Jul 12, 2011


The RWK blog is now found at www.RomewithKids.com, so please join us there. We've got lots of news and tips waiting for you there. For example, did you know RWK is now an e-book?

 RWK is available from Apple ibookstore and Amazon has a Kindle edition! They are a perfect addition to your printed book -- and they take up no space in your luggage!

Dec 3, 2010


Piazza Navona
The Holiday Season has arrived in Rome and the piazzas are popping with sparkle and spirit. 

Piazza Navona transforms into a wonderland of a holiday market, and kids love it! Like a carnival, loads of stalls are set up, selling everything from nativity sets with witches (the Roman christmas legend features the Befana) to traditional roasted pork sandwiches (porchetta). There are rides for little ones and carnival games for older kids -- but be careful, many times the prize can be a bottle of Spumante!

Every year, Hanukkah is celebrated with the lighting of candles on a gigantic menorah in Piazza Barberini. 

One of my favorite things to do during the season is to see how many nativity sets I can find. Romans call them  presepii, and they are everywhere. Some of the most spectacular:
  • St. Peter's Basilica has a gigantic, life-sized display that only gets fully revealed on Christmas Day. Each year, a different nation gets the honor of donating the square's tree.
  • S. Maria Maggiore holds an Arnolfo di Cambrio marble presepio thought to be the oldest in Italy (1289AD).
  • The Spanish Steps crib features an 18th century scene complete with a miniature Pasquino statue.
  • SS. Cosma e Damiano, by the forum, has a year-round room-sized scene from Naples (17th century), which features hundreds of figures, replicas of the ruins, and moving fishmongers and blacksmiths.
  • Termini train station, on via Giolitti, has a large set with miniature sheep and a knee-high Arch of Janus, making it the most utterly Roman presepio.
Rome even has a museum dedicated to the art of nativity sets. It's called Museo Presepio (by appointment only).  And each year, the Piazza del Popolo shows a collection of over 200 presepii in the Sale di Bramante (centopresepi.it). Happy hunting!

Now about that witch...
The friendly Christmas Witch -- lots of 'em.
Like Santa Claus, La Befana visits children, leaving them sweets and presents, only on Epiphany, twelve days after Christmas.
For Christians, Epiphany marks the day when three wise men visited baby Jesus, bearing gifts. The legend  says they met La Befana along their journey, but she was too busy to go with. Later, she changed her mind and set off to find the infant and bring him presents. She's been searching ever since, leaving each child a gift.

Nov 8, 2010


Birdwatching in the Roman Forum
Running footloose in the empty Forum is one of the many joys of visiting Rome in the Fall. October is magical. The weather is lovely, requiring a light jacket at most, and there is only a hint of the colder November rains, but it's more than that. You have the luxury of space and peace. With or without kids, perambulating the piazzas and parks of Rome should evoke wonder and awe. Sights like the Palatine Hill, the Forums, and many piazzas are vast, and the architectural wonder they hold is often lost when they are crammed with summer's throngs.
If you're unbound by school calendars, consider visiting Rome in late Sept/early Oct, after the blazing heat of summer has faded, or try April/early May, before the high season ramps up. There is no real off-season for a city as large and popular as Roma, but these choice windows are in "shoulder" seasons. They offer more tranquil touring, a break on prices and crowds, and higher chance of pleasant weather than other off-season periods.
Spend some time alone with ancient Rome, contemplating the lives of those citizens, artists, emperors and kings that left such marvels in their wake.

Sep 1, 2010


Stefano Costantini, Rome Cabs
As if peace of mind, immediate attention, and a comfortable ride—on your own schedule—are not enough, white-glove companies like Rome Cabs (romecabs.com) will spoil you with custom daytrips, ship-to-shore excursions, English-speaking drivers and knowledgeable tour guides for remarkably reasonable prices. Tell them where you want to go and they’ll quote you a price, no hidden fees or surprises. For these reasons, and for their flawless service, prompt pick-ups, and professional demeanor, they are my number one recommendation for private transport in Rome.

