Venice and Rome - for kids

Many times I hear this lament 'I can't wait to see Rome but what is there to do for my child?'. People have this fear that because they perceive Rome (and Venice, Naples and the Amalfi Coast) to be all about ancient history, art and architecture that there is simply nothing of interest for children. Not true!

My 'real' job is a teacher. I teach high school History and English. This means that it's my job to engage children aged 12 - 18 years old in ancient history as this is part of our curriculum. Stand in front of a classroom full of 12 year olds, ask them what they know about Ancient Rome and you'll hear a multitude of answers - 'the Colosseum, gladiators, Spartacus, beast hunts, Pompeii'! They know way more than we give them credit. Kids are curious about ancient history - even the little ones - and show me a child who doesn't love pizza and spaghetti. Put those elements together and you have the makings of an unforgettable family holiday.

But wait! 'What else is there for kids? Our family can't spend every minute of the day looking at ruins and eating?' - Okay, I hear you on this one too. I have spent six weeks in Italy with my son, Sam who was 13-14 years old. Believe me, even a child as interested in history as Sam wanted some alternatives. So here they are. These activities are listed for Venice, Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast. 


Sam absolutely LOVED Venice and this is why

Sam and I first went to Venice in September 2013 and we went to the top of the bell tower in St. Mark's Square (known as the Campanile de San Marco). We came back a year later and he really wanted to do it again. Why? because it's almost 100 metres (325 feet) above Venice, the view is incredible and Sam just loves the interesting fact that it completely collapsed in 1902 and was reconstructed in 1912. You go up in an elevator and in seconds are like a bird, hovering over this city that is a former maritime powerhouse built on a marshy island during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It simply defies belief.

Did I mention food? Venice is not known for its pizza (that's a Naples thing) but take a look at that crust and cheese. This little pizza place is in the San Polo district of Venice just off Calle Morti and behind the San Cassiano church. Some say Venice is drowning in visitors but in this little piazza we only saw some locals doing their shopping - and pigeons. Look behind Sam - there's no one there. And we travelled in September so definitely still high season.

See - kids just love sightseeing and food. Same place as above but the gelato - we both agree - was the BEST of the trip. The one that looks like vanilla and raspberry was actually a cheesecake flavour. Maybe that's defined as American but hey, it tasted fantastic!

So here is another thing kids will love. If you put your arms out, pigeons will land on you, like a perch. They are harmless and just want some food. DO NOT FEED THEM. That's against the law and the Guardians of San Marco will quickly tell you to stop. This photo is taken around 7.30-8.00am - see - no tourists! 

Sam and I didn't visit museums in Venice. We just walked, stopped, looked and occasionally came across a photo opportunity you couldn't find anywhere else in the world. Carnevale costumes, little canals, could only be Venice.


When I told Sam we were going back to Rome a year later, I asked him about his favourite place and what he wanted to do again. His answer straight up was to ride bikes again in the Borghese Gardens. This is a huge 80  hectare park right alongside the historic centre of Rome (and is also home to the Borghese Gallery - home of some of the most exquisite pieces of Renaissance art in the world). Sam and I went to the gallery in 2013 but in 2014 it was all about the bikes! It cost you about 7 euro to rent a bike for two hours. So here is Sam on the bike - this is taken just in front of the little lake where you can rent boats (see second photo). So far from Rome's traffic and totally kid friendly.

Rome is also - of course - about the ancient history.
 Walk in the footsteps of Cicero, Caesar, Brutus and Mark Antony. And of course Augustus.

Sam walking toward the Arch of Constantine and below (in front). The Arch of Constantine is situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. This battle won by Constantine was the precursor to Christianity being accepted as a religion in the Roman Empire. Apparently, Constantine had a vision in his sleep - this vision told him to carry the cross of Christ into battle and he would win. 

Sam and I at the Roman Forum with the Temple of Saturn behind us.

Sam took this photo of the Colosseum from Via de Fori Imperali. There was a commemorative march happening on that day (late September) for war veterans. See the Colosseum scaffolded. It is being restored and this process is expected to be complete late 2015. The sheer scale of the Colosseum makes it very appealing to kids of all ages. Be sure and take yours to the Underground and Third Ring tour which is not accessible to anyone except those on the tour. See my previous blog post 'Colosseum Underground' for further information.

There are many other activities for kids in Rome. Sam also loved gelato from Gigliotti - in fact I can honestly say we didn't have bad gelato anywhere in Rome. Maybe we were lucky? 

This is one of the incredible things you see in Rome. Sam loved this. It was taken at Bernini's fountain in Piazza Navona and shows a local couple on their wedding day surrounded by a Trafalgar Tour group complete with little sound gadgets around their necks. The couple welcomed the group over and all of us - bystanders, tour group - family of the couple - broke into applause after this photo was taken - congratulating the couple and just enjoying the spontaneity of the moment.

PART TWO - Naples and the Amalfi Coast for kids - coming soon.


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