Our round up of the top 5 free things to do in Rome as a family.
Rome is a wonderful city to visit with kids but her beauty comes at a price. Accommodation, tours, attractions, tourist restaurants all pay hefty entrance prices and if you are not careful you can easily find yourself out of pocket. However, it is possible to visit Rome without breaking the bank: in this post, I have listed some of the free attractions in Rome while in this article today, I will focus on the 5 free things that I believe are the easiest to enjoy with kids.
Going to Rome with kids? Find here my top tips for visiting Rome with children
5 free things kids will love about Rome
Rome’s stunning piazzas
Rome’s is famous for having glorious piazzas, beautiful urban spaces framing human interactions in a sometimes grand, sometimes unassuming and always evocative way.
Adults love piazzas for the quintessential Italian character they evoke and kids are usually quick at picking up the playground quality of these often unexpected openings in the urban jungle.
No matter how big or small they are, when Rome’s narrow streets open up into one of these spaces, ‘oooohhhs’ and ‘aaahhhhs’ abound: they usually also host small cafes, which act a reward to tired little and not so little legs.
Some of Rome’s most famous piazzas are Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo and of course Piazza San Pietro (St Peter’s square), but the true jewels are often hidden in the medieval heart of the eternal city – if you are near the Capitolium, head to Piazza Margana for a taste of a smaller and oh so Roman square adults and children will love.
Top tip for families: never assume that piazzas are car free. Especially in the city centre, piazzas can seem like safe, enclosed spaces, but in most cases they are just a feature of the road and cars and scooters do cross them at sometimes ridiculous speed. Piazza del Popolo, in the picture, is partially closed to traffic and Piazza San Pietro is car free.
Rome’s unique fountains
Rome is the city in the world with the highest number of fountains.
Fountains, monumental or not, are a peculiarity or Rome and their fresh running water is great for playing and to cool you down on hot summer days. Let the kids splash about freely and do let them drink from the ones called ‘nasoni’ (big noses, in the photo below): the water is clean and delicious. Just make sure you have a change of clothes as a getting wet in them is irresistible!
Top tip for families: instead of buying bottled water, carry a bottle with you and fill it up at one Rome’s ubiquitous fountains. On a sunny day, challenge the kids to see who can splash further without getting their clothes wet (hint: use your hand to block the main nose of the fountain: this will force water to come out from the smaller passage and it will form a neat arch kids will love!)
It’s quirky monuments
Rome is one of the most generous cities in the world when it comes to peculiar stories and anecdotes: the Colosseum and the Roman forum are world famous and keep vestiges of the most glorious Roman past, but what is a pyramid doing in Rome? How come there’s an elephant in one of its more central squares? Every corner of Rome tells a story that is sure to entertain and entice little explorers and curious adults.
Top tip for families: go church hopping! Some of Rome’s most beautiful art is not in museum but in the city’s many churches Entrance is free, they can be visited in few minutes, minimising the risk of temper tantrums, and their shady interiors offer refuge from the outside heat in the summer. Votive candles and side crypts are always a hit with the kids.
Roman ancient ruins
Ancient Rome is a sight to behold and the moment the Colosseum appears in front of you, when you step out of the dark metro station in front of it, is one of those travel experiences that are hard to forget. Kids love its, literally, colossal size and the presence of actors dressed up as gladiators is the cherry on the cake for anyone under 7 years of age! Access to the colosseum and the forum is not free but a walk along via dei fori imperiali (the street along the ruins) is, and offers beautiful views over the whole area.
Top tips for families: If you have small children in need to stretch their legs, from the colosseum make your way to Circo Massimo (it’s a short walk in the direction of Mount Aventino). This is a large area just at the bottom of the palaces of emperors, with no cars and huge room to run around. The green space itself is nothing special but there is plenty of safe space to play and the view towards the Palatine is unique in the world.
It’s public parks and villas
Rome has many green areas and most of them have an impressive past: originally the private backyards of Rome’s most influential families, the parks are now open to the public and offer fantastic spaces with playgrounds, monuments, and open air cafes
Top tip for families: head to Villa Borghese and spend the afternoon in the area called ‘giardino del lago’. Here, you have a small playground, a cafe and a small pond with rowing boats that seem out of a Victorian novel! Renting the boats is not free but spotting the turtles lounging in the sun is!
I hope you enjoyed this list of free and child-friendly activity in Rome and I helped you save money you can now spend on gelato (and pizza!). Have you been to Rome? Is there anything in particular you’d like to do or see there?