If you worry about taxi-gouging, losing precious touring time by waiting for public transportation, or simply getting lost, consider a private driver. The bigger the group, the more it makes sense. For instance, getting to the city from Fiumicino airport costs €11 per person on the non-stop Leonardo Express train to the main train station, Termini. Four people will pay a total of €44 for the train, and still have to get to their hotel from the station. A taxi from the airport to your hotel, in the city center, has a flat rate of €40 for four or less people, so it’s a good choice, but many, especially after many hours of travel, don’t want to wait in lines or worry about dishonest drivers. Our same foursome can have a car and driver waiting for them at the airport for €55. That’s not much more for a stress-free landing.

I recently interviewed Stefano Costantini, the high-energy, affable owner of Rome Cabs and the source of the company’s strive for perfection since its inception in 2003. Though not a typical Italian family business, it feels like one, because Stefano collaborates with friends, and this friendly feeling is evident, from booking to touring. There are other fine cab companies in Rome, but I feel that Rome Cabs goes above and beyond for their clients, starting with arriving early for your pickup. They’d rather wait for you than have you ever wait for them. And they won’t leave you stranded:  If your plane is hours late or you miss a connection, they’re waiting for you. I once had a client arrive during a chaotic airport baggage handlers’ strike! Stefano’s driver stayed with the woman—who spoke no Italian—and actually scaled the mountain of luggage to find her bags. Incredible.

Stefano can fix just about anything, and he takes pride in his top-notch services, especially the personal care he provides for stranded tourists, like the time a cruise ship arrived five hours late, causing many of the passengers to miss connecting flights. Rome Cabs jumped into action, acquiring hotel rooms for everyone needing overnight accommodations.

Travel can be stressful, and working in the travel industry, with all its setbacks and problems, can lead to burn out, but Stefano says, “Every day I meet a variety of people for whom I have the pleasure of showing my city and surrounding areas.” He loves his work.

I wondered which are the most popular tours Rome Cabs offers. “Easy,” he says, “Rome in a Day. For those looking to explore beyond the Eternal City, Cerveteri and Bracciano are most requested.” But which tours does Stefano think are most beautiful? “Tarquinia and Tuscania are magical,” he says. “Since they are off the beaten path, they give the tourist an authentic view of Italy.”

Hadrian's Villa
And where does a tour guide go on his day off? As a former restorer, Stefano enjoys visiting little cities in Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio, discovering antiquities and works of art, but, like any true Italian, he also loves good food! Finding restaurants that serve the most authentic Italian foods and recipes is always a worthy endeavor. Most telling is Stefano’s response when asked if he had anything he’d like me to include here. I was thinking of new tours or special sales, but his mind was elsewhere: “I hope that the people I meet remember me and have memories [of Rome] that accompany them all of their lives.” 

RWK recommends hiring Rome Cabs for a daytrip to Tivoli, where you can take the kids to see two splendid villas: the ancient Hadrian’s villa, and the Renaissance Villa D’este.
See www.Romecabs.com for more.

Aug 15, 2010

COLORING WITH LIGHT - Rome's Ara Pacis is more Kid-Friendly than ever!

Coloring + Ancient Monument + Awesome Lighting + Quick Tour= Happy, Engaged Children!
The Ara Pacis, now in color. (Musei in Commune)

Did you know ancient sculptures were often vibrantly colored? The all-white marble antiques we see today have just lost their colors over the centuries. Color really brought them to life, and the visual impact of rich hues appeals to children and makes it easier to understand what's going on in bas relief scenes, like those of the Ara Pacis. Some Romans even adorned their busts and statues with jewelry and colored, glass eyes.
(La Reppublica)
Kids will really appreciate this, because, let's face it, it's pretty cool to see a monument colored by a sophisticated light show. And having something to do at night is a welcome change from touring by day. RWK suggested you have dinner in the nearby Spanish Steps area, then walk over to the small museum. The quick trip will give you a big bang for your buck: happy, rested and fed children will delight in walking (sans beating sun) to a mini-light show. And since it only takes a few minute to visit, no-one will have a chance to become tired or bored! You'll end the night on a positive note.
Now until September 8, you can see Augustus' ancient Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) in full color, every Wednesday night, from 9pm to midnight.
The Ara Pacis is easy to find, on the bank of the river, west of the main street called Via Del Corso. 
Tickets are 8 euro per person; 6 euro for kids under 8 years of age. 

