If you’re going to do a European city vacation with tweens or teens, I vote for Rome.
Here’s why you should put this Italian city at the top of your spring break wish list and also some resources to help you plan your trip.
1. Boys/husbands love “Gladiator” and in Rome, you see the real Colosseum (and the Forum). When you go, opt for a tour with a guide. They’re reasonably priced and they’ll bring the ruins back to life. (And yes, they’ve all seen the movie and can tell you what’s true and what’s Hollywood.)
2. Moms/daughters love gladiator sandals and there’s lots of great shopping in Rome, from flagship stores for Gucci and Tod’s to offbeat vintage shopping. They all know how to do a VAT refund, so unless the dollar is really low, you might actually get a small bargain.
3. Everyone loves gelato (and pizza and pasta). Fussy eaters? Not in Rome. The food is delicious from the morning cornetti with Nutella to the evening pizza.
4. Italians love kids (even teenage boys). And they won’t be snotty when you walk into their nice restaurant with your children in tow or look upset because a child asks for ketchup. Try that in Paris.
5. Rome is manageable and walkable. The old city is very compact, so you can get almost everywhere on foot. And walking is an adventure when around every corner is a new ruins or ancient wall.
6. The Vatican isn’t just for Catholics. And it’s not just another boring museum. It’s stuffed full of ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses—like a Percy Jackson novel frozen in marble. A good guide can tell the back stories, but don’t be surprised when your 12-year old contributes her own stories about Apollo. The Sistine chapel lives up to the hype.
7. The things that don’t live up to the hype can be dispatched in a couple of hours. The Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain—a quick walk by and you’re good. St. Peter’s Basilica—impressive size, but not all that interesting unless you’re really religious. It’s at the end of the Vatican tours, so a quick meander, “Wow, it’s huge,” and most families will be done.
8. The weather is perfect in the spring. Not too hot, but warm enough so you feel like you’ve left winter behind. If you have to go in summer, you will be hot and sticky and you’ll be surrounded by many more tourists than in the spring.
9. Rome is close to Venice. We took an early morning EasyJet flight to Venice. Spent the day roaming the streets and boating through the canals. Flew home on an evening flight, and loved it. No schlepping luggage, and Venice is so compact that in one day you can see almost everything.
10. No fast food. Yes, you can eat quickly, but you’ll have to search to find a McDonald’s or KFC. Unlike Paris (or Beijing) American brands aren’t everywhere. So you feel like you’re somewhere else. We did freak out a little at the lack of Starbucks, but there is a café on every corner, and after we discovered the whipped sugar at the Ducati Caffé, we were fine. Also, the markets—we were close to Campo de Fiori—are filled with wonderful food. Take advantage!
Anything we didn’t love? Just two things: Graffiti. What’s up with that? Get a little civic pride people. And also, the running trail along the Tiber. Don’t let your daughter run alone. It was the one place where I got that icky, not-safe feeling.
For more information, check out our article: Resources for your Roman Holiday