Prices, crowds and temperatures drop in Italy's famed capital city during the off-season. Got your heart set on a Roman holiday, family-style? Here are some tips for visiting Rome with kids in winter.
Take advantage of winter crowds and prices.
Crowds of tourists in Rome are next to nothing during winter. Additionally, many lodging and flight options are offered at a discounted rate. Of course, there's a reason for this: chilly weather.
If you go to Rome in the winter, be prepared for rain and cold. During our January visit, daily temperatures hovered in the mid 50s (Farenheit). The weather isn't bone-chilling but it could feel quite biting when the rain kicks in, especially if you are envisioning a warm Mediterranean vacation. Since my family knew it was going to rain most of the time, whenever the skies cleared we rejoiced at the sight of the sun.
A little rain beats dealing with overcrowded attractions and the blistering heat of the peak summer season. Rome's monuments look especially majestic when glistening with a coat of rain, so skip the long lines. Pack umbrellas and warm clothing for a winter visit instead!
Pace yourself and make time for play.
Rome is filled with ruins, monuments, and museums to explore. I suggest giving yourself at least three solid days to explore this easily navigated city, on top of your travel days. Especially when visiting Rome with kids, it's important to pace yourself.
You could fill every moment of every day with another historical site to see, but it's important to take time to play too. We took a break from the history lessons and spent one morning at the local children's museum, Explora il museo die bambini. This provided a wonderful chance for our three young children to touch, explore and learn in a space designed just for kids.
Stay in an apartment.
For a family with young children, a short-term rental apartment was perfect. We found a kid-friendly apartment through House Trip, an online holiday rental company sort-able by location, with plenty of user reviews. A House Trip hostess arranged for our airport pick up and return, and even had toys and groceries waiting for us when we arrived.
If your budget is tight, booking a rental outside the city center typically means lower costs. As long as you stay somewhere within walking distance of a Metro stop, you can easily reach the attractions for which Rome is renowned.
Rent travel gear.
If traveling to Rome with a baby, toddler or young child—you may want to rent baby travel gear for your stay. Our double stroller exceeded the weight limit on our discount airline. Thankfully, I found Travel Baby. Owners Marco and Daniela rent everything traveling families could possibly need in Rome, from high chairs and strollers to cribs and bedding. They even offer babysitting!
Let a guide show you the sites.
If your time in Rome is limited or you just want to get a more complete understanding of Roman history and culture, consider booking a tour. We spent our first day exploring Rome with Vincenzo of Nancy Aiello Tours. Since my boys were yammering about gelato, Vincenzo modified our walking tour to include a stop at an incredible gelateria near the Trevi Fountain. He combined just the right amount of education with fun to keep our whole family happily entertained for three hours. Starting our Roman adventure with this tour gave us a better feel for the city's layout, while showing us some of the highlights of Rome.
Involve the kids.
Get kids excited about their trip to Rome before you leave home. Read children's books about the Eternal City like This Is Rome by Miroslav Sasek of the “This Is” series, or teach them a few words of Italian with the adorable children's language series, Little Pim.
We bought the guide, Rome Reconstructed on our second day, which brought our trip to a whole different and exciting level. Our 5-year-old took up the role of tour guide with his new book. Purchased at a street vendor's stall, this book is available in many languages and comes with a short DVD. Fold-over pages depict the original Roman ruins, compared to what they look like today. Our son was so excited to point out the Colesseum the first time he saw it!
In a stroke of luck, my husband spotted some extremely cheap flights to Rome from our adopted hometown in the Netherlands. The catch? Our flights were in just 10 days. We always wanted to go to Rome, but that's the kind of trip you could spend a lifetime planning! With three boys age 5 and younger, we worried that we wouldn't be able to enjoy our last-minute trip to the Eternal City. It turns out, our Roman adventure was one of the best (and easiest) trips we've ever taken as a family.
Have you visited Rome with kids? Do you have any tips or questions? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from The Nomadic Travel Mama: Thank you to Travel Baby for hosting our stroller rental and Nancy Aiello Tours for hosting our tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always.
All photos by Farrah Ritter.