Our round up of 5 awesome cultural experiences you can have in Rome with kids when you need a break from museum hopping!
Rome is the ultimate cultural destination. With a history spanning over 27 centuries (Rome was founded in 753 B.C.!), the city is full of cultural treasures ranging from invaluable ancient ruins to tasty gelato parlours.
Some of these treasures are kept in Rome’s stunning museums but what makes the city truly special is that some of its more beautiful and meaningful corners are actually out there for everyone to see.
If you have time, I recommend you visit at least some of Rome’s galleries, but if young kids make a visit to a museum unpalatable or you need a break from your museum hopping efforts, the ideas below can come in handy.
Here are some of my favourite educational experiences in Rome.
5 cultural experiences you can have in Rome with kids
Visit Roman ancient ruins
The ultimate cultural experience in Rome is a full immersion into the ancient heart of the city.
Ancient Rome still lies at the heart of modern Rome with the imposing Colosseum, the vast Roman forum, the arch of Constantine and the old cart stadium, the Circo Massimo.
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.
The questions about it will be endless so this will be an incredible opportunity not just to tap into the history of ancient Rome but also to get the kids to reason over the connections between ancient and contemporary Rome: cars zoom past the Colosseum so the ancient and modern here truly collide.
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.
Hang out in 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.
What is cultural about piazzas?
The word ‘piazza’, like many others in Italian, has Greek origins and defines spaces that in the past were the political, commercial, and religious heart of the city.
Piazze were at the centre of city life especially during the Middle Ages and in the Reinassance and often had different roles, some hosting a market, others being the centre of political rallies etc. Visiting a piazza puts you at the centre of this historical times and you can challenge the kids to imagine how life would have been like in those times!
Splash in Rome’s unique fountains
Rome is the city in the world with the highest number of fountains. You see them everywhere and their chilly water offers solace to locals and tourists on their urban wanderings.
What is cultural about Rome fountains? Fountains, monumental or not, are a peculiarity of Rome. ‘Le fontanelle’, the non monumental ones, made their first appearance in Rome in 1874, when the Comune built them to distribute clean, drinkable water the capital, for free and are unique to the city.
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!)
Marvel at Rome’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.
What is cultural about this? Each of Rome’s peculiar monument can be a window over a certain period of time or a chance to discuss styles and traditions. Also, I love to challenge my kids to form an opinion about a monument that stands out from the rest: can they see the monument is different from others? What makes it stand out? Is it similar to a monument you saw somewhere else, if so: where?
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.
What is cultural about Rome churches? Churches in Rome are an endless source of cultural and educational facts. Each of them has their own peculiar history but even without going into details about each one, you can use them to challenge the kids to learning different styles: many churches in Rome are baroque in style: can the kids spot the main characteristics of this style? What makes it different from the churches back home?
Wander in Rome’s public parks and villas
Rome has many green areas, many of them in the city centre.
What is cultural about Rome parks? Most of Rome parks 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. Challenge the kids to notice the difference between these parks and the ones back home: can you tell these belonged to important families? Why do you think they gave them up?
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 short list of cultural experiences you can have in Rome with kids! Is a visit to Rome in your plans?