by guest blogger Andeep Singh, documentarian and television and Web video producer
Before heading to Rome this summer, I read all the books and blogs I could find about what to do in the city with kids. Most of the tips focused on how to manage babies (who, let's face facts, don't have the most discerning taste) and school-age children, meaning those who can read and who would perhaps appreciate an afternoon at Gladiator School. For the particularly tough preschool set, however, finding things to do in the sweltering August heat was a bit of a challenge.
Our attempt to find some other kids at the local Gymboree was a big bust, thanks to Mama's terrible address-writing skills, and the Children's Museum/Il Museo dei Bambini just happened to be closed during our stay. However, we eventually did discover some real winners on our Roman holiday.
Here are our top 5 recommendations for what to do and where to go with a preschooler in Rome:
1. Villa Borghese. Rome's equivalent to NYC's Central Park was a huge hit with the kid and the adults. The mini carousel and zoo combined with the vistas overlooking Rome were a much-needed change from the typical historical sights. The big winner, though, was the garden bicycle built for four or more. With our little one in the basket up front and the adults in the back breaking a sweat, everyone had a great time pedaling through the park.
2. Piazzas.Most of the books suggested hanging out in the Piazza Navona and watching the variety of performers. But with the thousands of tourists, it was a tad overwhelming for my little traveler. Instead, we visited some of the smaller piazzas so she could stretch her legs, watch the spray paint artists, and partake in the free Roman water fountains. Our favorite piazza was the Campo dei Fiori (after the stalls had left), where she chased pigeons in a very non-PETA-friendly manner while Mama and Papa partook in beverages of the non-water variety.
3. Gelato. The way to our preschooler's heart is through her stomach, so every day, our little traveler found a way to test the limits of her imagination with new combinations of gelato: fragole e menta (strawberry and mint), limone e cioccolato (lemon and chocolate), and something she called "green and candy." The gelato people understood her, even if we didn't. And not to be outdone by the heat, she began asking for a straw to go with her gelato...just so she could suck up every last melted drop. Fantastico!
4. The Colosseum at night. While it is stunning in the day, our little traveler particularly loved seeing the Colosseum lit up at night with its myriad of street hawkers selling glow-in-the-dark toys. With the lower temperatures and the smaller crowds, in the evenings she could run through the grounds with ease. And when given the opportunity to pose like a gladiator on a pedestal, she happily channeled her inner warrior.
5. Kids can click. Touring yet another cathedral or museum is not exactly preschool-rated fun. However, we discovered that handing our little traveler an old digital camera and letting her take photos (no flash, of course) at all the museums and cathedrals was a huge hit. She spent hours taking photos and video while we enjoyed the sites. And once we uploaded the files to the iPad, she spent train and plane rides looking at all her creations.
- Termini Station (Rome's main railway station):What kid doesn't love trains that come in a myriad of colors?
- Freshpasta: Carb heaven for kids who don't eat vegetables. Ditto on pizza.
Andeep Singh works at the Rodale Video Network and has produced nonfiction television, film, and digital video content for some of the biggest networks in the country, including ABC, NBC, PBS, CBC, and A&E. She recently completed producing her first feature documentary film, titled Living the Fantasy, which follows the lives of six high-stakes fantasy football players. Originally from the Great White North, Andeep has a serious case of wanderlust, is afflicted with perpetual food envy, and is mildly obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com