Location: Italy Type: 3 day trip; travel tips; Italy Suitable for children: yes
A huge preparation took the first plane trip with our little daughter – our 3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler. But it was worth it. Not only because Rome is an amazing city and surpassed all our expectations, but also because we shared this experience with our child. Sure, in years, she will probably not remember she once visited the Eternal City. But I believe that traveling is able to feed the soul not only of adults. And the new beautiful sights we`ve enjoyed during the three days in Rome definitely impressed her. Not to mention that, quite like an Italian, she now says “chao” on every occasion.
3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler
I decided to organize our vacation in Rome myself. I looked at the various flight options on Google flights and searched for an Airbnb apartment. Our tours around Rome were fast and easily planned with the Visit A City application. It allows you to set the length of your stay in a city of your choosing by adding different landmarks each day. You can set your starting position (address of the hotel or apartment you are staying at) and departure time, and the app will show you how to get to the different sights (on foot or with transport) and how much time it will take you. It also provides brief information about each landmark, which is also very convenient. More on how to organize your trip yourself you can read here.
We used a stroller around Rome for the little one – in the historic center the ground is with paving stones and overcoming them isn`t a big problem. In the Roman Forum and in front of the Colosseum however is more difficult to move with a stroller – the flooring there is respectively gravel and huge stones with distances between them. If you have a baby carrier, you would be more comfortable with it visiting these places. In the stroller, however, the child can sleep when it gets tired, so we chose this option.
I strongly recommend to everyone, whether with a baby or a child or not, to buy online tickets for the landmarks in Rome, especially for the Vatican, the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. They are a bit more expensive* – for the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel the regular ticket (without a tour guide) is 21 euro instead of 17, and for the Roman Forum, Palatine hill and Colosseum (these three are entered with one ticket) is 14 euro instead of 12. But they are skip the line tickets – instead of queuing, you enter very quickly. And the queues are really impressive in Rome, even out of season. We thought it`s better to pay a few euro more, but to save valuable hours in tedious waiting of our short 3-day vacation Rome. However, you have to choose the time of your visit to the landmarks and to be right on time. Which is not bad from an organizational point of view.
The flight to Rome
I chose for us to fly to Rome from Sofia, Bulgaria with Ryanair, because at first glance it seemed cheaper. However, after paying for 20 kg checked luggage, for regular hand luggage (the company policy allows only one small free bag in the plane), reserved seats and a pre-check, the tickets turned out roughly the same price as those of Bulgaria Air. Everything went surprisingly smoothly (I had not flown before with Ryanair and I`d read many negative reviews). But honestly, next time I would choose Bulgaria Air – at least, because the seats are more comfortable. Also, the flights are set at a better time than those of Ryanair – our take-off flight was at 6:40 a.m., and on return – at 8 o’clock in the morning.
How did our daughter experience her first flight?, you would probably ask. She behaved extremely well. Since she is not 2 years old yet, she was sitting in my lap during the flight and was worried only slightly when the plane took off and then when landing. There is an option to buy a separate seat for the child with a discount, but for an hour and a half to Rome I decided that it makes no sense. Ryanair allows you to bring on board a baby bag of up to 5 kg free of charge (with baby items only – food, water, clothes, diapers) and you can get to the plane staircase with a stroller (then the staff takes it and it`s waiting for you when you leave the plane). You don`t have to pay anything for the stroller, and you can take another item free of charge on board – a folding baby cot or a baby car seat. In fact, most airline companies provide this comfort to their little passengers – just check out before booking.
The big dilemma where to stay in Rome was whether to choose the center (where prices are much higher) or a neighborhood nearby, and to use public transport. I found a pretty decent apartment while browsing AirBnb – less than 2 km from the Vatican and at a reasonable price, and the decision was made. It turned out to be extremely good. The apartment was spacious enough for all of us (we traveled not only with our little daughter, but aslo with both grandmothers plus an aunt): 3 bedrooms (two with one double bed and one with two beds) and 2 bathrooms, kitchen with everything needed, a dining room and 3 balconies . The only drawback was that one of the rooms – with the separate beds – was once probably a closet, and is with a very small window. But if you are visiting for a short period and don`t intend to stay all the time inside of the apartment, there is no big drama. The biggest plus of the apartment is that it`s located in a nice and quiet neighborhood, in a very convenient location – minutes from the public transport, the busses are quite regular and it will take you to reach any point of interest in Rome for 15-20 minutes.
Now is the time to mention our hosts. They were very kind and they arranged for us shuttle service with baby car seat from and to the airport for 60 euro in direction. The apartment had a baby chair and a baby cot, so the little one was equipped with all amenities needed for a comfortable stay.
Keep in mind that wherever you stay in Rome – a hotel, a rental apartment or a house, you have to pay a tourist tax of 3.50 euro per day at check-in.
The public transport
All historical sites in Rome are concentrated in the city center within walking distance from each other. Our starting point was Piazza Venezia – the last stop of bus 916 we were traveling with. On the first day, we headed north of the square and got to see the incredibly beautiful fountains of Rome, the Pantheon and the Spanish stairs. On the third day we headed south from the square to visit the Capitoline hill, the Roman Forum, the Palatine hill and the Colosseum. The second day was planned for the Vatican tour and the bus left us just outside St. Peter’s Square.
We traveled with standard tickets, valid for 100 minutes on all buses allowing transfer, or for one Metro ride. The price of this thicket is 1.50 euro. The 24-hours ticket for all public transport is 7 euro, the 48-hours ticket is 12.50 euro and the 72-hours ticket is 18 euro. We chose to use 2 standard tickets a day – one to the center and one back home, instead of buying whole day tickets. This turned out quite a reasonable decision because we didn`t have to use any more public transport.
There is also the option to buy a so-called Roma Pass which allows you to ride all public transport plus free access to one or two landmarks, as well as discounts for many other. Included in the Roma Pass are the Colosseum and the Borghese Gallery, for example, but not the Vatican. The price for 2 days with 1 free entrance is 28 euro and for 3 days with 2 free admissions – 38.50 euro. Since we were in Rome for the first time, with a toddler, we decided that we won`t be able to make the most of the Roma Pass discounts. Honestly, I don`t know if otherwise it would also make any sense to buy it. In just three days, one can not visit all possible sights.
I read that one should avoid restaurants in the center of Rome – firstly, because the prices are higher, and also because the food is not so tasty. The very first day in Rome, weary of our early flight, we were confronted with the rightness of this statement. We sat down to have lunch at a restaurant located on a main street near Largo di Torre Argentina, where neither the service nor the pizza were anything special. Did not repeat this error. We were most pleased with a small restaurant in Trastevere – Ombre Rossé, where the staff was extremely kind (and provided a baby chair, as well as coloring pages and pencils), and the pizza was divine. But wherever you choose to dine, the prices are all the same. The pizza and pasta are about 10 euro, the beer – 5 euro. You could enjoy a glass of Chianti at the same price. In the supermarkets you can find great fresh pasta for about 2-3 euro a packet, as well as a huge variety of cheese and salami at a decent price. Wines are ridiculously cheap – they start from 3 euro a bottle.
This post has become too long! So you`ll find the details of what we`ve seen on our 3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler in out next post.
* 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, bought on site, 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.