Our Family’s Rome Travel Itinerary

Rome is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Its collections of historic sites, monuments, piazzas, fountains, and spectacular food makes it an amazing place to visit with your family. Our family had the privilege of visiting this marvelous outdoor museum. Here’s the Rome travel itinerary that we used. It includes what worked, what didn’t and what we would’ve done differently. Hopefully you can use it to make your family trip to Rome a memorable one.

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OUR 5 DAY ITINERARY FOR ROME

Of course, we didn’t follow our planned itinerary exactly, but we followed most of it. This is what our actual itinerary ended up being:

Day 1Castel Sant’Angelo

Day 2 – Archivio di Stato, Pantheon/Piazza della Rotonda, Trestevere, Piazza di Cosimato, Piazza di Santa Maria

Day 3 – Borghese Gardens, Terrazza del Pincio, Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, Via del Corso, Pantheon, Piazza Navona

Day 4Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Trevi Fountain

Day 5Vatican City

ARRIVING IN ROME

Our visit to Rome began with an EasyJet flight from London. We had just spent 4 days in London as it was the first part of our 14 day trip in Europe. We would be going to Naples next.

Due to a flight delay, we arrived at Fiumicino Airport later than expected. Fortunately, even though we had an Airbnb apartment, we were able to call ahead and get the code to enter the apartment.

From the airport, we took the Leonardo Express which took us to Termini Station. We then went to the front of the station and grabbed a taxi (an official taxi) which took us to our apartment.

Booking.com

OUR APARTMENT

Our apartment was in the Prati neighborhood which borders Vatican City. It was close enough to the major sites, but just far enough away that the price was reasonable. The Prati neighborhood is a great place to stay for budget travelers because of its proximity to the historic center and the fact that even using the bus to get around you can get to most places fairly quickly and easily.

From our apartment, we were able to forgo the bus and just walk to Vatican City and Castel Sant’ Angelo. The restaurants in the area were a bit more reasonable in price as well.

As a family of four we love booking apartments for the extra space and more authentic feel. To book our apartments we use either VRBO or Airbnb.

DAY 1 FRIDAY

CASTEL SANT’ANGELO

Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome

Since we arrived at our apartment a bit later than we planned, we missed our planned dinner time and so we had to search for food. As result, we got to sleep later than expected.

Even though the flight wasn’t long, travel days can be draining especially when there are delays. We were all tired so we just slept in the following day. This, of course, affected our plans for Friday which initially included a stop at the Campo de’ Fiori market in the morning.

Fortunately, we still were able to visit Castel Sant’ Angelo which is such an underrated place to visit in Rome. It was close enough to our apartment that we decided to walk and enjoy the city, and the gelato.

Before we entered the castle, we spent some time admiring the Ponte Sant’ Angelo. This bridge crosses the Tiber River and walks you right up to the front door of the Castel Sant’Angelo. The bridge is home to numerous spectacular sculptures lined up on either side.

As you approach the bridge to cross and go to the castle you’re treated to one of the best views in Rome with the bridge and its statues in the foreground and the castle looming right behind it.

On the roof of Castel Sant' Angelo overlooking Vatican City

In a city full of world-renowned sites, it’s kind of easy to get overlooked. This enormous castle has a complex and storied history and it’s all available to be discovered. We loved climbing the steps, wandering the passageways, hallways and many rooms of the castle.

The place is so big and there’s so much to see. It’s a great place for kids to visit and explore. All around the outside, there are great views. The best view is of course on the rooftop terrace where the city of Rome unfolds before your eyes. The best view is of Vatican City seemingly just next door.

A great view of Vatican City from a terrace in Castel Sant' Angelo

The temperature was so hot (95 degrees f) that it was draining and a bit much for the kids, so our day pretty much ended here. We did enjoy our walk back to our apartment and took our time making our way through side streets of the neighborhood.

