“Roaming in Rome” Part One

User Contributed August 17, 2010 1 Comment


When planning a family adventure, emphasize “family” by getting your kids’ input. You might be surprised that your kids can actually contribute a great deal and make the process of planning and preparing easier especially, if you are like me—a single parent! 

Last January, while packing away the Christmas decorations, I brought up the topic, “Where would you guys want to go for vacation this summer?”  This inquiry quickly turned into a full-fledged brainstorming session. 

One of the things I asked to keep the ideas coming was, “what city have you seen in movies that really interested you?”  With two boys, Jason 12, and Eric, 8, both fans of the classic movie “Ben Hur” which they play and replay on the classics movie channel, I got a united shout of “Rome!” 

Of course, don’t agree immediately with your kids even if you’ve been dying to go there yourself; even their ideas need to fit both your budget and time constraints.  Therefore, spare them the disappointment if such a vacation isn’t possible. Thankfully, Santa was generous that past holiday season and I got a sizeable bonus from my company. 

Next, we did a lot of research for the trip (which we will share with you later on). This is where the kids really shined.  They scoured the Internet (with supervision, of course) and collected information about Rome.  Their research project included places to stay, things to do and see, where to eat, and even where to shop for souvenirs.  If your kids are older, you can even ask them to email the local tourism authority for more pointers to make the family adventure really stand out. 

Before your departure, divide up responsibilities during the trip such as bringing snacks, entertainment, and other things you need to look for on your journey especially when flying.  Now let the Williams family adventure in Rome begin! 

Suggestions on places to stay 

Rocco Forte Hotel De Russie (Via del Babuino 9, Rome) certainly exudes a distinct Old World hospitality with its eager-to-please staff, spacious rooms (large by European standards), and convenient location at the heart of the city right between the Piazza del Popolo and the famous Spanish Steps. If your family is fortunate enough to enjoy five star luxuries on your Roman holiday, this is the place to stay. However, if your budget puts it a bit out of reach, enjoy a sumptuous meal and enjoy the remarkable view at the La Jardin Hotel or the de Russie Hotel instead. The specially designed “secret” garden of ancient trees and antique roses is highly recommended during the summer season. Special kids’ programs are offered as well. 

Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo 

Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo Rome

Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo

Stuffed with all sorts of luxurious trappings, the Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo (Located at Via Cavour 15) looked very at home in the Old World with its romantic art-deco architecture complete with mosaics, inlaid paneling, and marble columns. They have a complimentary breakfast buffet and newspaper, convenient when you don’t have a partner looking after the kids while you grab a leisurely meal outside.  What’s more, all the rooms feature comfy upholstered furnishings, parquet floors, 1940s-style beds, and even Oriental carpets. 

Grand Hotel Palazzo Della Fonte (Via dei Villini 7, Fluggi Phone)  is for families looking for a kid-friendly hotel near Rome but not necessarily in Rome.  Instead this hotel is 60-minutes from the sometimes hot, always busy city at the heart of a world-renowned Italian spa town (maybe the most well-known, in fact) called Fluggi. Instead of being surrounded by tourist hotspots, you will have to settle for a lush, mountain setting. Don’t worry, if you are looking for a bit of history, the town has its own medieval castle, an ancient bell tower, and a sprawling villa. Babysitting service is among its many amenities. Even small pets are allowed if our Pomeranian Riley was indeed coming along (he stayed with a neighbor). 

Rome Hotel Gambrinus

Rome's Hotel Gambrinus

 Hotel Gambrinus 

(Via Piave 35, Rome) This hotel was more within our family’s budget. Therefore, we checked-in.  It is even conveniently and centrally located in the city’s historic district near the Via Veneto thoroughfare and close to tourist sites like the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and the Spanish Steps. The boys were immediately drawn to the cast of a Roman gladiator’s armour in the Hotel Gambrinus’ lobby. For single parents like me and families with younger kids, the in-room babysitting service comes at a reasonable surcharge. 

Hotel Homs 

The Hotel Homs (located at Via Della Vite 71-72) is indeed a family-friendly abode.  They offer childcare service in case you’d like to go out alone or want to visit a location not suitable for kids. This 5-level boutique hotel is at the center of Rome as well, making it convenient.  Wireless internet, a complimentary selection of  magazines, on-site dry cleaning service, and a hotel limo just sweeten the package. 

Aleph A Boscolo Luxury Hotel (Via di San Basilio 15, Rome) is a designer hotel that seems more fashionista-friendly than family-friendly.  In fact, it was inspired by a vision of heaven and hell radiating in the sprawling black marble floors and red leather everywhere (what a vision that must have been). The boys liked the fact there were samurai warrior models guarding the location. It also has a rooftop garden. Even fashionistas must travel with their kids because the hotel offers complete childcare and babysitting services. 

