Rome, ITALY - After a very rainy vacation in France last summer, I decided that this year we would head further south to Italy, where sun is assured, the beaches are beautiful, and the pasta is plentiful. We began our two-week holiday with three days in Rome. Since my husband and I have previously spent time here, we decided to make our brief stay in the city all about our kids, which meant learning a little bit about the city’s history, architecture, and monuments, while making time for as much pizza and gelato that their little bodies could handle. What follows is a short list of our greatest hits from those few days.
LAY OF THE LAND
Central Rome is home to many of the city’s main attractions: Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Villa Borghese, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Piazza dei Popolo, Piazza Campo dei Fiori….the list goes on and on. This translates to a huge concentration of tourists in this small area during the peak travel months of July and August. If you venture outside the center to neighborhoods like Trastevere, Monti, Testaccio, and Rione, chances are you will find fewer foreigners, more Romans, and a slightly more authentic Italian experience (i.e. menus only in Italian). Just saying...that's where you'll find me.
Airbnb: My favorite way to experience a city is to rent an apartment in a neighborhood outside of the city center. On this trip, we rented a small flat just off Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. In the mornings, we would wake up with coffee and pastries in the square, and in the evenings, enjoy the hustle and bustle of Roman nightlife at the neighborhood bar. This is a wonderful way to get acquainted with a new city and culture, especially when you are jetlagged and traveling with kids. $-$$$$
Nerva Boutique Hotel: Located just a stone’s through from the Roman Forum and a short walk from the Colosseum, this small, modern hotel is located on a peaceful side street in the Monti neighborhood. Nerva has rooms with two beds (not very common in Europe) and can also accommodate children with rollaway cots. Just outside Nerva’s front door are several wonderful neighborhood restaurants. $$$
G-Rough: For an upmarket apartment alternative that is more hotel than Airbnb, consider booking a suite from G-Rough, a new luxury apartment concept that rents out elegant suites and apartments in a restored 17th-century building in central Rome near the Piazza Navona. G-Rough’s 10 suites (one and two bedrooms) are outfitted with king sized beds, retro-shabby-chic interiors, and all the comfort and personal service of a five-star hotel. The exposed wood ceilings, terracotta floors, and walls with that vintage-restored-layered patina make you feel like you are staying in your shirt-tale relative’s restored palazzo. $$$$
La Posta Vecchia: If you don’t want to stay in central Rome, but prefer making day trips into the city, La Posta Vecchia is a luxurious property on the Tyrrhenian Sea just 18 miles from the airport, and 25 miles from the city center. La Posta Vecchia is a great alternative to bedding down in the city if you are looking for the relaxation of a seaside retreat without giving up the accessibility of the city. Once the home of John Paul Getty, and more recently Roberto Scio, La Posta Vecchia is a renaissance villa that has been transformed from a residence into a luxurious hotel filled with Roman mosaics and ancient artifacts. With a beach club, indoor pool, spa, and tennis court, this hotel has all the amenities of a full-service resort without sacrificing the intimacy and attention to detail that this family-owned hotel is known for. $$$$$
IVO a Trastevere: After making our way from the airport to our Airbnb in Trastevere we wanted a quick, delicious, and relaxed neighborhood meal. On the recommendation of our host, we walked down the street to IVO to find a bustling and cavernous restaurant filled with people. Despite the fact that is was crowded, we got seated right away – next to a kids soccer team – and proceeded to order up pasta, pies, and Roman staple, suppli (fried risotto balls). As casual and unassuming as this place was, the pizza was top notch and one of the meals that we still talk about. If you are staying in or near Trastevere, IVO should be on your list. $
Trattoria Da Enzo: This small, family-owned trattoria on the edge of Trastevere is definitely worth booking or waiting for a table. Considered by some to be one of the best restaurants in Rome, Trattoria Da Enzo serves classic Roman food in a casual dining room. This is a great place to sample classic pasta dishes like Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe. If you are visiting in spring, be sure to order the artichokes. $$
Roscioli: Located in central Rome, a stone’s throw from the main tourist sights, this long narrow restaurant is somewhat of an institution. What started as a neighborhood grocer, salumeria, and takeaway spot, has evolved into a full service restaurant in a separate space down the road. The walls of the restaurant are lined with high-quality and rare Italian food products, and showcase a selection of the restaurant’s extensive wine collection. With seating in the salumeria, bar, restaurant, and basement cellar, there are many ways to enjoy a meal at Roscioli. While Roscioli serves classical Roman dishes, it is known for its seafood, more than 300 varietals of cheese, and salumi sourced from all over the Mediterranean. While I would normally hesitate to take my children into a place like this, the experience turned out to be fantastic, and we weren’t the only ones dining with kids. Reservations are essential and can be made through the restaurant’s website. $$$
Mercato Testaccio: If you are a foodie, be sure to check out this incredible indoor market with everything from fresh produce, meat, and seafood, to dried foods, salumi, and gourmet Italian delicacies. Stick around for a light meal from one of the local vendors, like Piadineria, which serves incredible cuts of cured meat alongside fresh made cheeses and salads. $
Otaleg: Really excellent, organic gelato on a quiet street in Trastevere near Piazza Santa Margarita. $
ON THE SIDE
My Best Tour: I consider myself a traveler, and hate to be classified as a tourist, BUT when a friend told me about the golf cart tour she took in Rome with her kids, my visions of that first day with whiny, jet-lagged, hot, hungry children suddenly dissipated. My Best Tour may have the worst website ever, but the product is legit! Our driver picked us up at our apartment in Trastevere and drove us around in a golf cart for four-and-a-half hours. We went where cars couldn’t go, drove farther than little legs could have ever walked, and saw all the sights that Rome could throw at us. Along the way, we learned a little bit about the history and architecture of the city, and got to sample some of Rome’s best gelato before being dropped off at our restaurant for lunch. A golf cart tour of Rome is hands down the best way to spend your first day exploring Rome with kids.
Context Travel: If you are interested in seeing some of Rome’s larger historical attractions like the Colosseum or the Vatican, I would highly recommend booking a private visit through Context Travel. Especially during high tourist season when the lines are crushing, a private tour allows you to avoid waiting outside in the oppressive heat. Not only are Context Travel’s guides incredibly experienced and knowledgeable, but they are also very good with kids. While my husband and I would never splurge on a private, guided tour, it was worth every penny to listen to our children fire off questions at our guide, and actually get something educational out of the experience.
Take a Stroll: Once the tours have ended and everyone has had a rest, take an evening stroll through the city. Rome is at its best when the sun is low. Have an aperitivo in a neighborhood square, listen to musicians play by the fountains, and let the kids explore. Poke your head into some of the small churches that you can’t help but pass – they are everywhere. Kids are always surprisingly enthralled with the antiquities inside a chapel.
When to Go: Rome is at its best in spring when the weather is mild, seasonal food is at its peak (artichokes), and the tourist season hasn’t quite begun.
Transportation: Leonardo da Vinci International Airport is 40-minutes from the center of Rome. If you travel into the city using Uber, there is a designated area outside of the arrival terminal where your driver will meet you. Definitely don’t rent a car and drive into central Rome.
Eating out in Rome: Romans love it when you make a reservation. Either pick up the phone, stop by in person, or book through the website if that is an option. Most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8:00 pm, with peak dining from 9:00-10:30, so plan accordingly.
Photos: Bring an Instax instant camera and lots of film for the kids to shoot with. It's a great diversion when they run out of steam, and a fun way for them to learn about photography (that doesn't involve a smart phone).
Whats to Come:
Puglia, Italy ★ 10.18
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W A N D E R L U S T