CHANGES:

Campo de Fiori would have been a great addition to our itinerary, especially for our kids, but the situation being what it was changed that. Under ideal circumstances that would have been a great thing to do in the morning. The heat also made a change of plans inevitable.

Children aren’t going to last long in 95-degree heat. Castel Sant’ Angelo is a mix of indoor and outdoor and there isn’t air conditioning when you’re touring the castle, so even though the castle helps with the heat, you still have to deal with it.

DAY 2 SATURDAY

I think that this day was planned perfectly. On our itinerary we merely have

11:00 am Pantheon

1:00 pm Lunch/Trastevere/Piazza di San Cosimato/Piazza di Santa Maria

And it worked out perfectly. With such a loose schedule, we weren’t rushed and were free to explore. We discovered some interesting sites along the way including our first stop.

ARCHIVIO DI STATO DI ROMA

Archivio di Stato di Roma

On our way to see the Pantheon, we stumbled upon an unexpected treasure. Once off the bus, we began to walk to the Pantheon and noticed a large opened door and what appeared to be some sort of courtyard.

As a rule of thumb, whenever you’re in Rome and see a large open door with what appears to be a courtyard, you go check it out. You’ll rarely leave disappointed. We were not disappointed.

The courtyard is amazing in its architecture and design. It was altogether majestic and gorgeous. It wasn’t in our plans but we took our time to wander the beautiful space and admire the design and take pictures of course.

I knew absolutely nothing about this place before we went, but I’m so glad that we ventured in to take a look. It’s in a great location across the street from Piazza Navona. The door to enter is on Corso del Rinascimento, 40, 00186, Roma RM, Italy.

If you’re near the Piazza Navona or on your way to the Pantheon, it’s definitely worth the visit.

CHANGES:

This wasn’t even on our itinerary, but it was a beautiful diversion and a great discovery. We enjoyed being able to see it and also take pictures.

PANTHEON

The Pantheon in Rome

One of the most important things that you can do when you plan to visit the Pantheon is to get the approach right. If you come upon it from the rear (south) you’ll still be impressed once you’ve walked to the far north end of the piazza, but the experience is not quite the same. Instead, approach from the north.

It may take a bit of planning if you’re depending on a service like Google Maps as it’ll likely just send you to the quickest route without regard for the approach.

We approached from the north end of the Piazza della Rotonda and the results were striking. It’s such an amazing reveal when you turn the corner and the massive dome is rising over the Pantheon, with the view partially obstructed by the obelisk standing up in the middle of the Fontana del Pantheon. It’s a view that you won’t soon forget.

Walking into the Pantheon we were greeted by the immense thick columns and equally immense front doors. It looks like something right out of a movie.

The Pantheon in Rome

Inside the Pantheon, we were greeted with quite the crowd, but it never seemed overly crowded to us and we were able to walk around and enjoy such a marvelous space.

The highlight, of course, is the oculus that is perfectly situated at the center of the roof. Observing the detail in the roof and the recesses that were created is pretty awesome. For a structure this old, it is in remarkable shape.

It is a tremendous feat of architecture and engineering. As you stand under the oculus it’s cool to know that the distance from the floor to ceiling is exactly equal to the diameter of the Pantheon.

Inside the Pantheon in Rome

PIAZZA DELLA ROTUNDA

For as great as the Pantheon is, the piazza it sits in is great in its own right. Piazza della Rotonda is one of the many magnificent piazzas and fountains in Rome.

The fountain is an absolute masterpiece and probably my second favorite in Rome behind the Trevi Fountain. It’s a great piece to marvel at and appreciate. The fountain is on a platform that includes steps.

There was quite the crowd here as well, but we found space to sit and relax. This was the perfect spot to sit down, relax, take in the surroundings and appreciate that we were in Rome.

It was also a great spot for our kids to relax their feet. Despite the crowds, there were open spaces in the Piazza as well. We also took advantage of the spectacular backdrop to take plenty of pics.

