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How to transform Rome into a theme park

Family visiting the Colliseum
Little girl making a wish at the Trevi Fountain
Children playing in the streets of Rome
Visit to the Vatican Museums
Family visit to Rome

Where else in the world can children climb the domes of churches, seek out gladiators, discover secret passages and eat pizzas and ice creams along the way?
Rome is a city full of attractions to stimulate the imagination of the youngest travellers. First of all we have the monuments of the Eternal City which, seen through a child’s eyes, can become a playground like no other, starting with the Colosseum, which is spectacular for both adults and children. Here, there are usually always people dressed up as centurions in the surrounding area and children will enjoy having their photograph taken with one of them, as long as their parents remember to agree the price beforehand to avoid any unpleasantness.
The second attraction that both young and old can agree on is St Peter’s Basilica. Impressive because of the huge dimensions of everything, starting with the holy-water fonts at the foot of the nave. They’ll also like the bronze statue of Saint Peter with its well-worn foot, the dome seen from inside, the enormous bronze baldachin… If they are old enough, you must go up the cupola: the adventure and view they will have from the top will be one of their best experiences in Rome.

You need to see the Trevi Fountain both during the day and at night, and of course you must perform the ceremony of throwing a coin over your shoulder into the water with the children. They’ll also love Piazza Navona with its fountain full of monsters. And the imposing Spanish steps in Piazza Spagna, especially if it’s teeming with people and adorned with flowers in spring. If you happen to find it empty, which is a rare occurrence, the square feels a bit soulless.
Another of the must-see places you need to take the children to is the Castle of Sant'Angelo. It’s full of corridors, stairs, inner courtyards, balconies with magnificent views of the surrounding area, and even an enormous treasure chest… What more could you ask for to stimulate their imagination?
The Pantheon is a must-visit both for adults and children. This incredible monument impresses everybody. Children are usually enthralled by the story of the inventiveness behind the construction of such a big dome. Instead of using wooden scaffolding and supports, they collected an enormous mound of earth in which they hid hundreds of gold coins. They didn’t need to hire any workers to remove the soil. The Emperor said that the people who found the coins could keep them, and all the earth disappeared in just a few days.

The Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), related to the story of Pinocchio, usually gives them a short thrill when they put their hand into the famous mouth that is said to close suddenly on anyone who tells a lie.

From here you can take them to Trajan’s Markets, a maze of passageways, staircases and narrow galleries where they can play and have a great time.

You can round off a visit to the Catacombs in Via Appia with a rest in the gardens of the first Roman road or you can hire bikes and cycle along it.
There are also some military events that could interest them. Firstly, there is the Gianicolo cannon that fires a salute every day at 12 noon to synchronise the ringing of the bells in all the churches in the city. On quiet days you can hear the boom of the cannon throughout the entire centre of Rome, a treat for any nearby child that’s fond of a racket. The second is the ceremony of the changing of the guard in front of Quirinal Palace at three o’clock in the afternoon. This is a very showy event, almost like a dance, and it’s just five minutes from Trevi Fountain.

Hidden mysteries

Rome is also the city of baroque, the art of surprise, fantasy and deception. There are three examples of illusions that will amaze your children. First is Borromini’s forced perspective in Palazzo Spada: a colonnade that appears to be 40 m long, but which in actual fact is only nine. The false dome painted in the Church of Sant’Ignazio can only be properly appreciated from one precise point in the church. And, lastly, the Church of the Gesù, with its imposing vault and the rooms of St Ignatius, where you can admire frescos that include trompes l’oeil.

Plans just for them

Rome also provides specific attractions for children, starting with the Gianicolo puppet theatre, with a policeman, devil, Pulcinella (Punch), beautiful women… and an abundance of beatings with a stick. The Explora Museum is a re-creation of a child-sized play city with a supermarket, a petrol station and a bank where children are in charge. Bioparco is Rome’s Zoological Garden with over 200 animal species. And Hydromania is a large water park in the area surrounding Rome.

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