We’ve just had the best time together in Rome as a family. It was our first proper ‘city break’ as a family of 3, so being able to wander the streets, sightsee, and enjoy little meals & gelati at local eateries was very special indeed. And it got me thinking – what if you’re planning on taking a trip to Rome with a baby, or you’ve already booked and are trying to work out the practicalities of it all?
So, let me help ease some of those 3am worry/brainstorm sessions (we all know we have them) and give you my top tips for surviving & enjoying your time together in Rome with a baby or toddler
1. Get up, get out
Always see those crowded photos of the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon, and wonder how on earth you’ll survive the trip without killing someone? This is one of those times when working on baby’s schedule is going to reward you richly. When your little one’s dulcet 5.30am cries kick off, wake up, get dressed and head out. Trust me, most other tourists will be snugly tucked up in bed still, and you’ll get the lovely bonus of seeing some sights almost alone.
We hit the Spanish Steps at 7.15am – we’d been up earlier, but because we had to catch metro trains to get there, 7.15 was the earliest we could manage. But nevertheless, only about 10 other people were there. And if you’ve seen the magnitude of the Spanish Steps, you can appreciate that 10 people is basically nothing! We could enjoy the Steps, take lots of lovely photos without tonnes of tourists milling around us. And with a stroller it felt so much more relaxed – we had room to breathe, room to manoeuvre, and the energy to enjoy!
The Trevi Fountain we managed by 8am ish. That was a lot busier, but still only 40 or so people. I dread to think the crowds if we’d have arrived at 12 noon!
So, bite the bullet, embrace the early morning, head out & sightsee – and then treat yourself to a ‘late’ breakfast at 9am, you’ll feel like you’ve earned it! 🙂
2. Try and book an apartment/room with outside space
Rome is a compact city, it’s a capital (so can be expensive), and space is at a premium. However, I’d strongly suggest trying to use whatever budget you have for a room with a balcony or terrace. When in Rome with a baby, who knows what will happen. You’re away from home, so normal schedules go out the window, and you may have to improvise for lunches, dinners and naps. Having some outdoor space will make you feel a little more relaxed if you need to eat in the hotel room one night, or take a break in the afternoon for naps & such.
We ended up eating in the room 2 nights, because Monkey Bear’s naps were off the charts! We couldn’t predict when he’d sleep, he was more ‘hot & bothered’ than usual, and it just felt more relaxed for us after a long day sight-seeing. But with a lovely terrace to open out onto, my husband and I felt less restricted. We could have a glass of wine out there, eat our lovely selection of pizza & arancini, and Joshua could also run around and get some fresh air both day & night.
It might mean you have to consider a less central apartment, so that compromise is yours and only yours to make. But for us, it was a godsend and the compromise was worth it.
3. Consider a Travel Stroller
Rome is absolutely beautiful – every corner you turn you’re met with history & culture & so many visual stimuli that it’s hard to take it all in. We did a stack of walking whilst there – we’d just amble through streets, alleyways, down little nooks, across pebbles, through ruins, and….. well, that’s just it. It’s not a terrain of smooth, wide-open roads. You can wear the best footwear going, but if you’ve got a big cumbersome stroller to push everywhere it’ll tire you sooner than later.
So, think of a travel/city stroller. We bought a Babyzen Yoyo+, because we’d seen one in action with my brother-in-law’s family and my best friend’s family. It was a pretty hefty investment at £369, so I’m definitely not saying you need to buy this one. To be fair, I wouldn’t have considered it had I not had the great reviews from friends & family. But it was bloody brilliant! So easy to steer one-handed, fab to collapse down and sling over our shoulders if we had to descend crazy cobbled steps, and Monkey Bear was comfy in it too (biggest thumbs up).
Plus we use it at home too, so it’s not just for travel. There are lots out there though, so take a look and see which one best suits your needs and budget. I’ll do another article soon on all the others I’d found during my research, so keep your eyes peeled for that post 🙂 And I’ll also write specifically about the Babyzen, too.
4. Embrace the Metro
As much as we walked, there were times when we needed to get out of the sun asap and get somewhere quicker than our little legs could carry us. Rome has a pretty easy to navigate metro system. I’ve popped a mini map here (hope you can see?)
There were lifts inside – not many, but certainly enough for your stroller. We would pop Joshua’s stroller onto the escalator too with one of us in front/behind to assist, if we couldn’t be bothered waiting for the elevator!
It was certainly nothing to be afraid of. The main terminus to change trains for you is likely going to be Rome Termini, where you can switch between the A and B lines. As we were based in Piramid, we took the early morning metro to Rome Termini and then jumped onto the A line for Spagna, which took us to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain etc.
5. Utilise the city’s water fountains.
It was like an oasis in the desert. We’d been ambling for about 20 minutes towards the river, snaking through little passages & parkways, the heat cracking down on us – and then we saw it – a water fountain! We weren’t entirely sure if the water was for drinking or not, but once a nearby workman stopped to fill up his water bottle, we drank with abandon!
Sure, you’ll be carrying bottles of water anyway, but there’s only so much you can carry in your backpack or stroller, so fill up as you go at these fountains. Once you spot one, you’ll start noticing them everywhere.
It’s also a great chance to soak a muslin cloth and use to keep baby cool or save for later when your little one will need over their feet/head or to use as a stroller canopy.
and speaking of which…
6. Use a parasol for the stroller
We bought a £9.99 red one from Boots. It wasn’t the best, to be honest. But for a tenner, it earned its price on the first day alone. You can buy ones specific to your stroller, or a ‘universal’ one like we did, your choice (and the price does vary considerably). It was terrific for keeping the bright sun off his face, and definitely helped lull him to sleep by dimming the surroundings. Plus, you can always use it at home on those hotter days. If not, pop it back in the suitcase and bring out for your next holidays.
7. Never be without a map
Not necessarily a ‘baby’ tip here, but trust me – when you do have a toddler with you, the last thing you need to do is get lost! You need to have quick access to the nearest metro stops, major road junctions and tourist attractions, so you can get that next mealtime /nap /breastfeed /sanity recheck going (the last one is crucial – I find wine helps.)
I personally love the Dorling Kindersley books, and they do a great Pocket Guide range. Think I bought this for c£4-5 from Amazon, and we’ve got other cities too. It has mini guides to Rome’s main zones, the best attractions to see in each, recommendations for restaurants (although I’d always opt for Tripadvisor there), and the main thing – a pull-out map at the back.
Ours met with a little *ahem* scuffle with Joshua (!) as you can see, but for a fiver, who cares. Sellotape can fix, or I can buy another one if we ever return to Rome.
There you have it – simple ways to ensure you have the best time together as a family in Rome, from someone who’s just been there & done that.
If you do go, or if you have already been, let me know your top tips & thoughts below – be great to hear from you 🙂
And keep an eye out for more travel daze days ahead!