Hanging out in the Piazza della Rotunda

Piazza della Rotonda and the Pantheon is not a place that you want to rush through. We thoroughly enjoyed being able to take our time in the Pantheon and then afterward in the Piazza.

Once were sufficiently rested and had seen all that we had to see, we were on the move again.

CHANGES:

None. This has to be one of the best spots in Rome.

TRASTEVERE

Trastevere in Rome

We headed in the direction of Piazza Venezia where we caught the bus. As we were waiting for our ride, we got a good look at the infamous “Big White Building” as it came to be known. More formally known as the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.

Our short bus ride dropped us off in one of the most famous neighborhoods in Rome. Our first stop in Trastevere was a bakery for some treats. One of the great things about Rome is that nearly everywhere you stop as long as it’s not right in a tourist area, you’re going to get high-quality food and this was no exception.

After a short break for some pastries, we made our way to Piazza di San Cosimato. Depending on the time of day, this piazza is also home to one of the more popular markets in Rome.

Our purpose for going to was to spend some time at the playground. It was the perfect spot for the whole family. The kids got to play on the playground and us adults got to sit down on the bench and relax.

Playground in Piazza san Cosimato

The playground is catered to kids up to about 7 years of age and there were mostly younger kids there, but 9 or 10-year-olds would have fun there as well.

Summer in Rome can be quite warm and even though our day wasn’t too hot, it was nice that the playground was completely shaded by the surrounding trees. The playground is also a secure area so you don’t have to worry about little ones wandering off.

From Piazza di San Cosimato, we made our way to Piazza di Santa Maria. This modest square is home to a fountain but is otherwise not noticeable.

What sets it apart, especially in the evening is the live entertainment usually in the form of some type of performer. Despite its modestly the piazza attracts quite the crowd and is a popular spot to stop for a meal at one of the several restaurants that border the piazza.

On our way to take the bus back, we crossed the Ponte Garibaldi as the sun was setting. It provided an unforgettable view down the River Tiber and the Ponte Sisto in the foreground with St. Peter’s in the background.

Several of the bridges are great to cross because of their view and this one that leads in and out of Trastevere is one of those bridges.

Overlooking the Tiber River with St. Peter's in the background

CHANGES:

None. The kids were overjoyed at being able to play at the playground and we combined that with pastries before the playground and gelato after and capped it off with a breathtaking crossing over the Ponte Garibaldi.

DAY 3 SUNDAY

We had the pleasure of being joined during this part of our trip. My wife’s two sisters were also in Europe and were coming in from Venice. Once they arrived at the apartment, we headed out for our first stop of the day.

BORGHESE GARDENS

Borghese Gardens in Rome

Borghese Gardens is a beautiful oasis in a busy city full of ancient buildings, museums, and ruins. We took a bus from our apartment to the north end of the park and entered near the zoo. We enjoyed being able to stroll through this park. And since it was a warm day, the abundant shade was also welcoming.

We had plans to rent some of the bikes that they have. There are a couple of options including four-seaters which are good for families. Tandem bikes and standard bicycles are available to rent as well.

Unfortunately, one of the requirements is that you have to present your passport as identification. None of us had our passports on us so we had to explore the park on foot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do.

In front of the Borghese Gallery in Rome

We made our way toward the Borghese Gallery. Even if you don’t go in, it’s a beautiful building to see. My wife and I had visited on our last trip to Rome and the others didn’t necessarily want to spend the time inside so we enjoyed the area including the courtyard in front of the gallery. It’s a great spot to take pics.

We followed the path down towards the Terraza del Pincio. We were able to see a good amount of the park on foot. Not only is the park full of beautiful walkways, but there are also spots to grab food, snacks and of course gelato.

Even though we didn’t get to see the artwork in the gallery, there is plenty of art scattered throughout the park.

