“Roaming in Rome” Part TwoAugust 18, 2010 1 Comment
Honeymooners and adventurers do not hold a monopoly on vacationing in Rome. The “Eternal City” also holds a vast number of family friendly activities. When our vacation was still in the planning stages, I tasked my kids to research places they would want to visit while in Rome. I was proud of their efforts and resourcefulness in coming up with the resulting long list of activities. Frankly I was amazed by all of the options available to us that I decided to break up our findings into two articles, hence “Part Two.” Make sure to read my first article Roming in Rome Part I.
When faced with so many choices of places to visit while in a far-off destination like Rome, one must be cautious not to get overwhelmed. Meticulous research and detailed planning is good, but maintaining a laid-back attitude is also key. After all, it is a vacation, and the primary goal should be to relax and enjoy. A schedule of daily activities/events should be considered more as a guideline rather than a strict to-do list. With that philosophy in mind, here is the rest of our family’s adventure in Rome!
What to See & Do
Located at Via Flaminia Rome, this is Italy’s first museum especially designed for kids and families. Therefore, it makes the perfect stop on any Roman holiday when travelling with the family. The museum is creatively laid out like a small town with four areas. Each area was devoted to a topic of interest, including environment, communication, society, and the esoteric “I.” The displays were very “hands-on,” which makes it great for kids as it becomes a truly personal experience. There were almost surreal displays like a giant mouth, a supermarket, and a petrol station—all child-size, of course.
Bioparco (Zoological Gardens)
The Bioparco Zoological Gardens on your Roman family holiday (located at Viale del Giardino Zoologico, 1) can be a whole day indulgence. There are over 1,000 animals from over 200 species available to captivate kids and adults alike. There are all kinds of fascinating creatures including birds, mammals, and reptiles. We are a family of travelers who are very fond of animals, making this the perfect treat. For more info visit their website at http://www.bioparco.it/forma/bioparco_eng/bioparco_eng_ID737.php
The Roman Colosseum (located at Piazza del Colosseo) is of course at the top of the list when visiting Rome. It is the most impressive remnant of the once great Roman Empire and the largest building of its era. During our visit, we learned that the elliptical building could seat 55,000 people and has 80 entrances. This marvel served the Romans for 450 years as the city’s all-around entertainment center with gladiatorial games (my boys’ main reason for being here) and circuses.
It has been pillaged, burned, toppled by earthquakes, and even renovated over 2,000 years since it was built, but the Collosseum still stands proudly today and is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable buildings worldwide. At night, it is lit from inside and is absolutely mesmerizing.
Speaking of Rome at night, the kids loved the Piazza Navona (Piazza Navona, Rome), one of the world’s most well-known addresses. This is a city square in Rome that comes alive especially at night with sketch artists and street performers. There are even brilliant fountains (including a recognizable one dedicated to the sea god Neptune) and interesting sculptures. We “people-watched” at one of its busy sidewalk cafes.
Ancient Rome Walking Tour This tour starts at the Colosseum/Piazza Navona and takes you by foot through key places in Roman history, including the Collosseum, the ancient Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, Palatine Hill, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Constantine’s Arch. On foot is the only way to experience the city so make sure the kids (and you) wear comfy shoes for this three hour romp led by knowledgeable guides.We learned about the Forum’s role in ancient Rome and how its influence can still be seen today in our daily life. We got the scoop on Rome from its early origins to its glory days (and sad decline) as an Empire. Each group was limited to 25 people. Therefore, the kids had the green light to ask lots of questions.
Roman Bones, Ghosts, and Ghouls at the Capuchin Crypt
Located in Santa Maria della Concezione Church, Via Vaneto 27, this was another hit with my kids. My little ghouls didn’t break into a sweat like I did as we descended down the ancient Capuchin Crypt below the Santa Maria della Concezione Church to view the skulls and bones of the Capuchin monks scattered throughout this crypt. They formed all sorts of artistic designs as the actual human skulls and bones were used as decoration. There were thousands of them in the five vaulted chapels (the guide said 4,000 monks were counted). There were even lampshades made from human skin. All my kids could utter was “Kewl.” All I could do was shiver in my boots!
