finished the evening with dinner at Il Chianti.
Day 3 in Rome with Kids
By this point, we knew the kids needed to run around and play. We went straight for Villa Borghese Gardens after another espresso filled breakfast. We spent the entire morning there. It has everything you could want from a park. There are walking paths, row boats to rent, several different playgrounds, and toddler sized go carts. Once they were exhausted, we wandered back and ate lunch at Ciampini.
After lunch, we decided to take a chance and try the Colosseum midday. Every online guide will tell you to get there early. We’d already seen it from the outside and knew that a tour with young kids would be a toss up. We walked up and the lines didn’t look too bad so we went ahead and bought tickets. We were inside five minutes later! The line moved fairly quickly, but also since we had young children they whisked us right on through. We spent about an hour walking around and marveling at this architectural feat. This was our daughter’s favorite site in Rome, by far.
**Just a note about strollers in the Colloseum: You are allowed to take them in, if you like. We did, but we immediately regretted it. There are several places where you have to go up or down a few steps to continue making your way around. It wasn’t terrible, but it did make it more difficult to maneuver the crowds. I should’ve just carried him is the baby carrier. I have a whole post on the logistics of Rome with toddlers, where I discussed this in more detail and included a chart with lots of info.
We made our way over to the Roman Forum and spent some time walking around the outskirts. While you can go down into the gated areas, you can still observe it all from above. The kids were exhausted, and we knew they were done with touring for the day. We opted to do a quick walk around of the area after seeing there was no way our strollers were going to make it down there.
Gelato and More Playtime in the Trastavere
After a long day of walking and sightseeing, we made our way back over to the Trastavere neighborhood on the hunt for the best gelato in Rome. Fatamorgana resided near the top of every list I could find, and I can see why. It may have been the best gelato we had on our entire ten day Italian vacation. I tried the pear and gorgonzola special of the day. It sounds so unusual, but was some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. The kids played at a park down the street then we went back to Piaza Navona before bed. The next morning we caught our train out to Tuscany.
Last day before flying back home
We did end up seeing St Peter’s Basilica on our last afternoon before flying back to the states. You may have noticed that we didn’t see the Sistine Chapel. We knew ahead that we probably wouldn’t make this one. It can be a long tour, even for an adult. I had visions of a total meltdown after two hours of walking the beautiful halls. The thought of us being the ones to break the code of silence in the Sistine Chapel, helped seal the deal for us.
One thing to note: make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. This is a place of worship with rules for appropriate dress. I knew this before we left, but after a long day of travel and wrangling kids, I completely forgot to plan for this. So once we made it the entrance for the St. Peter’s Basillica, I was told I couldn’t go in unless I covered up my legs (I had on shorts). Thank goodness I had a muslin baby blanket in the diaper bag. I used it like a sarong to cover up my legs; problem solved. I looked so silly, but I wasn’t going to miss that experience.
**Note about strollers in St. Peter’s Basillica: Strollers are not allowed. There is a check-in station right before the entrance where you can leave it safely behind.
Rome has hundreds of sights and attractions. I’m convinced you could spend months exploring them all. Pick your top priorities and go from there. Have you taken your kids to Rome? Check out our itinerary for 12 days in Italy with kids!