Location: Italy Type: 3 day trip; historical landmarks; Italy Suitable for children: yes
What can one see on a 3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler? In our previuos post we paid attention to the planning of the trip. And in this, we will tell you about the beautiful sights that we managed to enjoy in the capital of Italy.
As already mentioned, all the interesting landmarks are situated in the center within walking distance from each other. So you have to choose a starting point (ours was Piazza Venezia) and keep walking. You surely are going to see much more than you`ve planned. In Rome everything is sehenswürdig, as the Germans would say.
Rome, day 1
Piazza Venezia – Largo di Torre Argentina – Piazza Navona – The Pantheon – Trevi Fountain – The Spanish Steps
We landed in Rome early in the morning – at 8 a.m., and thank god for having arranged shuttle service in advance. I’m not quite sure that after I had to got up at 4 o’clock in the morning, my brain would function properly to arrange anything else.
My first impression of Rome is how different the greenery is – the high and graceful Italian stone pine trees give extra aristocracy to the exquisite Eternal City and its surroundings.
After we got settled and refreshed, we embark on our first adventure around the city. For that day, given the few hours of sleep due to the flight, I had planned a casual walk through the historic center. We arrived at Piazza Venezia and enjoyed for the first time the splendor of Rome. And met our very first crowd of tourists.
Situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, next to the Forum of Trajan, Piazza Venezia is not a pedestrian area and the traffic around is massive. It`s worth it, however, to climb the stairs to the Venetian palace (formerly the Embassy of Venice in Rome) and to look closely at the statue of King Victor Emanuel II, situated in front of the palace. The view from above is quite splendid. Soon we realized that this is customary for Rome. Wherever you go, wherever you look, you are greeted with beautiful buildings, squares, statues.
We took a great deal of pictures of the surroundings and headed to Piazza Navona. Quite by chance, we came to Largo di Torre Argentina. This, according to the latest archaeological discoveries, is the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed.
Next was Piazza Navona. The most remarkable part there is the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Created in 1651 by Bernini on a commission by Pope Innocent X, the fountain is simply magnificent. It consists of four male figures that symbolize the four rivers: Nile, Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata.
Our next stop was the Pantheon, which could be entered without paying an entrance fee. It was built on a commission by Hadrian between 188 and 125 BC on the site of an earlier temple and in honor of the Roman gods. The building is in excellent condition, thanks to renovations from the time of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas, when in 609 it was converted into a Christian church. During the Renaissance era, prominent people were buried here, including King Victor Emmanuel II, Humberto I and the artist Rafael and his fiancée.
Today one can walk through the impressive building and admire the different eras that have left their mark. The most interesting part for me was the dome in which center lies an open circle called the oculus or the Eye of the Pantheon. Through it comes natural light and water when it rains. I`ve read that it is a very interesting sight. The water drains without any problems thanks to a drainage system built on the floor.
We walked around the Pantheon and then headed to the next emblematic sight of Rome – the Trevi Fountain. We passed through large boulevards and narrow streets typical for Italy, and accidentally came across Venchi – the best Gelato I’ve ever tasted. Our attention was first drawn by a long queue, and then we spotted the chocolate fountain wall. It was definitely worth the 20-minutes wait, and the prices were not high for Rome – two balls in a waffle cone, dipped in liquid chocolate and nuts, cost 4.70 euro.
Fueled with energy, we met the view of one of the world’s most famous fountains – Trevi (named after the three streets connecting on the square on which it`s placed).
Built in 1762 by Nicola Salvi, the first impression here is that you can barely get to the fountain, let alone throw a coin and wish to come back to Rome. The tourists are in huge crowds and it`s quite understandable – the sculptural scene, made by Pietro Bracci, is infinitely beautiful. In the center is the god Neptune, and on both sides are two female figures, symbolizing abundance and health. If you are lucky or you visit the fountain in the early or late hours, you may have the opportunity to capture it without having a random tourist in your pictures.
