Rome is one of the must-see tourist sites of the world but how do you get the kids to enjoy it and get as much out of it as the adults? This travel tip provides one possible solution to that problem.
Last September we organized a surprise, three day, vacation in Rome for our two grandchildren, aged eight and eleven. Like most kids of their age, they have a somewhat limited appetite for cultural and historical things. We knew they would absolutely love a trip to Rome – or anywhere else for that matter – but the problem we faced was how to maximise both pleasure and educational value at the same time for them. We came up with the idea of giving them a project based on the places we intended to see. The project was designed as a questionnaire with multi-choice answers and marks awarded so they could compete against each other. At the end of the vacation we would total the scores and award suitable prizes. The projects were put in covers printed with a picture of ancient Roman and bearing a pseudo Roman name that was recognizable as a corruption of each child’s name. For example, the kids real names are Charlotte and Dan, so we endorsed the project covers, Charlotus and Danicus. The hardest part was ensuring that answers to the questions were visibly available at the places on our itinerary and that their ability level matched the ages of the children. For example, one of the questions we chose for our visit to the Colosseum was "How long did it take the Romans to build it?” Before including this question with its five multi-choice answers, we had to ensure that there was an information source bearing the correct answer, clearly visible in the Colosseum. We did all the necessary research for this kind of thing, using guide books and the internet over a three week period before the holiday.We also needed to ensure that the project included plenty of humour and light-hearted answers amongst the multi-choices. For example, a question that asked; "Who was the first king of a united Italy,” included "Francesco Totti”, the A.S. Roma soccer star as one of the possible answers.The vacation was kept as a complete surprise from the children until they actually boarded the plane. Their mother told them that Nanny and Grandad were coming to collect them and take them to stay at their house for a few days. When they arrived at Luton Airport and boarded the flight for Rome their surprise and delight brought tears of joy to our eyes as well as their’s.We presented them with their projects and they studied them during the two and a half hour flight.After booking into our hotel in Rome, we immediately headed for the Colosseum, the nearest of the places we had decided to include in our itinerary. By the end of our first afternoon in Rome, both children had correctly answered all the questions about this world famous historic monument but much more importantly, they had really enjoyed their first few hours in this wonderful, ancient city.That evening, we ate a delicious Roman dinner, sitting outside at an inexpensive little restaurant in an atmospheric alleyway just off the Piazzo di Rotonda.Day two included more of the ancient city area before ascending to the Piazza del Campidoglio and then across the Tiber to have our lunch in the Trastevere area at another excellent restaurant located in a busy Piazza. Four light lunches, two beers and two soft drinks in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, should surely have cost more than a couple of burger meals with drinks in an English motorway café? But it didn’t and we could have easily whiled the rest of the afternoon away sitting at our table in this charming piazza.Instead, we got up and continued our tour, reaching the Vatican by the end of the afternoon and returning to our hotel exhausted by way of the Ponte Sant Angelo and the Trevi fountain.Our final day, started by helping the children to discover the name of the famous English poet who had lived and died in a house at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Then we ascended the steps to find out where Galileo had been imprisoned by the inquisition whilst they investigated whether a case for heresy against him could be substantiated. From there, we entered the Piazza del Pollo before wandering through Rome’s upmarket shopping area, Another lunch, not quite so inexpensive this time, was enjoyed in a street near to the Piazza Navonna. Afterwards we made our way to the Pantheon where more project questions were completed. We finished our last afternoon by walking through the Campo di Fiori and then on to the ancient city once more. Here, we discovered some of the things we had missed the previous day and finally accepted that three days to see so much in Rome is really quite inadequate.Charlotus and Danicus presented their completed projects to us that evening over dinner just around the corner from the Trevi fountain, into which they had earlier thrown the obligatory coins. It had been a wonderful Roman holiday for them and for us. For anyone thinking of doing something similar for children of this age group, our best travel tip is to prepare a project like the one described in this article. You’ll find its more than worth the effort.