Jul 18, 2010

Look Rome, No Lines!

Apple iphone, Italian style! 
Want to skip the ticket line? There's an app for that...as they say. Now Italy's top 40 tourist sites can be booked with the free i-MiBAC app. This will save you loads of time, and give you information too -- like opening hours, maps, and itineraries. No iPad, iphone, or ipod touch? Hang in there. More smartphone apps like this are on the way!

Jul 14, 2010


The Castle of the Angel is always a huge hit with kids and a place of mystery and intrigue for everyone. It's even more exciting now that the Passetto di Borgo is open for summer hours. This covered passageway connects the castle to the Vatican, several blocks away.
Probably the coolest museum in Rome for kids, the labyrinthine castle was originally built as a humongous mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian (135 AD). Over the centuries, the imperial resting place has served as a fortress, prison, and papal safe house, which is why it was transformed into a palace by artists and architects such as Michelangelo.
During the 1527 Sack of Rome, Pope Clement VII put it to its purpose, scampering across the passageway to safety. With such a checkered past, it's no wonder it was featured in the movie Angels and Demons.
This summer, from July 16 to September 4th, visitors can have a rare glimpse into the passageway by booking a guided tour: Phone 39-06-32-810.
The museum, along with its 58 splendid rooms, ramps, ramparts, cannon, and terraces is open everyday, except Mondays. The special tour of the Passetto di Borgo runs 10:30-11:30am, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and 5:30-6:30pm Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.
Today, the castle's moat is a wonderful park with green spaces and some play equipment for younger children, and if you're hungry, you can grab a bite to eat at the museum's charming terrace cafe. RWK recommends winding your way through the castle to the very tip top, where you can see its angel up close and enjoy a sweeping view over Rome- Fantastico!

Jun 19, 2010


How to explore one of Rome's oldest hills, and have fun doing it!
Rome is full of ancient ruins, monuments, and museums, but did you know it has lots of secret paths, gardens, and gorgeous views? Take a few hours to unwind with this off-the-beaten-track walk through one of Rome's prettiest, and oldest, neighborhoods.

Peaceful cobbled paths, secret gardens, and beautiful vistas will revitalize, but there's plenty of sightseeing, too -- that's the RWK way! Pack a picnic and head to the Piazza Bocca della Verità, where you can start your journey by sticking your hand in the "Mouth of Truth," an ancient sewer cover on the portico of the church. Answer a question with your hand in the mouth, but tell the truth. It "bites" liars!

If you make it past the Mouth of Truth, find the secret path that leads you right up the Aventine Hill. It's called Clivo d. Rocca Savello (entrance pictured above).  Just head south from the piazza, cross the large Via Cerchi, and look for the foot path on your left. Follow it all the way to the top (about a six minute walk), and turn right to walk along the street. Immediately on the right, you'll find another treasure: the famous Orange Garden, called Parco di Savello.

This is a perfect place for a picnic, a game of tag, running around, or simply enjoying some down time, taking in the lush surroundings and pleasing scent of oranges.

Before you leave, make sure you walk to the edge of the hill for a view that stretches all the way to the St. Peter's basilica--and beyond. So far, you've seen a mysterious, ancient stone face, climbed up an enchanted, secret path, and found your way to the little orange garden and its vista, but you've got one more treasure to hunt for: a keyhole!


This one graces a door of the Knights of Malta, one of the world's smallest independent states. Sneak a peek to see Michelangelo's dome, perfectly framed by immaculate gardens. Pretty cool--so is looking over three countries at once: Malta, the Vatican, and Italy.

Left: The ornate keyhole.  Right: Its delightful view!
Find more secrets of the Aventine, in RWK.