Suggestions on places to eat 

‘Gusto (located at Piazza Augusto, Imperatore 7, Rome) is more trendy than touristy. Located near the Spanish Steps and Via del Corso, this restaurant also features a bookstore, wine bar, and pizzeria.  An outdoor dining area is made especially for soaking up the “hard-to-believe I’m here” atmosphere. You can even see the Mausoleum of Augustus across while dining on pizza or the buffets of six small Italian dishes to give you and the kids a sampler of the menu. 

Ristorante Babette 

The art film “Babette’s Feast” inspired the likewise named Ristorante Babette (located at via Margutta 1D/3). World-renowned chef Silvia Sallorenzo creates culinary magic with an exceptional pistachio, zucchini, and saffron pesto sauce followed by grilled beef fillet in a mouthwatering basil sauce.  Their website can be found at  http://www.babetteristorante.it 

Panattonni (located at Viale Trastevere 53-57, Rome) is a morbid dining experience in the way boys seem to like it. For one thing, this restaurant is proudly nicknamed “The Mortuary” due to its dining tables, which resemble marble burial slabs. However, things aren’t so dead here with plenty of locals buzzing and visitors coming for its wood-oven-baked, crispy, thin-crust pizzas. Orders are even filled at bullet-train speeds. 

Crazy Bull Café 

Crazy Bull Café RomeLooking for a piece of home in Rome? Try the Crazy Bull Café (located at 90 Via Francesco Crispi) for good old-fashioned American cuisine that you can write home about.  This includes hotdogs, Texas-style beans, and stuffed potatoes.  Make sure to save some space for All-American desserts like Apple Pie with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream (not gelato).  There are also 1950s-style Art Deco chairs to rest your weary tourist’s Gluteus maximus on (not to be confused with Circus Maximus).   Check out their website at http://www.crazybull.it 

Il Fornaio Bakery (located at Via Santorre di Santarosa 21, Rome) is a commuter’s lunch haven for the locals who seem to stop here for a quick bite, but we could have spent the whole day at this bakery with its tantalizing selection of baked goods, pizzas (of course), and desserts. We sampled the fried rice balls with a tomato sauce and mozzarella filling, called suppli di riso. For a heavier meal, there is a large selection of Panini (Italian sandwiches) and pizzas.  End your meal with a Scillian cannoli for dessert. Heaven. 

Suggestions on places to shop

Bartolucci Florence Rome

Bartolucci Florence

Bartolucci (located at Via dei Pastini 98) features Old World-style wooden toys made for three generations (60 plus years) by the Bartolucci family. Everything from clocks to cars to planes are all expertly carved in pine. The kids encountered an army of small Pinocchios led by a life-sized Pinocchio carving.  He was riding on a full-sized bike and everything including the bike was carved out of wood! The boys even brought home wooden signs personalized with their names engraved. 

Bonpoint Paris (25 Piazza di San Lorenzo) features classic French children’s wear with a modern twist you’d expect in Italy where this store is located. The clothes are very expensive, but I could not resist purchasing little Eric an outfit even if it meant splurge a bit. After all, it may be a long time before we have another chance to return. 

Citta del Sole 

If your family needs more amusement, Citta del Sole (located at Via della Scrofa, 65-66-66a) is your best shopping prospect.  It offers a wide selection of hard-to-find toys and games.  In fact, you can spend your whole vacation browsing here (and I get the feeling the kids would not mind that one bit).  Many of the products are in Italian, but there are also many in English.  Family board games, role-playing games, and games for younger kids stuff the shelves. 

I Granai 

The over 150 shops at I Granai (located at Via Tazio Nuvolari, Ardeatino ) have made it a popular shopping hotspot in all of the Eternal City.  Clothes and accessories might tempt you to pull out your credit card and splurge a bit, but don’t worry, everything is actually affordably priced.  This also includes some furnishings and other household items and appliances.  You can end your shopping adventure feeling very chic and European (in your new outfit) by sipping a cappuccino at one of the numerous cafes in the area. 

Mel Giannino Stoppani Children’s Bookstore (Piazza Apostoli 59/65) is the only place you need to go for children’s books in Rome. While they only carry a small selection of books in English, there were plenty of picture books with little-to-no words for browsing through. Some of our favorite personal souvenirs are books for kids from other countries in their native languages. 

My son Jason put together a checklist of things we needed to cover for our trip to be “complete.”  He and his younger brother found A LOT of useful information online as you can see.  This not only made my job of planning the trip easier, but it also made me realize single parents can manage and enjoy family vacations all on their own if need be. 

- A place for the family to stay – Check
- Places we can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner at (breakfast we’d take at the hotel especially if it was free!) – Check
- Where can we could buy nice gifts for family and friends to share our trip even if just in souvenir form. – Check
- Things to see and do, including attractions, theme parks, parks,  museums, historical sites, and whatever sound interesting that we come across
– Stay tuned for the next installment of “Roaming in Rome Part II.” There are too many to squeeze in here, which means your family will not get bored!

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