Yes, another homeschooling blog...

P'once a little time there was a girl. This girl grew up to be a Mamma to three little girls all very much like herself. And this little Mamma knew she just had to have a place of her own to keep all things home school right at her fingertips.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Traveling Rome with Children.

Many friends have asked me about traveling to Rome with children. I have found that traveling with young ones can be tricky, but that in the long run it can also be far more enjoyable and even make things considerably easier in certain situations. Italians love children and dote on babies... So long as you are prepared and willing to change your plans if and when needed traveling with children is a far more interesting and rich experience. These are my tips for traveling in Italy and the Eternal city with your children.
1.) Get your children excited about what they are seeing and experiencing by teaching them about the stories and artwork before you leave. Take the opportunity to teach them about Roman history, the great artists and architects who worked in Rome, the Papacy and Italian culture. Bedtime stories before your trip can be a time to read to your children about these topics. You will undoubtedly learn a great many things yourself and enjoy the whole experience even more. I would recommend getting them excited about seeing artwork and the kind of artwork they are likely to see in Italy. Like reading Shakespeare before seeing one of his plays, far from spoiling the experience, prior knowledge only serves to intensify the story and personalize it. Most of the themes in classical and Renaissance art are wonderful for children; stories from the bible, Greek and Roman tales of heroism, love and war; whatever your interests, learning about it beforehand heightens one's ability to earn even more.

2.) Aqueducts are a fantastic way to engage children with the city. There is truly something fascinating, even, or perhaps especially for children, in the idea of water being channeled from distant springs across bridges and through mountains right to a fountain in the middle of a bustling piazza. This is something that water-mains and pipes will never be able to compete against. Learning about the many aqueducts which served and still serve Rome is also a good way to frame much of the history of the city since they played such an integral part in the life of the Roman citizen. Our four year old especially enjoyed locating all of the fountains. This was actually her perpetual job. We carried a water bottle everywhere we went and would refill them as needed from the delicious fountains served by many of the surviving aqueducts of Rome. She especially enjoyed plugging the fountain's stream with her thumb and then watching the water spout from the top of each fountain as it transformed into a drinking spout. The only downside is that you may create a water snob. The minute our little girl tasted unfiltered tap water back home she proclaimed, "This water tastes like grass!" so now it is only filtered water for us.

3.) As far as must-see's are concerned, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and The Fountain of the Four Rivers I do consider vital. Of course, you must toss a coin in at Trevi... and there's the Mouth of Truth. These are great monuments that pack quite a punch. Again, make sure to take the time to learn a little about these before you go and you're sure to enjoy them more. Children will love to see the 'sculpture zoo' that can be found among many of these works.

4.) Rome is often hot in the summer and fall. Try to save your hottest days for trips to the museums where you can have a chance to get out of the direct sun. The Capitoline Museum is an inexpensive small museum and children are free. This is a great one to do in maybe three hours or so for short attention spans. Bags are not allowed in unless it's a diaper bag for a very small child, but they do have bag check. Our four year old absolutely loved the Vatican Museum and, of course, the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum is pricey for a big family and I recommend doing an audio guided tour so you can go at your own pace. Older children often enjoy carrying around their own audio guide if you can swing the extra euros.The museum offers free admission one Sunday each month, however, the lines can be long so get there early.

5.) Largo Argentina, the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Catacombs of St. Calixtus are especially exciting places to visit for children. While the Pantheon can seem almost modern the antiquity of these sites is readily apparent even to quite young ones. I think any of the younger ones would also get a kick out of trying to spot all the alley cats nestled in many of the ancient ruins..

6.) Churches are free to visit and many have beautiful artwork inside by the greatest names in Italian art: Michaelangelo, Rapheal, Carravagio... an endless list of textbook dreams... I might recommend teaching your children some of the major papal symbols so they can look for them as you tour the churches and piazzas. They are everywhere and provide good fodder for eye spy when the day seems to get a bit too long... like the bees, the oak tree, balls, etc... a continuous treasure hunt.

7.) For me, I could take or leave Roman cuisine in the context of all of Italy, but try the pizza and supli and of course the gelato where it looks delicious. Don't buy these favorites from places near the big tourist areas or you'll end up spending a small fortune. Five euro gelato! no thanks, I'll have one for two euro a little ways away, trust me on this, and it's probably better. I think the ultimate Roman cuisine, hands down, is a crusty loaf of bread, a mezzo kilo of some great cheese and 2 or 3 etti of some salame, a bottle of wine and aranciata for the children and a bar of dark chocolate. Find a place with beautiful scenery -- it's not difficult to do and have an Italian picnic.

I do recommend that you familiarize yourself with the city and the sights you are interested in before you go. I would never waste money on a bus tour, but of course I enjoy walking. There are beautiful sights around every corner and if you take the time to learn about the history that the city has to offer you will gain a larger experience from your trip.

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