Explore My City: Rome
by Marta Correale
We’re super excited to be launching today our summer series EXPLORE MY CITY where expats and travellers alike from around the world give us the inside scoop on what to do with babies, toddlers and kids in the town they call home.
Our first guest blogger for the season is Marta from Learning Escapes – a native Italian who now calls Dublin home with her family. She walks us through the ins and outs of visiting the immensely popular European destination Rome, with a baby!!!
The first time I went to Rome with my son, he was only two months old. Rome is my hometown, but my children are born in Ireland, so when I first went to the Eternal City as a new parent, there was a lot I had to re-learn about it: would it be too hot for a baby in the summer? Is it buggy friendly? And how about equipment: would it be hard to find baby things?
Since that very first visit, I went back to Rome many times and slowly found answers to all my questions.
Here are my top tips about visiting Rome with the baby, put together mixing insider knowledge and visitor’s doubts!
Rome with baby: when to go
Italy enjoys a temperate climate, but summers in Rome are hot and unpleasant and winters can be wet.
By far the best times to visit the city, especially with a baby, are the spring and the autumn: in April and May the weather is mild and sunny, except for the occasional shower, and October is famous for its bright sky and pleasant temperatures. During those months, you might find yourself reaching our for a light jacket in the evening (and a knitted, cotton cover for the baby) but you will never be threatened by excessive temperatures and you don’t have to worry about your baby overheating.
If you can, avoid the months of July and August. At this time, the weather is unpleasantly hot and the congested urban air becomes heavy and humid. Temperatures rise well over 30 degrees and the city is often ill equipped for them: air conditioning is not as widespread as in other parts of Europe and mosquitoes reign supreme! They do not carry illnesses as such, but they are a nuisance and the peculiar breed that infests Rome’s gardens and waters are active both during the day and the night, giving you no rest. Babies often develop small allergic reactions to the bites, in the from of big, sore bumps: while nothing to worry about, they are a bothersome for children (and adults, they are really itchy) and they can spoil an evening out. They are not usually a problem in different seasons.
If you visit Rome in the winter, you are likely to find mild temperatures but frequent rain, especially in November and then again in January and February. Humidity makes the city feel colder that the temperature showed on the thermometer, so make sure you have layers and warm blankets for the baby and a solid waterproof cover for the pram or buggy.
How to get around /accessibility
Car traffic is very busy pretty much everywhere in town and if driving or counting on the bus to move around you are likely to find yourself stuck in traffic for hours. On top of this, buses are often crowded and hardly buggy friendly: most of them have very high steps, impossible to negotiate with wheels, and no space is foreseen for buggies that have, therefore, to be folded.
If you can, I highly recommend using a baby carrier: this will help you if taking public transport and will also come in handy if visiting archaeological areas such as the forum or the Colosseum.
Luckily, Rome is a pleasant city for a stroll and most area of the city centre worth visiting are walking distance one from the other. If you have a few days in the city, you will be able to visit most of it on foot, with the possible exception of St Peter’s, one of the areas of town served by the metro system.
A note about car seats and taxis. Taxis are few and far between in Rome but they are a good option for short hops or to reach the airport (ask your hotel to make a booking for you). Private cars have strict regulation concerning car seats but taxis do not have to comply: most drivers do not carry children seats and will be happy to simply have your baby sit on your lap during the car ride.
If you are travelling with your own car seat or plan on driving, Italian laws require them to be rear facing and placed on the backseat of the car.
Where to find baby equipment
Baby equipment and first necessities are easy to find in Rome: most big supermarkets stock baby essentials such as nappies, formula, baby food and cups, while medications and high-end baby lotions are sold at the pharmacies.
Unlike in other parts of Europe, supermarkets do not sell medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen so unless you are travelling with them, it is always wise to identify a chemist nearby.
Eating out with baby in Rome
I always marvel at how family friendly Rome is when it comes eating out. Restaurants do not often carry kids menus as such, but they all offer the option of asking for a half portion (mezza porzione) and have no problems heating up baby food if asked.
Breastfeeding is common and widely accepted in public and you will notice people will rush to help you as soon as they see you with a baby or young child: family in Italy definitely comes first!
Best areas for families in Rome
Rome has many areas that are excellent for families, but the following three are the ones I consider the best for families with babies or young children.
Historical centre: the historical city centre of Rome gets the top spot because of its proximity to almost all important sights. Staying here means you can walk everywhere and don’t have to worry about public transport: the accommodation in this area is abundant and varied and worth stretching the budget for. Look for hotels near beautiful Villa Borghese for easy access to a green space.
Gianicolo and St Peter’s area: a cheaper option than the historical centre, this is a great location for longer stays. A quiet, residential area close to the basilica, it is not as charming as the city centre but tends to have larger rooms and apartments: the lower price reflects the need to catch the metro to reach many of the sights.
Porta Pia, Villa Torlonia: this is, by far, my favourite part of Rome for families. It is about 20 minutes by bus from the city centre but it is green, beautiful and full of facilities for kids including beautiful parks and playgrounds. I recommend this area for longer stays or if you already know Rome and want to savour a less touristy, crowded side of it.
I hope you find this practical guide useful! If you wish, you can find additional information on what to see and do in Rome with kids on my website www.learningescapes.net
MORE BABY TRAVEL ADVICE | EXPLORE MY CITY
Thanks so much to Marta for sharing her experiences. Rome is such a popular European destinations but I, for one, worried that it may not be family-friendly with young children. Marta has certainly made some excellent points about how to get around easily with your baby and some top tips here on where to stay!
We will be bringing you a new destination every week throughout July and August – make sure you are subscribed to Our Globetrotters to receive all our latest posts as they’re published.