Visiting Rome in the summer with kids

Visiting Rome in the summer with kids

Rome in summertime: it’s hot, it’s packed with tourists and most sane Romans have skipped town in favour of the coast. So it’s not a sensible place for a family day out with small children. But this summer we went anyway.

We had friends near Rome to visit and a few days to spare at the end of our summer holiday in Le Marche, so we decided a leisurely day in the capital might be a bit of fun. We’d pop in, have a quick look at the Colosseum, visit a piazza or two, have a nice meal and then escape back to our agriturismo in the nearby countryside. We’re seasoned travellers, we’ve been to Rome before. How hard could it be…?

Really very hard as it turned out.

Our transport to Rome
Our day started inauspiciously. We were staying in Frascati, perfect for visiting Rome and the attractions which surround it. However, we took a rather too leisurely approach to breakfast which resulted in us missing the last train of the morning (there was a two hour gap until the next one). We really should have checked the timetable…

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Exploring Rome’s metro

We were then foiled in our attempts to take the nearby metro line due to engineering work which forced us to take a replacement bus through the suburbs into the centre of Rome. Our journey, which should have taken half an hour, ended up taking two. It was very much an immersive experience into the life of the Roman commuter.

Our boys, however, have fond memories of the myriad modes of transport we took, the various train stations we passed through and the general adventure of travelling.

The weather
It wasn’t just hot when we visited Rome at the end of July, it was headline-grabbing, heatwave hot. It was so hot, I thought my brain might melt and I was unable to make even simple decisions. It took all of my mental energy to get the kids across a road safely or find somewhere suitable for lunch.

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Lunch next to a tram line: perfect for transport enthusiasts.

Strangely, the children seemed completely unfazed by the temperature. They drank a bit more than usual but that was it.

The “hop on hop off” bus
My kids have always looked at these ridiculous over-priced tourist traps in London and asked why we can’t go on one so we decided to treat them in Rome. However, the bus was hot, incredibly bumpy and stupidly expensive. We only “hopped” on it three times and I worked out that it would have been cheaper to pay for three taxi rides rather than buy tickets for a family of four. It also didn’t quite take us to the places we wanted to go to and didn’t really keep to its timetable.

Obviously, the children loved seeing the sights of Rome from the upper deck and the bumpiness was so therapeutic that my three year old actually fell asleep.

The Colosseum
Our three year old can spend hours exploring a city provided he is on wheels: ideally a scooter or a bike. So we decided to bring his scooter with us to Rome. Unfortunately, we discovered on arrival that scooters are not allowed into the Colosseum (unlike the historic sites in Sicily where no one bats an eyelid). The heat was so intense and the shade so non-existent that we decided we couldn’t bear looking for somewhere to store the scooter and decided to pass on the Colosseum.

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Too hot for photography, this is the only shot I took of the Colosseum.

The boys took this surprisingly well (I was gutted on their behalf). In fact, when I ask my six year old now what he enjoyed most about Rome, he says it was the armoured vehicles guarding the Colosseum and the line of soldiers with machine guns.

Touring the Villa Borghese Gardens by golf buggy
This activity nearly didn’t happen as we hadn’t thought to bring our passports with us. I was concerned about breaking more bad news to the kids when the owner of one of the buggies decided that the blurred copies of our passports which we had miraculously found attached to an old email on my phone would suffice.

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Exploring the Borghese Gardens by golf buggy (or pedal buggy if you have no licence).

The Villa Borghese Gardens are shady, peaceful and full of young lovers lounging on benches. The gardens are the perfect place to hide from the heat if, like us, your only free day to visit Rome is a Monday when half the museums are shut. We drove around, admired the lakes, the views and the villas. We ate ice creams and relaxed. The day picked up after this little interlude.

The Trevi Fountain
Determined to tick at least one child-friendly Roman attraction off our list, we headed to Rome’s most famous fountain, along with, of course, every tourist in the city. I’d seen the Trevi Fountain a few times but never had I seen it so utterly overwhelmed by visitors. There was a policewoman on duty whose sole job was to blow a whistle, glare, and point a finger at anyone who dared so much as brush their clothing within an inch of the fountain. Obviously tossing a coin over your shoulder at this travertine masterpiece is absolutely fine.

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The Trevi Fountain, Rome

The boys thought the policewoman was hilarious and we eventually found a comfy spot to sit and watch the poor woman haranguing the unsuspecting tourists who strayed too close to the fountain.