Planetarium & Museo Civilta Romana
A museum about Roman civilization, the Museo Civilta Romana and the Planetarium (located at Piazza G. Agnelli, 10) are adjacent to each other. This means you can journey through space, learning about things like our Solar System and the Moon Landing, and then switch gears instantly. Once back on earth, you can travel back in time and absorb Rome’s rich history through a detailed scale model of the ancient city as it once stood.
Located in the middle of the busy city of Rome is the sprawling park, the Caffarella, located at Largo Tacchi Venturi (Via Appia Antica). This is a charming place for the family to spend a relaxing day away from all the “touristy” activities. Don’t be surprised if you see passing flocks of sheep, and fresh cheese and eggs for sale at local farmyards. There are plenty of things to explore including bubbling grottoes, streams, and even ancient tombs nearby which will surely fascinate the kids.
The Janiculum Hill
The Janiculum Hill in Piazza Garibaldi will require a bit of a climbing. The climb and the view will take your breath away. Once you reach the top, you will find a setting right out of a storybook, with a gorgeous merry-go-round, an Italian puppet show, and a view of Rome you can’t get anywhere else. As for me, I enjoyed sipping cappuccino and eating some Italian cookies at the coffee bar above.
Built by the Vatican between 1477 and 1481, this historic structure (located at the Vatican Palace, Viale del Vaticano) is an unintentional museum of Renaissance art with walls by the great masters such as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Perugino, and Ghirlandaio, among many others. Here you can see Michelangelo’s ceiling masterpiece, “The Last Judgment,” awe-inspiring for all ages indeed! Website: http://www.vatican.va
St. Peter’s Basilica
Along with the Collosseum and the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City was on our list of “must see”. It is considered one of the holiest sites in Christian history where St. Peter died and is buried. The elliptical-shaped St. Peter’s Square features the world-famous fountains of Bernini and Carlo Maderno.
Tecnolandia is located at Viale della Pittura. It reminded me quite a bit of Rome’s version of “Tomorrow Land” (a Disneyland attraction). The kids had a hard time deciding which of the displays or gadgets to try first. This interactive museum is made for curious kids and adults who never outgrew the need to push buttons. You can play around with various experiments and gadgets with the expert guidance of the Tecnolandia staff. See how it all works!
Make sure to fasten your seatbelts. The Time Elevator (located at Vai dei SS, Apostoli, 20) would give the chariot races a run for their money. Well, not really, but it would astonish even the worldly Romans as you literally take a ride through Roman history beginning way back in the prehistoric era. You get to witness some of the city’s most defining events like Julius Caesar’s assassination (allegedly by Nero), the Collosseum’s glory days, the sweeping Renaissance, and much more. Not only do you see it in full 3D (IMAX-like) cinematic action but you also feel it thanks to in-seat special effects, including a motion base platform guaranteed to shake things up. What’s more, we left the 45-minute ride actually learning something. The kids even pointed to sites they saw on the Time Elevator during the rest of our trip! Check out their website at http://www.timeelevator.it
Museo dei Bambini di Roma (Children’s Museum)
While the main narration during the Children’s Museum of Rome (located at Via Flaminia, 82) tour is in Italian (a great experience nonetheless for the kids even if they can’t understand it), a convenient English translation is provided by an English-speaking staff member. The numerous exhibits cover everything from how babies are made to how the ecosystem works. All in all, the displays are all fascinating. Website: http://www.mdbr.it
Museo Civico di Zoologia
The Museuo Civico Zoologia in Rome (located at Via Aldrovandi, 18) features more than 5,000 specimens you can observe, including insects, birds, and sea life. They are spread out over 18 zones each with their own themed-collections. What’s more, new exhibits are added constantly, making each visit a different experience. Website: http://www.museodizoologia.it/index.htm
(located at Lungotevere Castello 50, Rome) is the well-known name for the Mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, a cylindrical building (like the Collosseum) on the right bank of the Tiber River. Its long history includes being used as part of the city wall, a fortress, a papal residence, a military prison, a barracks, and of course, as a mausoleum. Today, however, it is a proud national museum.
