Rome is a city I absolutely adore. As a family we have been a few times. It can be overwhelming, busy, chaotic and crazy. If you are planning a trip to Rome, some preparation is key. Here are our top tips for Rome you should know before travelling with your family.
1 Understand and adopt the Italian way of life
Italians have their very unique way of life. For example, the customary habits of breakfast, lunch and dinner differ from their Australian counterparts. Breakfast for Italians is as simple as a coffee and pastry. In the morning you will see many Italians standing at many bars (not bars, as in pubs) to have their morning caffeine fix with a sweet pastry. This can be a custard-filled pastry, or even ice cream sandwiched into a warm brioche-style bun. Lunch is a much larger affair, and this is a good opportunity to dine at a restaurant, or alternately visit a deli and purchase some fresh bread, sliced salami or prosciutto and make yourself a very traditional Italian lunch. Dinner is often a lighter meal enjoyed much later in the evening, around 9pm.
2 Afternoon closure
It is customary in most Italian towns for shops to close at lunchtime, from about 12.30 to 3.30. This long lunch means shopping will be a bit more difficult but it is a great time to take in some scenery or walk in the Villa Borghese Park. Or, like a true Italian, take a siesta to preserve your energy for later in the day. Plan for this closure by scheduling your day accordingly as not all the shops will be open. However, late night shopping is more common in Rome.
3 Learn a few key Italian phrases
When travelling, it is always helpful to know a few words as this will help avoid the sometimes feisty tempered Italian shopkeeper from rolling his eyes at you. Our children are familiar with some greetings and exchanges of please and thank you, which helps a lot! Italians dine later in the evening than you would expect, and children are widely accepted into most restaurants. In fact, we were often turning up to dinner around 9pm, thinking our children would be the only ones, to find the place full of families!
4 Beware the hunt for a public toilet
Rome is not a city that is highly equipped with public toilets and the ones you do find may be a little worse for wear. This can be tricky when travelling with children that have a knack for needing to go at the most inconvenient times. Shopkeepers don’t usually allow tourists to use their facilities if they are not paying customers so you may have to buy a drink or some food if you want to use a café toilet.
5 Stay within the central district
The best place to stay is right in the centre of town to avoid the hassle of travelling into the city. The Italian public transport system is not the easiest so limiting your time on transport is recommended. There are also a lot of pickpockets on buses and trains, so do be careful when you are on public transport. Traffic is also chaotic, so prep your children about road safety.
6 Pre-book busy tourist activities
Most of the time, Rome is so busy with tourists that it’s almost impossible to avoid crowds, but with a bit of forward planning or joining a half-day tour to see some major sights, you may just reduce the waiting period which, let’s face it, is kind of priceless when you’re travelling with children. I recommend Try Get Your Guide for great family tour options, bundle packages and skip the line tickets.
I hope these tips have you enjoying Rome like a true Roman!