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A tough job: policing the Trevi Fountain.

As the heat of the day receded we were able to amble from one tourist hot spot to the next along Rome’s now-shaded streets, which was fun. The children enjoyed racing up the Spanish Steps, and back down again. There were more soldiers with big guns. We bought t-shirts and postcards.

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The military presence in Rome

We had an excellent evening meal at Mercato Centrale at Termini station. The journey home was a bit of a drag (a bus, a metro train, then a car) but we survived. As the children had no expectations as to how the day would unfold, they found the whole experience a fun adventure. We as parents were rather lucky that the children viewed the day in this way.

So, how would I do things differently next time? Well, I’d drink my morning coffee a little more hastily. Definitely no bus, perhaps a guide – in a car. No scooter. And I think our next visit will be in wintertime.

Do you have any similar travel experiences where things have not gone to plan? Or where you failed to formulate a plan? Let me know in the comments below.

Tips on visiting Rome in the summer with kids:

  • Even if you’re relaxed when it comes to planning, a modicum of research is useful.
  • Sight see early in the morning or late in the afternoon and find a restaurant and/or museum to while away the hottest part of the day.
  • If possible, don’t go on a Monday: many attractions are shut including the excellent Explora children’s museum which would be an ideal place to shelter from the midday sun.
  • Consider using a taxi for some of your travels across the city, it can be money well spent.
  • Check what you’re allowed to bring into each place. Security is much tighter than it used to be.
  • Bring passports.
  • Plan to only see one or two attractions, you can always add more on the day if you have the time or energy.
  • You don’t need to bring lots of water with you: there are many drinking fountains (nasoni) throughout the city to fill up bottles and lots of people sell bottled water outside the main attractions.
  • Eat lots of ice cream.
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43 Comments

  1. 11/30/2017 / 9:27 am

    yes, eat lots of ice-cream:) #farawayfiles

  2. 11/30/2017 / 11:46 am

    Some trips with kids are just like that- no matter how much you plan, things just go wrong. We have had our share of misadventures with our little ones as well. #farawayfiles

    • 11/30/2017 / 12:18 pm

      I’m glad my sons have happy memories of it!

  3. Wherejogoes
    11/30/2017 / 1:54 pm

    The day didn’t start well but I bet the kids loved the golf buggy and you did manage to see some of the key sites. Great advice that places are closed on a Monday, I wouldn’t have known that (and to eat lot’s of ice cream – one the kids would love!)

    • 11/30/2017 / 9:24 pm

      Yes, it started badly but turned out ok in the end. A useful learning experience for us complacent travellers!

  4. 11/30/2017 / 6:11 pm

    We spent 9 days in Rome a number of years ago when our kids were 3 and 9 and we had a wonderful time! I admit they were bored by the Forum, but a trip to the zoo remedied that, and the gelato was a big hit! #farwayfiles

    • 11/30/2017 / 9:25 pm

      Yes, gelato is essential! 9 days is impressive but there is so much to see and do isn’t there?

      • 11/30/2017 / 9:30 pm

        Yes there is SO much to see and do, we never even came close to checking it all off our list!

  5. 12/01/2017 / 1:45 pm

    We did Rome in February and while it didn’t necessarily mean a lack of tourists at top sites, we did get a respite from the heat and streets off the main sites were virtually our own. Gelato is key even when the weather isn’t beyond warm! Thanks for sharing your tips and experience with #FarawayFiles

    • 12/01/2017 / 4:02 pm

      February sounds like a much better idea!

  6. Clare Thomson
    12/01/2017 / 2:58 pm

    We’ve had trips like this too, Annabel – where nothing seems to go right. And I always have a leisurely approach to breakfast 🙂 It’s interesting how much your children got out of the trip though. You’ve just got another excuse to visit – at a quieter time of year. #FarawayFiles

    • 12/01/2017 / 4:03 pm

      Yes, you forget how much kids can learn just from being somewhere new. Maybe I’ll just take them to Birmingham next time!

  7. 12/02/2017 / 1:51 am

    We went to Rome a few years ago in the brutal heat so I feel your pain. We wound up changing some of our itinerary so we wouldn’t have to be outside as much. Having said that, we loved Rome and I’d go back again and again. #farawayfiles

    • 12/02/2017 / 8:57 am

      Yes, we love Rome too and so do the kids despite the crazy day we had, they’re so resilient!

  8. 12/02/2017 / 9:38 am

    Oh Annabel, glad your day improved! We were just in Rome and said often how much harder it would be in summer. That was when we were cycling the kids round Villa Borghese. I think you hit the nail on the head about hiring a guide. We did several family friendly tours and they were fantastic, not just at keeping energy levels high but entertaining too. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  9. 12/02/2017 / 11:14 am

    I love Rome, but I would never ever visit it during summer. Too busy but far too hot. I only make citytrips in spring or autumn. Bravo for your kids! Mine would be far more difficult in the heat. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • 12/02/2017 / 11:52 am

      Yes, I was surprised by how well they tolerated it. We didn’t make them walk anywhere until about 5pm so that helped!

    • 12/03/2017 / 11:02 am

      Yes gelato is essential! And hot chocolate in winter is useful too 😀

  10. 12/03/2017 / 9:45 pm

    Your post reminded me how beautiful Rome is. You were very brave to travel there with kids and in summer. This city is so crowded almost at any time of the year, but particularly in summer. Traveling there with kids is also pretty difficult. I tried it with our 3-year old many years ago and it didn’t go too well. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • 12/03/2017 / 9:56 pm

      It’s often luck on the day as to how children will manage, we were very lucky that our kids were in a laid back frame of mind!

  11. 12/04/2017 / 11:40 am

    I found Rome to be so family friendly when we went (besides the super busy roads!). We only took the one but I found the variety of food was just really good, especially with it being amazing pizza and pasta. I’d love to go back one day!

  12. 12/04/2017 / 6:27 pm

    I love Rome! I’d say my favourite European city, or thereabouts.

    • 12/04/2017 / 6:43 pm

      Yes, it’s an amazing place, hoping to have a better trip next time we visit!

  13. 12/05/2017 / 1:34 pm

    Thank you so much for the tips I am cruising to Rome for the first time. Fortunately, it is not in the middle of summer which I have heard before the heat is torturous as described. We will l be going in September without children but I loved reading about what your kids thought of the whole experience!

    • 12/05/2017 / 1:40 pm

      I think provided expectations are sensible and you take things slow, travel with kids usually goes pretty well!

  14. Lisa (Travel Loving Family)
    12/05/2017 / 10:28 pm

    Oh I definitely think I’ll avoid in the summer too! One of my fav cities but my goodness me yes it does get hot! Thanks for sharing on #MondayEscapes

    • 12/06/2017 / 7:04 am

      At least I know now that my kids can handle the heat (better than I can in fact!)

  15. losttogether1234
    12/06/2017 / 1:18 am

    I love your honesty…sometimes things don’t go 100% according to plan, and it is refreshing when bloggers write about it. We are thinking about doing Greece next year in August and I am so worried about the crowds, but if that is the only time we can go, we will brave it. #Mondayescapes

    • 12/06/2017 / 7:24 am

      I expect Greece will be very similar to Italy. Best to visit sites at the very start or end of the day. The evening in Rome and Frascati was lovely.

  16. 12/06/2017 / 9:21 pm

    Rome is such an amazing city, even though it is way too touristic in summer! Your post is such a positive motivation for me: my daughter is 4 months old and it´s so great to see someone traveling with little kids and sharing useful tips about it!

  17. 02/02/2018 / 4:42 am

    Bringing my kids – 9 and 11 – to Rome in two weeks. It will be their first time in Europe and I couldn’t be more excited for it! I have been there 3 times myself but I know this will be a very special experience as I will see Rome through their eyes!

    • 02/02/2018 / 8:16 am

      I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time. Perfect time of year to go too!

  18. 02/02/2018 / 4:58 am

    we have been to Rome many times and must admit that summer is the worst time. I love going just before Christmas when there are no crowds and lovely choirs in the piazzas.

    Breakfast is always the hardest time of day for us!

    #fearlessfamtrav

    • 02/02/2018 / 8:15 am

      I’d love to visit Rome at Christmas. Italy does it in a much more tasteful way than the UK!

  19. 02/18/2018 / 3:42 am

    Great tips for coping in the heat, We had this in so many places in India and quickly realised that early mornings, siesta and ice-cream got us through the days. We only visited Rome pre-kids in winter about 15 years ago – quite a different experience! #fearlessfamtrav

    • 02/18/2018 / 10:53 am

      I bet Italy will be pretty easy for you after India!

  20. 05/03/2018 / 1:08 pm

    I loved reading this! I love Rome but the heat and all the people is not expected sometimes!

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