With just two full days and an appetite for adventure (and pizza), you and your family can experience the best of the ever-exciting Eternal City, Rome.
Day 1: Walking Tour of Rome
If possible, take the evening flight from your destination so you can arrive early morning and hit the ground running, or at least tiredly walking (read my jet lag tips here). Fortunately, it was pretty easy to incentivize our kids to keep moving in Rome – the weather was sunny and nice (we went in April), the sights were interesting, and delicious pizza and gelato could be found almost anywhere. Here is our first day walking route, but feel free to wander – wherever you go, you are bound to stumble upon something amazing: Piazza Navona to the Pantheon, to the Trevi Fountain (don’t forget to make a wish), to the Spanish Steps, and then the Via Condotti (if you feel up to shopping). After an early dinner, settle in for a good night sleep – you will need it after a long day of travel.
Day 2: Ancient Rome & Vatican City
In order to get the most out of this very busy (and interesting) day, you should strongly consider hiring a private guide (with separate driver). While not an inexpensive option, this is the best way to cover a lot of ground and really absorb Rome’s incredible history instead of wasting a lot of time . Plus (and maybe most importantly), when your guide magically escorts you to the front of the lines at the Coliseum and the Sistine Chapel, I promise you will be thanking me! In just a few hours in the morning, we were able to tackle all the major sites of Ancient Rome, including the Roman Forum, Church of St. Peter in Chains (housing the Tomb of Pope Julius II and Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Moses with horns), and the Colosseum. We then spent a fascinating afternoon in Vatican City, where our guide gave us an extensive tour of the Sistine Chapel (another packed tourist attraction – you will be happy to have someone to steer you through the crowds).
If you have any energy left, I strongly recommend a visit to chic Travestere (a/k/a the Jewish Ghetto). Despite its tragic past, this area of Rome is now bustling with tourists and Romans alike due to its fascinating history, delicious food and charming atmosphere.
Possible Add On: Day Trip to Pompeii
We spent an incredible day touring the ancient ruins of Pompeii – we elected to hire a driver for the 2.5 hour ride and then had our guide meet us in Pompeii (you can also choose to tour on your own by purchasing the audio guide or hiring a guide there). Our entire family enjoyed learning the fascinating history behind the destruction of Pompeii and it is impossible to forget the plaster molds of the thousands of people who were buried in volcanic ash.
Our family loved our stay at the St. Regis. The good: gorgeous hotel, steeped in old-world European elegance with impeccable service. The not so good? The location which is not close to the best sites, restaurants or shops. Great Luxury Option: Hotel de Russie – charm, luxury, and location next to the Spanish Steps and the chic Via Veneto. Family Options: Westin Excelsior Rome (good location and indoor pool); or the Rome Cavalieri (Waldorf Astoria resort property on the outskirts of Rome with beautiful indoor and outdoor pools).
I could easily do an entire series on great places to eat in Rome (hmm maybe I should?), but in the meantime I will give you a few suggestions to get you started. Ristorante Nino (perhaps best known as the site of the rehearsal dinner before the ill-fated wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes): good choice for old-world Roman cuisine near the Spanish Steps. Pizza: Emma (authentic Roman-style thin crusted pizzas in a cozy, modern setting) or Pizzarium Bonci (counter service near the Vatican). Rome’s legendary carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes): Piperno (Travastere; sit on the terrace). For the scene: Dal Bolognese (well-prepared classics for fabulous people). And for gelato? Try Gelateria del Teatro (near Piazza Navona), Fior di Luna (in Travastere), Giolitti (near Pantheon), San Crispino (next to Trevi Fountain); and/or Old Bridge (near Vatican). Finally, go for cocktails at Hotel de Russie’s beautiful terrace Le Jardin de Russie.