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Please critique our itinerary for Rome - this is our first time to Italy!

Please critique our itinerary for Rome - this is our first time to Italy!

Old Sep 10th, 2011, 05:42 PM
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Please critique our itinerary for Rome - this is our first time to Italy!

I avoided all mistakes and had a great itinerary for our NYC trip this spring due to the help I received here! We are a family of 7 with 5 kids that will be 11,13,14,15,& 18 next summer. We are very open to ideas. This is our first time to Europe with our kids. They did 8 to 10 hours days in NYC, back to back, for 9 days so they are tough kids. I have been researching tour guides and tour companies and really like contexttravel.com because they have family tours, but we are open to any and all suggestions. Thanks.
Day 1: Arrival - Saturday
Check into Apt (Campo dei Fiori area)
Twilight Walking Tour with Context Travel tours - walk around Camp de Fiori area (€180 flat fee privately) This is an orientation level walk, and so does not go in-depth into architecture, art, or history but rather looks at the broader picture. This walk is a great way to start your Roman adventure and situate yourself in the city.
Day 2: Sunday - Is everything open with normal hours on Sunday?
Ancient Rome Discovery with Context Travel Family Program - Colosseum/Palatine Hill/Roman Forum/Ludus Magnus, a training area for gladiators/Tajan's Market.
Day 3: Monday
Vatican City (full day): St. Peter's Basilica (climb the dome) and Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel. Probably with Context Tours but not sure. Any ideas for family guides?
Piazza Navona area for dinner
Day 4: Wednesday
Priscilla Catacombs, Borghese Gardens, Church of the Bones – Santa Maria della Concezione (Near the entrance to the Borghese Gardens) - can this be done without a guide?
Spanish Steps (after dinner)
Day 5: Thursday
Ostia Antica (by boat?) - do we meet a guide there or go with a tour guide from Rome? Any suggestions?
Open afternoon - ??? Not sure what to do here
Day 6: Friday
Open day - what are we missing? We would rather not travel far out.
We are considering this tour with Context Travel : Underground Rome for Families - One of the best ways for your family to understand Roman history is to see it literally layer by layer. Lying at times up to 10 meters below the modern city, much of ancient Rome is still being excavated today. On this walk your family will explore the hidden, subterranean levels of Rome, and learn how we are still uncovering bits and pieces of it today.
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Old Sep 10th, 2011, 06:49 PM
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What you are missing is down time! Allow some time to just sit in one of the many lovely piazzas to people watch.

Our last day in Rome we had nothing planned, so we took the train to Florence. It was beautiful, both the trip there and Florence itself.
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Old Sep 10th, 2011, 07:27 PM
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Context is an excellent company to deal with; very professional and well educated guides. I've used them for clients several times.

You ask about Sunday: everything is not open on Sunday, but most, if not all, tourist sites are open. Churches often have shorter hours and stores are often closed.

I'm not sure that you need a guide for Ostia Antica. There are good directions for getting there and seeing the sights in most guidebooks, as well as on Fodors. Kids can have a good time there. I've not heard from anyone that has done this by boat. It would take an awfully long time, wouldn't it?
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Old Sep 10th, 2011, 07:42 PM
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I agree with tenthumbs. The key to discovering Rome's magic is plenty of downtime. I don't think you need a guide at all, except to get to the head of the line at the Vatican and the Coliseum. On the first day, you can certainly wander around the Campo di Fiori, Navona and Pantheon area on your own and use the 180euros for a nice dinner. I would allow at least half a day every day for your kids to seek out the best gelato and pizza, learn to bargain at markets, etc. You didn't specify your kids' interests, but for mine, a soccer match was imperative in every European city we visited.
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Old Sep 10th, 2011, 08:28 PM
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Maybe your kids did OK with eight- to ten-hour days for nine days, but did they really enjoy that? It seems a bit much. It's obvious that budget is not a concern, and Context Travel is a great company, but I don't think you need to use them every day. Staying in the Campo de' Fiori area is a great location. The first-day tour of the Campo de' Fiori area could easily be done on your own with a minimum of research. If you're staying there, the Piazza Navona is a five-minute walk away, so you can include that.

I think the places that do warrant a guide are the Vatican/Sistine Chapel/St. Peter's for one day and the Colosseum/Palantine/Forum for another. Not only do you skip the lines, but a guide can give you a lot of great information.

You definitely don't need a guide for Santa Maria della Concezione. Just make sure you check their open times. They close after lunch until later in the afternoon, as do most churches in Rome.

I don't know about going to Ostia Antica by boat, but it's very easy to get there by train, and I don't think you necessarily need a guide. Having a guide for EVERYTHING limits you. You have do everything they have planned on their schedule. The kids would probably love Ostia Antica. I can give you a lot of information on how to get there and what to see there from Paradise Lost, a long-time, very knowledgeable poster here on Fodor's, or maybe you can search and find his directions.