CHANGES:

I would’ve done a bit of research about renting the bikes. I had no idea that I would have to bring my passport, but it makes sense. Even though we enjoyed our walk through the park, a ride on a bike would’ve allowed us to cover more ground and see more of the beautiful grounds.

Other than that, we all liked the park; it’s a nice change of pace from the historic center of the city.

TERRAZA DEL PINCIO

Looking out from the Terraza del Pincio over Piazza del Popolo

This is without a doubt one of the best views of Rome. The panoramic view of Rome is breathtaking as we were able to see clear to St. Peter’s and beyond. The terrace is wide and spacious which allows plenty of room for viewing but also for different vantage points we took our photos.

Not only did we appreciate the expansive views of Rome, but also the wonderful view of Piazza del Popolo directly beneath us.

There are steps and pathways down from the terrace into the piazza below. Several points on the way down were especially beautiful and made for great picture taking.

PIAZZA DEL POPOLO

Piazza del Popolo

This is another underrated treasure in Rome. This expansive piazza boasts a mighty obelisk that rises directly in the middle and is surrounded by four fountains and four lions. The lions were a hit.

What makes this piazza so amazing, besides the sheer vastness of it is that to the north lies the ancient gates of Rome. It’s a stunning site and a cool experience to pass through the gates and to go through to the other side and get an idea of what it would have been like to enter the enormous gates into the mighty city of Rome in ancient times.

To the south sits two elegant churches, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli to the right and the Basilica di Santa Maria Montesanto to the left. Between the churches lays three roads that travel through the heart of the historic center. Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso and Via del Babuino.

Piazza del Popolo

The Via del Corso will take you directly to the prime shopping area in Rome and the Via del Babuino will also take you to some premier shopping but it also leads you directly to the Spanish Steps and the Piazza di Spagna.

We took Via del Babuino towards the Spanish Steps

SPANISH STEPS

The Spanish Steps in Rome

The first impression means a lot and the first impression of the Spanish Steps were rather muted. According to my kids “, they’re just steps, daddy”. Even though the piazza with the magnificent Barcaccia Fountain in the center is quite the sight, approaching it from Via del Babuino doesn’t quite do it justice.

Despite the less than stellar review, the piazza and steps are quite the space to enjoy. The days have now past where you could grab a gelato and find a spot on the steps and watch the day go by, but you can still enjoy one of the remarkable spaces in Rome.

After a few pics, we were on the move again

CHANGES:

From Piazza del Popolo I would’ve taken Via del Corso to Via dei Condotti which would’ve placed us two blocks from the Spanish steps but would have provided a much better introduction and first impression.

The steps are perfectly framed by the narrow street, the shadows between the buildings alongside the street and the sun cascading down on the Spanish Steps. It’s the best way to approach the Spanish Steps for a great reveal and first impression.

VIA DEL CORSO

It was time to shop. The mission for me was to find Doppelganger, a fairly reasonable men’s store that sells ties, suits, and other men’s items. The mission for the kids was to find the Disney Store. Both missions were accomplished along with some souvenir shopping.

The entire area is full of extremely high-end stores and it’s nice to window shop and admire their luxurious displays. If you want to actually shop, there are, believe it or not, lots of options available in the area. Just don’t buy gelato around here. It’s crazy expensive.

Once we’d burned through enough Euros we were headed to Piazza Navona, but on the way stopped by the Pantheon so that my wife’s sisters could see it.

It was a great walk to make our way from the main street of Via del Corso through the side streets and alleyways to the Pantheon and then to Piazza Navona. It’s one of my favorite things about Rome. No matter what side street you walk down, it’s never boring, and is always picturesque.

By the time we got to Piazza Navona, the sun was beginning to fall and we had worn ourselves out. Regarding the schedule, we had quite a bit planned and simply ran out of time and energy.

We passed through Piazza Navona, looked around a bit, took some photos and made our way to our bus stop to head back to our apartment.

