Central Rome in August with five kids whilst temperatures hit 40 degrees has the potential to be disastrous. However, we were staying at a local campsite I pini Camping , and couldn’t resist spending a couple of nights in Central Rome. When else can you visit the 2000 year old Pantheon, or spend time wondering at the beauty of the Sistine Chapel (Sure the kids would probably rather have been at the pool… but its our holiday too!)
1. Where to Stay:
I spent a lot of time researching what area we should stay in during our visit. The big factors were locality to the main sites, accommodation with some outdoor space, and of course budget. We travelled with friends so needed somewhere to sleep 9 people in total. We knew it would be HOT when we travelled, and there is only so far you can expect kids to walk, so we opted for an apartment near Piazza Navona. This location is really central, and equal distance between The Vatican City and Fountain de Trevi, with everything else in between. We accepted that children would only manage short bursts of ” Sightseeing” so split the day into morning and afternoon trips, starting first thing, and heading back to the apartment when it got too hot over lunch.
We used trusty Airbnb to find an apartment that would sleep all 9 of us comfortably, plus it had 2 outdoor wrap around Terraces (perfect for the adults when the kids were hiding from the mid day sun / or sleeping).
7. Visit the Pantheon: Built nearly 2000 years ago, the Pantheon is a great place to visit with kids, plus its free. Our guide book has the children looking for holes in the floor which drains off the rain water (from the hole in the domed roof), trying to stretch arms round the the 16 giant pillars, all 60 tonnes of which were floated down the Nile from Egypt. It’s cool inside and a great place to cool off before heading to Piazza Navona which is nearby.
8. Marvel at the Sistine Chapel ( Without the Crowds): This was my main reason for wanting to spend some time in Rome. I really wanted to enjoy the experience, and did not want to be stuck in crowds of people during the mid day sun. We walked from our accommodation at 7.30am. The heat was bearable for the little ones:
We purchased early morning tickets directly through Tiqets 16 euro for adults, 8 for children 5 and under free. These tickets give you entry to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine chapel is at the end of the museum. This was much cheaper than buying an official tour, it also means that we entered 1/2 an hour before opening at 8am and could head straight through to the sistine chapel ( we pretty much walked straight through the museum, you can go back and look at the exhibits more closely after you’ve been to the chapel). I did not really feel that the kids would tolerate 1 1/2 hours of listening to a guide, and this way was by far the best option for us.
Even with tickets and early in the morning, you still have to queue for a short time before entering the museum. Take some pastries and the kids can enjoy breakfast whilst waiting.
The Sistine chapel was breath taking, completely lost on the kids, but still I’m pleased they’ve seen it… and there was virtually no moaning. Going early morning meant that there were few people in the chapel. We could even sit around the edges on the benches and really enjoy the paintings. I had spoken to lots people who had described feeling like sardines in the Sistine Chapel, so pleased our experience wasn’t like that at all.
Top Tip; They loved the giant spiral staircase that takes you out of the Vatican Museum, again a treasure hunt for this kept them entertained!
9. Saint Peter’s Basilica: a 15 minute walk from The Sistine Chapel, we couldn’t visit Rome without visiting Saint Peters. We headed straight there ( via an ice cream shop) after finishing at the Sistine chapel, but despite our early start the temperature was already soaring. Don’t underestimate how difficult it is for the little ones to keep up when they are hot, ours are good walkers, and even they were starting to flag.
Saint Peters opens at 7am, but to be honest I think whenever you go there will be queues! On arrival to the square the queue looked huge ( but moved on pretty quickly), we queued for 20 minutes in total.
Whilst waiting in the queue keep the kids entertained, by having them hunt for the markers for North and South hidden on the ground.
Top Tip: There is zero shade in St Peters, my shawl really did keep them entertained and cool, even if they did look slightly ridiculous!
Once inside there are a number of challenges to look out for in the Mission Rome Book:
Hunt for the 10 Vatican crests
Track down the sculpture of Pieta
…….. Alternatively, despite being in a place of amazing historical and religious significance they could just lay on the marble floor to keep cool!
9. Send a Post Card from the vatican: The post office is located to the right of St Peters Basilica when you leave through the main gate. You will also find some Swiss Guards as you head towards the post office ( one of the children’s challenges):
Stamps and postcards are available from the post office, and there are seats and pens inside so you can write out the cards before sending them off. As the vatican is classed as its own country, you will get a vatican stamp and post mark when you send it from inside the Vatican walls. ( The big yellow post box outside the post office).
Top Tip: Pack some water balloons if your accommodation has a balcony. After a hot morning of sight-seeing, we headed back to the apartment for lunch and a water fight. The kids loved it, and we were all cooled down in no time!
10. The Colosseum and All its Gory Past: I would avoid the Colosseum during the hottest part of the day at any costs. It is busy, crowded, and generally not very enjoyable, with people trying to sell you things every 30 seconds. We headed there late afternoon/early evening, and it was the perfect time to visit. The sunset over the Colosseum was amazing, plus minimal crowds and very cool. You can usually buy an evening / night ticket for the colosseum which I think would be the perfect option for families with slightly older children. Unfortunately this wasn’t available during our stay, but something I would look into if we go again.
The cheapest way to buy entrance tickets is through the official source Co-op culture. Don’t be drawn into the other online tours which charge 3-4 times the official ticket price. Like many things in Italy, children are actually free, adult tickets cost €12, you can book the free tickets online, and then collect them from either the Coloseum or Palatine Hill. The tickets give you one entry each over a 48 hour period to both locations. This means as a family of 5 you could enter for € 24.
I really loved Rome with the kids, they got to see so much, and despite the heat really enjoyed it. Remember, whatever you think you can achieve in a day at least halve your expectations if travelling in summer. Make sure your accommodation is central, so you can dip in and out of the sightseeing. Since returning, the school subject for my eldest daughter is ” The Romans”. This summer holiday brought all of that to life. I would highly recommend this trip for people with young families!