6 Spots to Mingle with Roman Families

Puppets for sale by the teater on the Gianicolo_Pek_ / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Beyond the standard tourist sites, have you ever wondered where native Romans go to spend time with their families? Those of us born in Rome sat down to reminisce about our favorite childhood haunts and to compile a list of places where we like to take our own kids for a fun day out. Below you’ll find six of the most exciting and relaxing spots where you can take your kids to “do as the Romans do.”

  • Museo della Civilità Romana (Museum of Roman Civilization) 
    One place where it’s more likely to bump into Roman school children than tourists, the Museum of Roman Civilization is hugely popular with educational groups because it’s the perfect place to get a glimpse of how daily life unfolded during the Roman Empire. Casts and reproductions of ancient objects as well as scale models of houses and monuments provide a highly visual means of understanding how Rome worked in ancient times. We think this museum provides so many great learning opportunities that we’ve recently launched a new Family Program walk here: How Rome Works. Ever wondered what the Colosseum looked like in 80 AD? This is the place to find out.

Piazza G. Agnelli, 10 (EUR), open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 2pm

  • Gianicolo Hill, Punch & Judy Puppet Show
    You don’t need to speak Italian to understand these funny little puppet shows. The “Teatrino di Pulcinella al Gianicolo” is an open-air puppet theatre featuring the Neapolitan hand-puppet Pulcinella (known to Americans as Punch). Parents stand in the back, while kids crowd the stage to witness Pulcinella’s absurd antics. To get here, climb up the hill on foot (and enjoy some stunning views of Rome), then head to Piazza Garibaldi. Roman families like to stroll here on Sunday on their way to lunch; it’s a great opportunity for your kids to rub shoulders with the Romans.

Piazza Garibaldi, Gianicolo Hill, Rome. Puppet shows run every afternoon between 3 pm and 8 pm, and on Sunday morning.

  • Villa Borghese Gardens
    Do you know what a risciò is? It is a special four-wheeled, covered bike that families ride up and down the park, shouting, “Save yourselves!” to the pedestrians. Beyond the rickshaws, Villa Borghese is well worth a visit. A beautiful green oasis in the heart of Rome, it’s a breath of fresh air where you can find museums, art galleries, a bio park, a theatre, a lake, a winter ice skating rink, and space to rollerblade or skateboard.

Piazzale Flaminio, 155, Rome

The stone of dragon - The holy wood
Statuary at BomarzoValentina_A / Music Photos / CC BY-NC-SA
  • Castelli Romani
    About 20 km (12 miles) south of the city, the thirteen towns nestled in the Alban hills are known collectively as Castelli Romani. Romans have been coming here for centuries to escape the summer heat – the wealthiest own private villas. In Castel Gandolfo is the summer residence of the Pope, as well as a beautiful lake that’s a great alternative to some of the more crowded Roman beaches. No one should ever leave the Castelli without having a taste of porchetta (slow-roasted pork flavored with herbs under a crunchy layer of crackling) and a sip of Romanella, a delicious local wine.

To get here, take the CoTral buses (€2 per ticket) that leaves every 20 minutes from Rome’s Anagnina stop on Metro Line A

  • Ninfa Gardens
    Settled between the small towns of Sermoneta and Norma, only an hour away from Rome, the Ninfa Gardens are such a well-kept secret that many locals aren’t even aware of them. They rise from the ruins of a medieval town that were gradually transformed into a fairytale garden over the course of the 20th century. They now house samples of flora and fauna collected worldwide and are the perfect retreat from the crowded city center

Via Ninfa, 4100 Latina, Lazio, Italy. The gardens are open on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month April through November.

  • Bomarzo, the Park of Monsters
    For a truly surreal experience, Bomarzo Park is well worth the short drive from Rome. This one-of-a-kind Baroque park features over twenty-four enormous statues of everything from a giant tortoise, to a leaning house, to a dragon besieged by lions. Make a day of it, and have a picnic in the grass while your children play on the playground.

Località Giardino, Bomarzo, 01020 Viterbo, Italy. Open everyday 8 am to sunset