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10 Free Sights You Can't Miss in Rome With Kids
The Eternal City offers a wealth of world-class sights that won't cost you a euro.
With plenty of kid-friendly museums and iconic attractions to explore, Rome is an enticing place to plan a budget-friendly European getaway with the gang.(Getty Images)
Planning a Roman holiday with the kids? Long lines and hefty entry fees can wear down even the most enthusiastic young travelers. But here's the good news: Not every attraction and historical building in Rome requires an admission fee (or a wait). Here are 10 free things to do in Rome that will keep your kids engaged and active – and you relaxed and happy.
St. Peter's Basilica
There are nearly as many cathedrals in Rome as sculptures, but show kids a few tricks at St. Peter's and they'll be engaged. At the largest church in Christendom, designed by greats such as Raphael and Michelangelo, the masters played a trick on church-goers of their era: The colonnaded piazza outside and bronze over the main altar are scaled to confuse the eye. Tell kids to stand at the back of the basilica and look back toward the entrance. From there, church-goers will look tiny. Next, head up the dome for breathtaking city views.
Campo de' Fiori
Kids may not love to shop at home, but in Rome, open-air markets intrigue with colorful displays of toys, candies and unfamiliar objects. Carve out an afternoon here for souvenir shopping. And afterward, take a break to indulge in gelato, a treat that's sure to appease even the pickiest of palates.
Located in the heart of the city, Rome's most expansive gardens originally fell under the ownership of Cardinal Borghese. Today, the wild animals he let roam here have been replaced by bikes and scooters, a glistening lake and plenty of green space and shade. Pack a picnic lunch and retreat here after a morning of sightseeing and let the kids run and play.
Located in Janiculum Hill, this tucked-away park offers some of the best views of Rome. In addition to optimal photo ops, kids will love the free open-air puppet show performed daily. This centuries-old tradition is cherished among locals, and though the shows are performed in Italian, the puppets' lively acts are enjoyed by all.
The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is a can't-miss stop on any trip to Rome. And though the tradition of tossing coins into the fountain to ensure a trip back to the Eternal City will cost you, visiting is free of charge. The trick lies in knowing when to go to avoid peak crowds at this iconic landmark. Head to the fountain first thing in the morning for unobstructed views. Also, keep in mind the area is most crowded during the late afternoon and evenings.
While many of Rome's ancient buildings are in ruins and require a keen imagination to envision them in their glory, the Pantheon has remained intact thanks to its adoption to Christianity early on. Of course, parents will see the irony here, since Pantheon literally translates to "all gods," but regardless, kids will love exploring the world's largest dome. Encourage children to stand in the center and look up at the Pantheon's unique oculus perched atop the dome, which allows for natural light to filter in. After your tour, sample some gelato at one of the popular shops lining the square surrounding the Pantheon.
La Bocca della Verità
Sculptures are abundant in Rome, so kids may not pay much attention to this one until parents give them the backstory: Legend has it that the Bocca della Verità, or "mouth of truth" will bite the hand of any person telling a lie. Let kids try inserting a hand into its gaping jaws. At the very least, the scary face on this sculpture will lend authenticity to the tale.
The Roman Forum
While it's a smart idea to hire a family-friendly guide to walk you through the Roman Forum to direct you to noteworthy points of interest, you can also embark on a tour on your own, free of charge. Make sure to stop at the signposts (written in multiple languages) to orient yourself, and be prepared to explain the ruins to kids. You can also catch the free guided tour that departs daily at 1 p.m. While the tour is geared toward adults, older kids and teens will easily be able to follow along.
Take a Free Walking Tour
Take advantage of a wonderful resource in Rome: free tours provided by New Rome Free Tour, which offers complimentary walking tours across the Eternal City. Currently, the tour offers commentary on the Angels of Bernini and Queen Margherita's tomb, plus an in-depth look at the picturesque Piazza di Spagna. Guides also take visitors past the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. Tours start at the Piazza di Spagna at 5:30 p.m. daily and take around two hours.
The Colosseum, Palatino, Forum and the Vatican – on Free Days
While Rome's major tourist attractions do offer free days each month, keep in mind you'll be enjoying the city's top-rated attractions with hordes of tourists. That said, if you're on a tight budget and you're yearning to visit Rome's ancient ruins and the Vatican for free, the Vatican Museums are free the last Sunday of each month, and the Colosseum, Palatino and the Roman Forum are free the first Sunday of each month. Plan to arrive well in advance of the 9 a.m. admission time and be prepared to stand in line. As you wait, you can keep the kids entertained with quiet games, a round (or twenty) of I Spy or trivia.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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