Rome is a city high on any traveler’s must-see list. But for families, it can be overwhelming. When you end up in front of the majestic Trevi Fountain feeling like you’d rather be at home on the couch, it’s time to reevaluate your approach to visiting to Rome. At least, that’s what happened to us. Here’s how you can avoid our mistakes.
- Don’t try to see everything
For thousands of years, Rome was the center of Western civilization. It feels like every fallen column has a story to tell. And there are lots of fallen columns. We set off with an ambitious plan mapped out by a relative who lives in the city, a route that would take us to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Capitoline Museum for a snack bar with a view. But we got lost on the train early on and it took us a long time to re-orient and position ourselves. By the time we arrived at the Pantheon it was raining (although seeing the rain pour down through the hole in the rotunda was very cool), and our package of bread sticks wasn’t holding up to our collective hunger.
- Know Where You Want to Eat
Rome is a food town. And for pasta and pizza lovers like us, it’s heaven. The streets are packed with restaurants that would be considered the best Italian food in any town outside of Italy. But when you’re already hungry and wandering through a very touristy area in the city center, finding a decent place to eat suddenly seemed very hard. We ended up in a forgettable restaurant with slow service. The silver lining being that Marshall drew this map of places of our trip on the back of the placemat while we waited for the check. It now hangs in our son’s room and he loves it.
- Don’t Expect Smooth Strollering
One of our favorite travel items is our stroller, which is designed to fold up to fit underneath a standard airline seat. But it was not designed to hold up to Roman roads. Rome is literally sinking into itself, as our relative informed us. It’s built on soft ground, and the questionable government cannot keep up with potholes and even sinkholes that open up on a regular basis. The impact on family travelers being, it’s really hard to navigate a stroller around. We felt like a wheel might break off as we pushed over bumps and divots. If you need to bring a stroller, make sure it’s trail-strength. Otherwise, the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour looked pretty attractive.
Our experience of Rome was limited to the city center, and just two days. We did enjoy great food, and when we weren’t cranky, soaking in all that ancient history was pretty magical. But we’ve learned it’s essential to prepare for Rome, and to adapt it to our child’s age and interests. Next time, we’d want to get a bit off the beaten path and find more sites situated by playgrounds.
A general rule of thumb when sightseeing is to plan for only one or two sites a day. We got swept up by all there is to see in Rome. But we learned that seeing everything isn’t the point of traveling, especially with kids. Our highlights were the time we spent with family. We promised to go back to Rome, but when we do, we’ll change our approach.