DAY 4 MONDAY

COLOSSEUM

Inside the Colosseum in Rome

SKIP THE LINE COLOSSEUM TICKETS

Going to the Colosseum is number one on most lists when visiting Rome, and we couldn’t wait to visit this historic landmark. We made sure to purchase our tickets ahead of time online.

There are also several other options for different types of tours that you can purchase that include the Colosseum. There are underground tours, guided tours as well as combination tickets.

Whichever ticket you select, purchasing online is the best way to visit the Colosseum. My wife and I visited it two years ago but for everyone else, it would be their first time. It was just as exciting to see others experience this for the first time.

Unfortunately, the day didn’t go as planned at all.

The best time to go to the Colosseum is early in the morning. It’s not as crowded, and in the summer, it’s not as hot. Since that’s the case we reserved our tickets ahead of time.

We had timed tickets for a morning entry time, but I misunderstood the rules for timed entry. I thought that we were free to enter any time after the time on our ticket. That was not the case. You have to be ready to enter at the time on the ticket and not after.

When the ticket taker saw our ticket, initially she wasn’t going to let us in. Like seriously, we would have to stand in the horribly long line, in the sun, which looked like over an hour wait to purchase our tickets again.

After some talking (read: begging, pleading, kindly asking and looking generally as sad and pathetic as humanly possible) the woman felt what I’m guessing was some measure of pity for us and granted us mercy and entrance to Rome’s greatest monument.

The Colosseum in Rome

The tickets that we purchased were combination tickets and included access to the Palatine Hill/Forum site that is nearby the Colosseum. You can purchase tickets through their official website. Tickets are only released a few months in advance.

While children are free, we still had to pay a 2 euro reservation fee online and once inside the Colosseum, go to the ticket office to pick up the kids’ free tickets. The process is pretty easy and we had no problems navigating that process.

EXPLORING THE COLOSSEUM

Once we were inside the Colosseum, we were in complete awe at the size of the structure. The corridors are towering and wide and remind you of a modern sports stadium in its architecture, size and scale.

There are options for a guided tour, but we decided to just roam the Colosseum on our own. We really enjoyed that experience. Every once in awhile we would happen upon a guided tour group and listen in and pick up some interesting tidbits.

We thought about the guided tour, but with kids, we liked the flexibility of being able to move around at our own pace and do our thing and that worked out well.

It was a warm day and in the Colosseum, there is very little shade once you’re out in the main arena. It a good idea to bring a hat, and sunglasses for little ones because the sun can be overbearing.

That’s one of the things to remember about visiting Rome with kids, particularly in the summer. Timing your visit to earlier in the day or later can also help. We planned to be there in the morning, but once our plans were thrown off, we arrived much later than we wanted to and were there closer to noon when the sun was at its strongest. That is to be avoided if at all possible.

We enjoyed exploring the first level then made our way to the second level of the Colosseum which provides a unique view on the inside of the structure.

In the staircase in the Colosseum

Unfortunately on our way up to the second floor, I realized that my wife’s phone was missing. I previously had it, using it to take pictures. But now it was no where to be found.

We then spent an inordinate amount of time tracing our steps back, searching all of the places it may have been, where I might have laid it down, going to security to help search for it, locating lost and found and trying to find the phone. All to no avail. Our schedule for the day, already pushed back from the beginning was completely ruined by this point.

Outside the Colosseum in Rome

Of course, losing a phone ruins the mood of the day as well. By the time the whole ordeal was over, we were tired, hot, frustrated and hungry.

As a result of our schedule being pushed back due to our late start and then the time spent searching for the phone, we missed the time to enter the site for the Forum. The time had just past for them to stop receiving visitors, so we missed that part as well.

From there we found a place to eat a few blocks away and went for gelato, because gelato always makes things better. We then headed to our apartment for some rest before we came back out for the evening.

CHANGES:

Getting off to an early start. Making it to the Colosseum at our designated time would have made our day much easier to start and also would have allowed us more time to deal with the unexpected.

