Rome was the last destination of our fabulous two-week trip to Italy. Sort of a cherry on a yum cake! Italian cities are amongst my favorite – the art, architecture, history are spell-binding and the good food makes it even more worthwhile. We were traveling with our (then) 4-year-old daughter and scoured the internet for things to do in Rome with kids. Thankfully, my daughter enjoyed many of the open ruin sites in Rome.
We followed an easy itinerary for the 4 days we spent in Rome and made sure we had enough time for wandering around aimlessly, indulging in scoops of gelatos, good food, and wine. Dive into the Roman past with my 4-day itinerary to this awe-inspiring city!
Day 1: Visiting the top attraction in Rome
Considered one of the 7 New Wonders of the world, the Roman Colosseum is an impressive monument.
This is one ancient site that would not leave you underwhelmed: 50,000 seat arena, 80 entrance arches, something that can rival even the most modern stadiums.
Once you step inside, you can opt for an audio tour or read the information boards that explain the history of the monument quite comprehensively. There are many murals, stone/marble and other objects displayed inside the Colosseum.
When you walk up the first floor, you can see the huge tiered seating inside. Try imagining the gladiators fighting off the wild animals or each other with the huge crowds cheering them on! This is a must-do attraction for anyone visiting Rome, so be prepared for the crowds. It is best to go as early as possible in the morning or quite late in the evening just before closing time.
We had booked our tickets online (visit coopculture.it) for the main part of the Colosseum. This ticket covers the trio – Colosseum, Forum and the Palatine Hill – and allows entry over 2 consecutive days. We decided to visit the other 2 attractions the next day and spent some time meandering around Campo de Fiori on our way back to the apartment. You could also opt for a guided tour with access to areas in the Colosseum not open to the public in general.
Day 2: Visiting the world’s oldest museum and completing the trio
We decided to start the day by walking up to one of the most popular museums in Rome – the Capitoline Museums. Dating from 1471, the Capitoline Museums are the world’s oldest public museums. There were more people outside on Capitoline Hill than inside the museums. The Capitoline Hill has nice views of the Forum on the backside.
We spent about an hour looking at the vast collection of classical sculptures and paintings, though it demands much more time. It was difficult to engage our daughter in any of the artifacts here, in stark contrast to the Colosseum.
The iconic exhibit of this museum is the Lupa Capitolina (Capitoline Wolf), a sculpture of Romulus and Remus under a She-wolf.
This represents the most famous amongst Rome’s many legends: the story of Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf, who discovered them near the Palatino. Years later, the twins decided to found a city on the site where they had originally been saved.
For opening hours and ticket prices, visit the official website.
Many tourists just check the Colosseum off their list and not venture into the Roman Forum or the Palatine Hill. This is quite a shame. The 3 sights are next to each other and your Colosseum ticket covers all 3. It does become a long day if you cover it in one day. And yet, I would urge you not to miss either the Forum or the Palatine Hill when you visit the Colosseum or plan it for the next day like we did. Do make sure you are carrying adequate water and a cap to shield from the strong sun in summer months.
Unlike the Colosseum, this site is not well signposted so you may consider taking a guide along with you. If you haven’t done an advance booking for a guided tour, you can easily find a guide outside the Forum. We entered here from a small entrance in front of the Colosseum, near the Arco di Tito.
This massive ancient ruin takes some imagination to conjure what it once was – a huge impressive meeting place with temples, bustling markets, the most important meeting place in ancient Rome.
If you are visiting the Palatine Hill towards the end of a long day like we did, you may be quite overwhelmed with all the history. But the Palatino or Palatine Hill does offer impressive views of both the Colosseum at one end and the Forum on the other.
According to the many myths and legends surrounding Rome, it was here that the city was founded in 753 BC. There are many excavation sights to be visited spread over a large area.
Day 3: An easy day wandering around the neighborhood
After 2 long days spent exploring the open ruins and the Capitoline museum, we decided to take it easy. We started the morning on a leisurely note ordering coffee in Italy in a bar, which itself is an art! We spent the day mostly wandering around the streets and taking in the city life in nearby areas. Our apartment was within walking distance of the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona and that’s where we started.
Once a temple and now a church, the Pantheon is a popular site. Do look up at the impressive centerpiece with a circular opening in the middle where sunlight streams in and makes the interior magical. There is always an evening buzz in the square right outside the Pantheon.
This is a magnificent square decorated by a massive fountain built by Benini. There are many restaurants and cafes on one side of this piazza and you can spend an easy hour taking in all the street artists and hawkers in this square.
This is a well-photographed site of baroque style. It was in scaffolding when we visited, part of an expensive restoration by Fendi. The tradition is to toss a coin into the water, thus ensuring that you’ll return to Rome – on average about €3000 is thrown in every day.
After a leisurely lunch, we walked towards the Spanish Steps. It is really nice to go here in the evening though the steps do get quite crowded. Perch yourself at a height to take in marvelous views of the city.
Day 4: A visit to the spectacular Vatican City
The Vatican Museum and the art collection therein is everything that it promises to be. One of the greatest collections in this tiny self-administered city-state was our agenda for the last full day in Rome.
Everyone and I do mean everyone, who comes to Rome visits the Vatican, so don’t expect to be standing alone in silence when you look up at the marvel painted by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel. But even with the crowds swirling around you, the bold colors and the creativity will speak to you.
You do get awestruck at the first few sculptures and then you start taking it in your stride. Everyone was a stellar artist in those times, it seems!! One impressive part of the Museum is the Gallery of the Maps. It was fun to see the outlines and the markings of different nations/empires from earlier times. But the crowds will ensure you can’t stop at any point for too long and have to keep moving.
After the Museum and Sistine Chapel, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica – one of the largest churches ever built depicting the Italian Renaissance in all its glory. The splendor and beauty of St Peter’s Basilica will leave you speechless.
Traveling with our 4-year old daughter, it wasn’t possible for us to climb the 871 steps to the top of the Basilica’s dome. But I am sure the 360-degree views of Vatican City from there must be stunning.
Its lavish interior contains many spectacular works of art, including three of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces: Michelangelo’s Pietà, his soaring dome, and Bernini’s 29m-high baldachin over the papal altar.
We exited the basilica and came to St. Peter’s Square which despite the umpteen photos seen is impressive in real. I took my daughter to the small souvenir shop in this piazza and bought her a couple of excellent books on Rome and the Vatican.
We had made an online booking for our admission tickets to the Vatican. The online reservation allows you to skip the line of the entrance to the Museum. The official site also has a variety of guided tours on offer.
Our 4 days in Rome went past in a whiz! But Rome is not just about architectural marvels and fine museums. If you have an extra day in Rome, spend it walking through some of the neighborhoods – the Jewish Ghetto or the Trastevere. Eat at a local trattoria and engage with locals. The regional variations in Italian food are vast and taking a culinary tour in Italy would be fabulous.
We did all our sightseeing at a leisurely pace and made time for going to gelaterias, just soaking in the atmosphere around the main piazzas and eating to our heart’s content! What I would have liked to do is a food tour in this inspiring city. We have enjoyed food tours in other places – Istanbul, Ljubljana and Amsterdam – and an Italian gastronomic journey sounds fabulous. But that’s for another trip!
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Have you visited Rome? Which ruin or museum impressed you the most?
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