It gets its current nickname thanks to the bronze statue of an angel sitting on top. It was made in the 18thcentury by Flemish sculptor Pieter Verschaffet. According to our tour guide, the angel (St. Michael) had supposedly appeared on the rooftop in 590 A.D. His arrival signalled the end of a plague that ravaged Rome. It inspired the former mausoleum to be more popularly called “Castel Sant’ Angelo.”
It is indeed one of the city’s most famous landmarks, and unfortunately, Emperor Hadrian’s ashes, once contained in an urn here, are long gone.
Roman Gladiator School
(located at via Morsasco 9, Rome) was undoubtedly a hit with my boys! What’s more, the classes were all held within clear view of the Colosseum for added excitement. Now before you shake your head at what a bad parent I am, this one day class is made for adults and kids to learn more about this part of Roman history.
Your expert instructors are the “Gruppo Storico Romano,” women and men who are passionate about keeping history alive by teaching it.
We began with a history lesson giving us all a background about who the gladiators were in Rome. The instructors used museum exhibits to show daily life through the eyes of a gladiator and highlight their unique and varied fighting styles. Furthermore, we got to choose ancient gladiator names that we used throughout the day.
Next, our core training started as we took an active part in how the real gladiators prepared themselves (don’t worry, not really as exhausting as the real gladiators had it). We even wore togas over our clothes, learning to accessorize with sandals, belts, and wooden training swords or a “rudis.”
Finally, we learned some basic offensive and defensive techniques, armed with our rudis. We even got some hands-on experience with the “retiarius” or trident and net. A tournament was optional but adults could show off their moves safely and under strict supervision.
All in all, history came alive for my boys on what could otherwise have been another bland history tour.
We even earned certificates of completion as souvenirs!
If you need a kid-friendly break from all the historic sites and culture in Rome, take a quick stop at Aquafelix (located at Autostrada Roma-Civitavecchia, Uscita Civitavecchia Nord). This water park features water slides, wave machines, and even a huge Jacuzzi. In addition, you will find a relaxing lagoon and waterfalls. There are nearby shops and restaurants for a welcome break within your break.
Luna Park is one of Italy’s oldest and largest amusement parks (located at Via delle Tre Fontane). It has over 130 rides for both older and younger kids. There are even roller coasters and an old-fashioned House of Horrors that are sure to amuse you as well.
Marine mammals and aquatic birds are the main attraction at Zoo Marine (located at Torvaianca, Pomezia in Rome). Hourly shows let you watch many of them like at Dolphins’ island (with its friendly cast of dolphins), Pinniped’s Bay (with seal, otter, and sea lion superstars), and the colorful Tropical Bird’s Forest. Their website is: http://www.zoomarine.it/indexuk.php
North of central Rome, this beautiful park (located at Piazzale Flamini) lets the family enjoy a leisurely walk to burn off all that yummy Italian food you are sure to eat on your trip. Dropping by on a Sunday will surely make you feel like a local since this spot is a popular destination for locals who enjoy reading on the grass, picnicking, bicycle riding, and more. Website: http://www.villaborghese.it
With all the sights to see in Rome, our family did not have a minute to spare. But despite our long list of places to visit and things to do, we were relaxed and content with the fact that we could not do everything. After all, this list was there as a guideline only and not as a work schedule! We were there to enjoy ourselves and I am glad to say we never lost sight of that fact. We were flexible and took things as they came during our jam-packed four days. If we wanted to spend more time at one spot, we did. If we missed something on our itinerary, we would either reschedule or skip it depending on its importance. Missed attractions are just one more reason to return to Rome for an encore visit!