Also paying more attention and being familiar with the entrance policy ahead of time. This was my second time visiting the Colosseum and still made the mistake of not being completely informed about the designated entrance times.

Second, not losing the phone. Between taking pictures admiring the Colosseum and keeping up with two kids, the phone lost …or I was pickpocketed. I’m not really sure. Either way, greater awareness is always a good thing.

TREVI FOUNTAIN

The Trevi Fountain at night

This is quite possibly my favorite spot in Rome. There’s just something about this monumental, intricately detailed fountain, the water and the seemingly small piazza that is just special.

With the fountain being so large, it dominates the piazza. The surrounding buildings looming so close creates an atmosphere of intimacy that is hard to replicate. It’s beautiful to see during the day, but there is a special feel to seeing it at night as well.

It was crowded as it always is, but whenever we’ve been to visit, it’s never been overly crowded. Part of that could be that we’ve visited in June both times. I have heard that the crowds can get to be overwhelming and the city is now putting measures in place to alleviate the problem.

Despite the crowds, this is another spot where it’s just so enjoyable to sit down, relax, appreciate the fountain, the surrounding area and enjoy the masterpiece that is the Trevi Fountain.

One thing to keep in mind is that after a certain time (midnight) the regular buses don’t run on the same schedule as during the day, so make sure that you have your route home mapped out if you plan on taking the bus.

Also, keep in mind that Rome’s buses kinda move on their own schedule. For instance, in our situation, since there was construction along the bus route that we planned to take back to our apartment, the bus was on a different schedule and was taking a different route.

We didn’t know that because we were relying on Google. We were alerted to that fact by someone else who was waiting at the same stop. What followed was a comedy of errors and asking a list of individuals about the correct bus to take and where the bus would pick us up in light of the changes in schedule due to construction.

Eventually, we got home, but it took a bit of work and patience at 1 am after a long day.

CHANGES:

The Trevi Fountain was a great experience, but we couldn’t have known about the altered bus route and schedule, so there was not much that we could’ve done about that.

DAY 5 MONDAY

VATICAN CITY

This was our fifth day in Rome (it was only a half day), but for a four day itinerary visiting Vatican City could have easily been moved to day one. And for putting together a four day itinerary for Rome, this would work well with visiting Castel Sant’ Angelo since they’re so close.

We were able to see the Basilica, walk around St. Peter’s square and walked along the colonnades. The square is grand in construction with its expansive open space, fountains and obelisk. Of all of the piazzas in Rome, this is the most magnificent.

We cut our day short in Rome because we were catching a train to Naples to continue our trip. If we had the full day, we could have taken our time and seen more of Vatican City.

CHANGES:

None.

OUR AMAZING TRIP TO ROME

Gates of Rome in Piazza del Popolo

Following our trip to Vatican City, we were on our way to our next stop on our trip through Europe, Naples. Because of its proximity and great train service, Naples is also a great choice for a day trip.

We had checked out of our apartment in the morning, but we were allowed to leave our luggage at the office before our visit to Vatican City.

Once we picked up our bags we took the metro to Termini station and took the train to Naples. Our visit to Rome was complete but it was a great memorable experience. It’s my favorite city so far and even though I’ve been twice, I can’t wait to go back.

Our children loved Rome as well, though I think that the gelato had a lot to do with that. We were at a minimum of one per day. For all of the history and culture that Rome is known for, it’s definitely a great place for kids to visit and enjoy.

Have you been to Rome? What are some great things we could’ve added to our itinerary?

Author

  • Jeremiah Pittmon

    Jeremiah Pittmon is a published travel writer and photographer from Cleveland, Ohio. Passionate about exploring the world with his family, he finds inspiration in all types of travel. Through his blog, smilesonarrival.com, and social media channels, he shares captivating experiences and valuable tips for families who love to travel.

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