When you get to Friday and say "What are you missing?"...there are about a thousand things. You're covering a lot of history and ancient Rome. What are your kids interested in?

Also, you seem to have skipped Tuesday in your plans. What have you planned for that day? Maybe you actually have two days open.
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Old Sep 10th, 2011, 10:31 PM
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We learned that, in general, bakeries and pharmacies are closed on Sundays. Also a number of restaurants are closed. Not all, of course, but some of the good ones are. Many shops are closed or have limited hours (closing at 12).
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 04:35 AM
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I also think you are over doing the guide. I think a nice mix of 'tours' of places which will include history, art, architecture, etc mixed with 'down time' of just sitting in piazza, shopping, eating gelato, fountain gazing, etc. But for the tours, how about you do them yourselves. In fact with kids that age I would assign each of them an area to research and have them lead that 'tour'. There is so much info on line, not to mention of course old fashioned books. Just for example, here is a great site - it's an actual course from Yale Univ and the whole lecture and transcript is available to everyone - free, don't need to be a student. http://oyc.yale.edu/history-of-art/roman-architecture
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 07:35 AM
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hi, wt,

i have to say that I agree with the other posters that you are over-doing the guide a bit. We've now spent 2 separate weeks in rome with our kids - 15 & 18 the first time, 19 the 2nd, [we just had one with us for the 2nd week] and the only place that i felt we really needed one was the Forum, which 2nd time round remained as much a heap of stones as it had the first.

The other point is, and again I agree with the above, is that you are perhaps overplanning a tad. one of the joys of Rome is just wandering around seeing what crops up. There is always something interesting - a church, a gallery, a museum - that anywhere else would be thronged with people but because Rome is so rich in sights, many are virtually deserted unless they are on the tourist trail.

i think that I would tweak your plan thus:

Day 1 - orientation tour. DIY. if you arrive early enough [ie in time to get there before 7pm when it shuts, walk to the Pantheon, then across to the Piazza Navona, back across the corso vittorio emanuale, and back to the camp die fiery. if you have the energy, head to the ghetto for supper. if the guide isn't going to tell you about the architecture, history and culture of the area, why have one?

Day 2 - Sunday. the colosseum etc. Definitely have your guide for this day, and with the size of your family, i would go for a private guide. if you have any time/energy left at the end, you cold go to the capitoline museums, but you probably won't.

Day 3 -Monday. i would if possible have a bit of a down day today - the Vatican is IMHO too much after yesterday. I would put your Wednesday day here, or ostia antic if it opens Mondays - it will make a great follow on from the day before.

Day 4 - Tuesday. Where has your tuesday gone? go to the Vatican today. take a tour if you like - the vatican does them and you can book via its website. Don;t reckon on doing anything else - your kids, if not you, will be exhausted after wards.

Day 5 - WEdnesday. what about a day trip on the train? orvieto is not too far, and you can go into the catacombs there - apply at the tourist office. The cathedral is the most wonderful building both inside and out, and not to be missed.

Day 6 - Thursday. i would head back to St.Peter's today, get up really early and get there before 9am to beat the crowds and the queues to get through security and to climb the Dome. after 10 am, the queues for both can be horrendous. Afterwards, walk over to Trastevere, and/or go to Castel san angelo. if you want a wander around some roman streets, from the castle san angelo, cross the ponte san angelo and explore the area around the via coronari. lovely little shops, bars, workshops - just like it might have been 2000 years ago. A good day for shopping in this area.

Day 7 - Friday. whatever you think you have missed. Rick Steves does a very interesting tour of mosaic churches which we greatly enjoyed, which includes San Clemente - a church which allows you to explore the many layers upon which it is built. BTW, whenever you go into a church, make sure that you have some 50c and €1 euro coins to pay for the illumination of the mosaics or other treasures.

there are of course a myriad other things you could do - but you probably don't need a guide to help you do them!
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 01:01 PM
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Thanks everyone! This helps put things into perspective. It is hard when you have never been to a place. I didn't even realize I forgot Tuesday, so now I can spread things out.
SusanP - Yes, they did enjoy the NCY trip. They absolutely loved it! When I say 8 to 10 hour days, that means we were out that long but had down time in those hours. For example, they played on the rocks in Central Park for probably two hours. They are the type of kids that would just "play" on the ruins and be happy throwing coins in a fountain for an hour.
I guess the key is building in unstructured time but not necessarily going back to the apt.
As for my kids' likes, they have a pretty wide range. It depends on how the information is presented. For example, my older kids really didn't want to go to the Tenemant Museum in NYC. After we left, they agreed that the actor/guide we had that played the role of a new immigrant was excellent and made them love their visit there. That is why I tended to want to book guides. My kids love history but without context, they are bored and lose interest. I noticed this in NYC. When we had a guide (or even a audio guide like at Ellis Island), they were completely into it. When we did not have a guide, they were not into it nor do they have a strong memory of it. Believe me, we all read and research before any trip but they tend not to listen and pay attention to mom and dad the same way they do a guide.

