Our month-long Italian family holiday kicked off in Rome where our travel group of four (including Ella, 12, and five-year-old Jaala) spent days exploring cobblestone streets and sampling the city’s countless gelaterias. When travelling with kids, we learnt early on that it’s best to trust the locals when touring a different country, so before we departed our travel consultant booked a series of tours, which would both teach us the finer points of Roman history and the Italian way of life from a local perspective. We wanted to make sure that spending time touring historical monuments was as enjoyable as possible for all of us, so we made booking family-friendly tours our top priority.
Our first adventure on Italian soil was a Children’s Tour of the Vatican. This tour started at 7am, which – after hopping off a long-haul flight the evening before – was a challenge but well worth it. The early entry guaranteed almost exclusive access to the Vatican before it opened to the large numbers of tour groups – a true luxury when travelling with overenthusiastic young children. Most importantly, the tour focused on sharing details that were engaging for pre-teens and to be honest, I learnt a lot too. We finished our three-hour tour in the Vatican Post Office where the kids posted Vatican-stamped postcards home to the grandparents – one of our top five ‘When-in-Rome bucket list’ items.
Following our Vatican tour, we took to the streets of Rome and found ourselves throwing coins for good luck in the Trevi Fountain and stumbling across a bountiful delicatessen that still makes our mouths water. Pizzichetia Romana is located just outside the Pantheon and from the outside, it looks like a small deli. Venture inside and you’ll find a deep treasure trove of meats, cheeses, sweets, breads and wine. We stayed here for hours where for less than €22 (approximately AUD$32), our family of four ate non-stop, sampling the local produce while the staff entertained the kids.
With ticking off our ‘When-in-Rome bucket list’ in the forefront of our minds, we spent the afternoon exploring the Roman ruins. Seeing the Colosseum was a real thrill for Ella, who had just finished a round of Italian language and history lessons at school. Here she could walk among the ruins and see her classroom lessons come alive. This was, again, enhanced by the Kid’s Tour of the Colosseum. We were given gold crowns (I’m not going to lie, I still have mine) and split into different groups of gladiators as we played fun yet educational games while touring all levels of the Colosseum and the neighboring Roman Forum at sunset.
We are not the first people to claim that food is one of the brightest jewels in Italy’s chapel, but following the gladiator stint, our Colosseum tour guide shared his favourite nearby restaurant with us. After navigating a series of sprawling laneways we dined like emperors in a restaurant full of locals for a mere €25 ($36). It was here we learnt the secret to sourcing the best and most authentic gelato, a treat we then enjoyed daily for the remainder of the trip. According to our guide, you need to hunt down gelato in tubs without huge mounds. The theory being that the best, yummiest gelato doesn’t have time to stay as a mound as it is quickly nabbed by well-informed locals.
Knowing this fun fact alone is a sure way to have a successful family holiday when in Rome.
When-in-Rome bucket list:
Send a postcard from the Vatican Post Office
Taste gelato as often as possible
Explore the ruins of the Colosseum and be a gladiator for a day
Eat like a local
Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain