What you need to know about traveling in Rome with Kids: interview with J.M. Pasquesi

Here’s the interview with J.M. Pasquesi, the author of Rome with Kids, that I promised you a while back.

1. If we only have 2 days in Rome with our 12yr. old grandaughter, what do you suggest we see? Posted by: Sue Rosa at July 18, 2007 3:40 PM

ANSWER: With any child, but especially when you have so little time, efficiency in touring is your best friend. Take the time to plan a course ahead of time — that means double checking hours of operation. You don’t want to plan to see the Sistine Chapel on a day it’s closed! In my book, you’ll find 11 “mini-tours” that take you step-by-step in the most efficient way possible. Pick a few together with your child and then hit the road. A 12-yr. old can handle 2-4 of those tours a day. You should not miss the Forums/Colosseum/Pantheon/Trevi and a few major piazzas — like Piazza Navona or Piazza di Spagna.

2. We’re thinking of taking a two week trip to Italy next summer with our 3 children ages 14, 18 and 21. We’d like to try to stay in or near Venezia, Firenze and Roma and take day trips from each city to explore some smaller towns. Can you give us any suggestions to keep everyone involved and no one too tired from trying to see everything. We’d really rather not go to a new hotel every night if possible. Can you help? Posted by: Rob at July 18, 2007 9:05 PM

ANSWER: I’m tired just reading this question. Even though your kids are older (14-18 years) you still need to be mindful of my “Space and Pace” rule. Kids need space to relax and wind down from lines, touring, following, driving, flying, waiting, waiting, waiting…! You also need to tour at a much slower pace in order to avoid burn out. That means getting through museums quickly, but taking your time at lunch, actively engaging sights, piazzas and shops etc. Trying to pack in too much in will lead to stress.

Venice does not require more than an overnight, in my opinion; you can even make it a long day trip from Florence. The Eurostar wisks you between the two cities in 2:45 minutes!

Florence and Rome have a wonderful selection of apartments for let that will give you more than double the space of hotels for half the price! Plus, you can stock the fridge with snacks and drinks, and even enjoy breakfast at “home.” Many hotels offer family rooms with four beds (sometimes 5) or adjoining rooms. Some B&B’s are small enough that you can take the whole place over (3 bedrooms). Look for accommodations ideas in the back of the book or try venere.com, a popular European site that lets you enter number of people and number of rooms (i.e. 5 people, 1 room). What ever you choose, stay as close to the center (centro) of town as you can afford to allow for easy access to breaks.

Finally, keep the day trips to a minimum and a short range. For instance, from Rome, you may wish to skip Pompeii (6 hours of your day will be spent in transport) and take the ½ hour train ride to Ostia Antica, where you can hop off the train, walk across a pedestrian bridge and see similar ruins of an abandoned town (Rome’s ancient port town) and then walk into the charming little center of Ostia for lunch and a quick tour of a castle.

To keep kids involved, share a little background (major artists, patrons, popes etc.) ahead of touring so that they are armed with a little info. Then, when you’re touring, they may even be able to tell you a few things rather than always being lectured. Make history fun by including activities, dramatic stories and compelling questions (who was murdered here? How many steps are there at the Spanish Steps? Let’s find the belly button of Rome).

3. I am taking 3 grandchildren to Rome during Easter, would it be less crowded Good Friday or Easter week end? Posted by: wanda edler at July 19, 2007 3:08 AM

ANSWER: It’ll be about the same. Easter is high season for Rome, but it’s one of my favorite times to be there, too. Keep in mind that the Pope leads a huge, candle-lit procession from the Colosseum on Good Friday. This is a pretty neat event to witness. Holy Thursday Mass is usually at San Giovanni. The first week of April also brings Cultural Heritage Week, an annual week which brings free entry to many sights (but also crowds). April 21 is Rome’s official birthday, so you’ll be treated to many street festivities, especially around the forum which hosts an historical parade of sorts that week.

4. We are bring our 2 children, aged 12 and 9 to Italy. We are planning to go to Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan. Please advise on accomodations, food and places of interest. Thank you. Posted by: Vivien at July 19, 2007 7:25 AM

ANSWER: See my answer to #2 above. As for sights: in Milan, be sure to take the kids to the roof of the Duomo for a fairy-tale like experience among the gothic flying buttresses and stone paths; in Florence, climb the tower to get a good view of the famous dome and enjoy some time strolling the wonderful gardens behind the Pitti Palace — especially since Florence is so museum heavy (which can be boring for kids); in Venice, don’t miss a tour of the Doge’s Palace. Spend the bulk of your time in Rome since it’s most kid-friendly and nearly everything is walking distance.

5. How young is TOO young for children in Rome? Our youngest will just turn 7 before our trip. We also have a 8, 12, and 14 year old. Are there places that accommodate a family of six without splitting us up? Thanks! Posted by: CJ Treangen at July 19, 2007 9:56 PM

ANSWER: Italians love children, so you never need worry about them being accepted at any age. Waiters will dote on them! As for touring ages, it’s best, in my opinion, to travel with babies that you can still carry in a backpack or kids old enough to walk a fair amount on their own (little legs wear out quickly). Ages 7 and up are the best for stamina and ability to hold interests. They can be given fun tasks and enjoy stories; they can eat and sleep on adult schedules; and they can retain memories of the lovely experience you’ve created for them.

There are plenty of places to keep the six of you together. Your best bet will be an apartment for lots of space in close proximity to the sights, but several hotels accommodate families, like Lancelot Hotel, for example. Just be sure to use a quality apartment service and check them out using a site like tripadvisor.com or slowtrav.com, which post reviews.

6. Me and my family (including a 1, 1 1/2, and 7 yo) are traveing to Italy in a few months and were a bit worried it would be to much for the kids to go from city to city. We were planning on visiting Florence, Venice, and Rome. Do you have any suggestions? any concerns? Posted by: Tatiana Donis at July 20, 2007 12:23 PM

ANSWER: You don’t say how long you will be traveling. 3 cities in two weeks or more is about right, but 3 cities in 1 week is too much. You are right that kids like to stay put. Adult and kids alike can benefit immensely from digging in and really exploring a city and culture that is foreign to them. It makes for a rich and intimate experience rather than checking sights off a list, systematically moving from city to city to do so. Find a nice balance and make sure to schedule in parks, botanical gardens, and some peaceful down time. Keep snacks on hand for train rides and alternate museums with outdoor activities like piazzas and fountains. And don’t forget safety: I like to stuff pockets of small children with business cards from the hotel you’re staying (or cards with your phone number) in the case they get lost. Book advance reservations for all the major museums you wish to see; you’ll avoid long lines by skipping them and going to will-call.

I hope that was helpful. There was a 7th question that hasn’t been answered yet. I’m not sure what will happen with that one…

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  1. […] and there is so much sight seeing that the time really flies. We flew into Venice). Then Florence, Rome, Dubrovnik (which was gorgeous), Greece (you can miss Athens but Santorini was the most beautiful […]

  2. […] in travel with kids on this blog, mainly because I don’t have kids, But we did focus on Italy with kids a while back, and the time has now come for everyone reading to share their expertise with a reader […]

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