I guess the key is finding a balance. I will definitely book the guides with the things mentioned here (Forum and Vatican) but wait on the others.
Also, that is a good idea to give each child something to research!
Any other suggetions are welcome!
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 01:26 PM
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Although I'm sure Context Travel is great, I have another guide to recommend. www.romeguide.net. This is a family business and my in-laws have had a tour with the mother, a friend had the son, my husband and I spent half a day with the daughter several years ago. They are all amazing. The daughter, Flaminia, would be breat with kids. I'm planning a trip to Rome this coming June with my 3 kids (ages 13, 11, and 8) and I'm planning on a couple of days with Flaminia.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 01:57 PM
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Definitely have a guide for Ancient Rome. I was totally bored by the piles of rocks in the Forum but would have enjoyed it more if someone could have explained the rocks to me. Look into the Scavi tour at the Vatican, it was wonderful, I'm not sure about the age limit though.

You need time to wander the streets of Rome and find the best gelaterias, your kids will get into that. My son was 17 when we were there in April and that was his favorite part.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 02:44 PM
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hi again, WG,

thanks for the details about your kids - sadly, they will NOT be allowed to play on the stones of the forum or ostia antica, so you will have to find other ways for them to let off steam. I wouldn't dismiss the idea of going back to the apartment - the first time we went to Rome with both our kids who were then 15 & 18, it was great to get back at about 4pm, rest our weary feet, have a cup of tea, and even have a nap. then after re-charing our batteries, we were able to go out again and join the "passegiata" [the evening stroll so beloved of italians], find some supper, and watch the crowds.

jscarbary mentions the Scavi tour but participants have to be 14 or older - so if your family is interested, one of you would have to stay with the younger ones. it takes about 90 minutes, give or take, and they are very strict about the age limit.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 04:12 PM
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Well, actually they can move around in the ruins at Ostia Antica. There are a number of places you can climb stairs to vantqge points, there are also lots of paths you can take through doorways and alley ways. You can enter the theater and climb up and sit in the seats. Don't vear off to the cafe and museum area and think that you've seen it all. Go back and finish it! There is a surprising amount of shade. (wish we could get those lovely pines in our front yard back home)

Considering the size of your group, it might be fun to take a boat tour to or from OA. And I would try to get a guide, as well. We did it using Rick Steve's guide on our iPod & iPad, but I think kids may lose patience with thaf pretty quickly.

The park around the Borghese is Fabulous. With a capitol F. You can rent multi person peddle carts to ride around, as well as bikes. We enjoyed watching all the families this morning enjoying the beautiful day and park. There's a lake, and supposedly even a zoo. Plus if you walk up the Spanish steps, there are many places to catch the most amazing views of Rome.

We're in Rome right now. if I notice anything in particular that looks like something you all might enjoy, I post back to this thread for you.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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When we were in Ostia Antica, there were many families enjoying the ruins that were accessible. Not all of them were, but there seemed to be plenty of places for kids to walk and wander. There were several spots with a few levels and kids really seemed to like those.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 07:24 PM
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Thanks! Ostia Antica and Borghese sound perfect for us.
yes, please post if you notice anything else of interest.

clareita - I am going to check out that website.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 02:42 PM
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Here's something I think your kids would love. Check out www.miracleplayers.org for information on The Seven Kings of Rome play by the Miracle Players at 7:30 every Friday from June 24 to Aug 5. I saw them do The History of Rome - Part I a couple of years ago. It's a great way to introduce history to kids and is a lot of fun. There are just five performers, so they each play many parts. Lots of murder and mayhem (at least the one I saw), but it’s definitely a comedy! These performances are outside behind Vittorio Emanuele II Monument right by the Mamertine Prison. Get there early if you want a seat on the steps.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 03:21 PM
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Since we were last in Rome, they have set up a really interesting series of
exhibits about Nero all throughout the forum. It is clearly a wonderful improvement to the experience. I would hope that if you get a guide to show you the forum, they could include the Nero stuff as well. (they give you a single page diagram that notes where the exhibits are, so you don't need a guide to see them, but I think the whole experience would be great for your family.

There is a very lot to see, and we missed the Pallatine museum today. I thought we could get back in after lunch, but while we could get back in to see the Colosseum, we couldn't get back into the forum.

Anyway, I wonder if they would let you do a picnic lunch in the forum? The nice thing about Rome, is that there is wonderful cold water all over the place to refill water bottles with...and you will want to drink a lot of water. But there is no place to buy any food items in the Forum. I can see that might cause problems, but there are some ideal spots where you could picnic with lovely views.
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 04:47 AM
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http://www.roninrome.com/
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