On our list, after the Trevi Fountain, we had one last landmark to visit this day – the Spanish Steps – another popular tourist destination in Rome. Build with funds donated by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier in 1723-1725, the nearly 140-steps staircase connects Piazza di Spagna with the Trinità dei Monti church on the top of the hill. At the foot of the stairs is the Barcaccia fountain, and around the square are the boutiques of famous fashion brands – Gucci, Prada, Versace. The Spanish Steps are a really attractive place for tourists, so if you want to take a nice picture, visit them in the early hours.
Rome, day 2
Vatican city – Castel Sant`Angelo – Villa Borghese
That day of our stay in Rome was quite rainy. It was a fortunate chance that I had booked the tickets for the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel namely for this day. As I`ve mentioned in the previous post, it`s best to buy online skip the line tickets from the official site so you could avoid waiting.
After we walked around the impressive St. Peter’s Square in front of the basilica of the same name, we headed for the entrance of the museums.
Vatican officials are located everywhere around the square and give directions how to get to the entrance. They warned us that if we then want to enter the basilica (whose entrance is free), we will have to go back to the square and stand on the queue. Or buy a skip the line ticket and go directly to the basilica from the museums. We didn`t take advantage of this offer. The crowds in the Vatican museums are huge, and we`ve decided not to bring our daughter in. So she stayed with her father at home, and we didn`t want to leave them waiting for us longer than planned. However, if you have more time available, it`s best to buy skip the line ticket for the basilica as well.
The first museum we visited in the Vatican was the Gregorian Egyptian Museum. It did not impress me much because I had already seen such artifacts in the British Museum years ago. The crown of the exhibition is an Egyptian mummy, which seemed to me rather creepy.
Then we went through the galleries painted by Raphael and to the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s famous frescoes on the ceiling. Various exhibits – sculptures, tapestries, geographic maps, are scattered across the many museums along the way. To see all, you have to walk 8 km. It`s best to get an audio guide at the entrance – so you will determine your own pace of movement and you will know where you are and what you see.
Keep in mind that the crowds in the Sistine Chapel are really formidable. It`s forbidden to take pictures and staff members closely observe everyone and urge you not to stand in one place so that the next tourists can enter the Chapel. We enjoyed the marvelous sights as long as we could, and then we made a mistake. Instead of going for the exit of the Chapel, we poured into a stream of tourists with tour guides on the way to the basilica. Nobody stopped us, but later I read that staff members generally doesn`t allow this if you haven`t paid for a tour guide. So we found ourselves directly at the entrance of the basilica. And we would have walked around it but we had to go back to rest of the group.
Our next stop this day was Castel Sant`Angelo. Originally the castle was build as a mausoleum for Hadrian, then became residence of the popes and storage for their values, as well as a prison. Today it`s a museum that keeps a variety of interesting exhibits.
We thought that our daughter won`t like the idea of touring around. So we took pictures of the building from the outside, as well as the beautiful statues on the bridges over Tiber.
If it wasn`t raining, we would include in our program for this day and a walk around Villa Borghese and eventually the zoo, located there. Unfortunately, the weather was very instable, and we didn`t want to risk soaking. In fact, in the vicinity of Villa Borghese you can see many more things – Villa Medici and Villa Borghese Gallery. The park itself is also worth touring, but as I have already emphasized – in good weather.
Rome, day 3
Capitoline Hill – Roman Forum – Palatine Hill – The Colosseum – Trastevere
On the third day of our vacation, it was time for us to walk around ancient Rome. Our tour started with the Capitoline Hill – one of the seven hills of Rome and the one where all started. According to the legend, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus were suckled by the Capitoline Wolf on this hill.
