Don’t make our mistakes in Rome

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Father throws son up in the air in front of Colosseum

Moments like this make it all worthwhile Picture: Lindsay Patterson

Rome is a city high on any traveler’s must-see list. But for families, it can be overwhelming. When you end up in front of the majestic Trevi Fountain feeling like you’d rather be at home on the couch, it’s time to reevaluate your approach to visiting to Rome. At least, that’s what happened to us. Here’s how you can avoid our mistakes.

Woman frowns with boy sitting on her shoulders in front of Trevi fountain

I literally could not smile for the camera Picture: Lindsay Patterson

  1. Don’t try to see everything

For thousands of years, Rome was the center of Western civilization. It feels like every fallen column has a story to tell. And there are lots of fallen columns. We set off with an ambitious plan mapped out by a relative who lives in the city, a route that would take us to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Capitoline Museum for a snack bar with a view. But we got lost on the train early on and it took us a long time to re-orient and position ourselves. By the time we arrived at the Pantheon it was raining (although seeing the rain pour down through the hole in the rotunda was very cool), and our package of bread sticks wasn’t holding up to our collective hunger.

  1. Know Where You Want to Eat

Rome is a food town. And for pasta and pizza lovers like us, it’s heaven. The streets are packed with restaurants that would be considered the best Italian food in any town outside of Italy. But when you’re already hungry and wandering through a very touristy area in the city center, finding a decent place to eat suddenly seemed very hard. We ended up in a forgettable restaurant with slow service. The silver lining being that Marshall drew this map of places of our trip on the back of the placemat while we waited for the check. It now hangs in our son’s room and he loves it.

Small boy drawing a map of the city

This map now hangs in our son's room and he loves it Picture: Lindsay Patterson

  1. Don’t Expect Smooth Strollering

One of our favorite travel items is our stroller, which is designed to fold up to fit underneath a standard airline seat. But it was not designed to hold up to Roman roads. Rome is literally sinking into itself, as our relative informed us. It’s built on soft ground, and the questionable government cannot keep up with potholes and even sinkholes that open up on a regular basis. The impact on family travelers being, it’s really hard to navigate a stroller around. We felt like a wheel might break off as we pushed over bumps and divots. If you need to bring a stroller, make sure it’s trail-strength. Otherwise, the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour looked pretty attractive.

Dad and son in wet weather gear walk down steps in Rome

The rainbow came out during the rain Picture: Lindsay Patterson

Our experience of Rome was limited to the city center, and just two days. We did enjoy great food, and when we weren’t cranky, soaking in all that ancient history was pretty magical. But we’ve learned it’s essential to prepare for Rome, and to adapt it to our child’s age and interests. Next time, we’d want to get a bit off the beaten path and find more sites situated by playgrounds.

A general rule of thumb when sightseeing is to plan for only one or two sites a day. We got swept up by all there is to see in Rome. But we learned that seeing everything isn’t the point of traveling, especially with kids. Our highlights were the time we spent with family. We promised to go back to Rome, but when we do, we’ll change our approach.

Father throws son up in the air in front of Colosseum

Moments like this make it all worthwhile Picture: Lindsay Patterson

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Lindsay Patterson
Lindsay Patterson
Lindsay Patterson and Marshall Escamilla moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2017 with their 4 year old son, Emmett. From their home base in the charming neighborhood of Gracia, they create Tumble, a popular science podcast for kids, explore the world and write about it in Tumble Travels. Lindsay is a journalist, Marshall is a musician and educator, and Emmett is a vehicle enthusiast. Follow along with their adventures in traveling, science, and life abroad at @tumblepodcast on Instagram.