We climbed the stairs designed by Michelangelo towards the hill. In fact, the entire square of the hill is designed by the great artist commissioned by Pope Paul III. At its center is the statue of Emperor Mark Aurelius (a copy of the only horse statue remaining from the antiquity), and three palaces, now converted into Capitoline Museums. For 15 euro one can enter the oldest public museums in the world (dating back to 1471), and can see many interesting exhibits. Among them are the original of the statue of Mark Aurelius, the statue of the Capitoline Wolf and many other works of art from Ancient Rome and Greece, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
We could not fit the Capitoline Museums in our program because we had a lot of things planned for that day. But if you have more time in Rome, the museums are definitely worth visiting.
After exploring the Capitoline Hill, we walked down the hill and found ourselves near the entrance of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Despite the valuable tips we shared in the previous post, we haven`t bought online skip the line tickets for this sights and had to wait 1 hour to enter. This is a mistake we recommend you not to repeat – the price difference is ridiculous – instead of 12 euro* the skip the line ticket is 14 euro but it saves valuable time in Rome. No matter how you get it, the ticket gives you access not only to the Forum and Palatine Hill, but also to the Colosseum (but you have to specify the exact time you want to enter the Colosseum).
The tour of the oldest square of ancient Rome, set in a valley between the hills of Palatine, Capitoline and Esquiline, was worth the whole wait. Over the centuries, here have risen temples of Roman deities and triumphal arches of emperors, and more recently basilicas. Today, there are mainly columns and stone blocks left from its former majesty, but the place is so picturesque that it is worth walking around. Keep in mind that the flooring is a combination of gravel and stones and pushing a baby stroller would be a challenge. If you are with a baby or a toddler, it will be best to bring a baby carrier. And prepare yourself with comfortable shoes.
Signs will take you up the path to Palatine Hill, which reveals an incredible panorama. According to the legend, it was on this hill where Romulus founded the city that bears his name – Rome. Later emperors started building their palaces here, the first palace was that of Augustus. In some of the more preserved buildings on the hill, including his house, you can see frescoes dating back 2000 years.
After strolling around everything of interest here, one have to leave the Forum and queue to enter the Colosseum, which is located in close proximity. Since we have already purchased a ticket, the entry didn`t take long. We displayed the tickets, passed the security check and found ourselves under the remarkable columns of the ancient arena. Its construction began in the years 70 and 72 by emperor Vespasian and was completed in the 80’s by Titus. Used for spectacular gladiator games, it once accommodated up to 50,000 viewers. Today, one of Rome’s main symbols has been partially destroyed by earthquakes over the centuries, but it`s still extremely impressive.
If you are with a baby or toddler: the pavement in front of the Colosseum is in the form of huge stone blocks with space apart. Moving with a stroller will be difficult here, but once you enter the building, there are no problems. Lifts are available to help get to the second floor and take a tour around the amphitheater.
In our program, after the Colosseum, the agenda was lunch. We had decided that for this purpose we would visit the artistic heart of Rome, the Trastevere neighborhood. Tram 3, which stops near the Colosseum, took us there in 15 minutes. Picturesque narrow streets, cozy restaurants and small souvenir shops are scattered all around the area.
Tired of walking the whole day, we sat at the first restaurant we came across – Ombre Rossé, near the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, and this decision turned out to be extremely good. The pizza was superb, and the service was excellent. They gave us a chair for the baby, and brought color pages and pencils.
If you have the opportunity (or in other words, you are in Rome without a child), you could also check the nightlife in Trastevere. The neighborhood boasts many bars where one can have a drink or two..
Our vacation in Rome with a toddler turned out quite perfect. We certainly didn`t manage to visit all the landmarks and beautiful sights of the Italian capital. There is no way this could happen in just 3 days. But that’s just a reason to come back to Rome…
* The Italian media reported in early April 2019 that the entry fee for the Roman Forum, Palatine hill and the Colosseum will be raised on November 1, 2019 – instead of 12 euro, the regular ticket will be 16 euro. The price increase will be accompanied by a new “smart” entry system, which is expected to reduce waiting queues. Whether it will, only time will show.