Family vacation: Three boys conquer Rome

"It's not like we were not warned ..."

Joris is glowing. My eight-year-old son is completely out of breath, wet with sweat and his hair is on all sides. He stumbles up the last steps of the Spanish Steps, into my arms, and gasps, "Mom, now I've jogged eight times up and seven times, is that 1000 steps?"

There are even more than 2000 steps, because the most famous flight of steps in the world at the Piazza di Spagna in Rome has 138 steps. Before our trip I had promised my eldest that he - contrary to the family rule "We do not play on stairs!" - on this would romp and play to your heart's content. With his second-grader maths knowledge, he figured he would have to climb 138 times to reach the 1000 eight times - and forget about the downgrades.

While Joris and I are going to reckon with everything, Simon, 6, takes his two year younger brother Linus into a stranglehold, which he does not like. He prunes him down over his shoulder. Linus drops a few steps and, in the midst of screeching Japanese women, agrees to his most dramatic howl.

© Espen Eichhöfer

Linus: "We had a lot of trouble in Rome, the brothers got beaten, Mama was angry, and Dad scolded them."

It's not that they did not warn us, "Well, you've got a plan," it said. And: "It will not be relaxing ...". But I was tired of going on holiday in the mountains or on the beach because of the kids. I love the energy that I feel in cities, it inspires me to observe people, and I like architecture better than landscape.

And our sons? Are big city kids! Traffic and bustle determine their everyday life, they are tough and good on foot. And they like the old Romans. Since we bought them the first "Playmobil" set, they stage battles with their legionnaires and gladiators. And how many times I read the "What's What" book about the Romans, I can not count at all.

Joris: "The Romans fought real, dangerous fights with swords, not as boring as fists, like boxers today - Asterix always thinks the Romans were stupid, but that's not true"

My husband and I know Rome from previous trips - even with programs shrunk to children's size, we would not have to worry about missing anything. We booked an apartment right on the Coliseum. Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, a few churches and lots of pizza and ice cream: that did not seem like an overloaded program. We thought we were perfectly prepared. What we had not considered was the urge to move from three small testosterone bombs, which is not satisfied by mere strolling in the beginning.

And so soon I feel like I'm sick and sick of following the clanking and shuddering of the boys in front of me; always ready to jump behind if one of the sidewalks, so narrow that they hardly deserve this name, would fall on the road. I waver between emotion when frantically wrapping my arms around my shoulders, and anger when such a hug turns into a stranglehold within a split second. My heart stumbles shortly before the infarction, as Simon tears from my hand at the Trevi Fountain, submerged in the crowd and first disappeared. It quickly becomes clear that things can not go on like this.

Simon: "I liked Rome a lot, because we ate ice cream every day, and once I was allowed to take three varieties, which I never had before."

Nothing makes our gang more reliable than a huge ice cream in the waffle. While everyone is happy, we sort the priorities again. "We want to play more," says Simon. "The houses are boring, I want to see Romans things," says Joris, who would most like to stay exclusively in our neighborhood, the Forum Romanum. Linus says nothing, he fell asleep in the buggy.

© Espen Eichhöfer

To make the children more interesting, I call for a competition. There are so many things to discover on the facades of the Roman houses: lions and eagles, bees, dark mythical creatures, unicorns, and again and again the she-wolf and the babies. For each animal sighting there should be points and at the end of the holiday prices from a souvenir shop, from which the guys would like to empty anyway anyway.

The trick works - but the competition is bitter. Every mailbox and door knocker should count, every manhole cover and the she-wolf on every damn "AS Roma" jersey. Not easy to manage the account balances while enjoying the stroll.

Simon: "I saw the statue of Julius Caesar, which I found beautiful and the rest of the house where he was murdered, there was another emperor called Constantin, like Consti from my class"

Then it's finally time - we explore the old Rome. This day we spend with the tour guide Gudrun König, who specializes in children's tours. Hard to tell who is happier about Gudrun's presence: the children who hang on their lips all day - or us parents, proud to burst because our wild boys are totally into the time journey. It's nice to see them stand still for a few minutes listening to each other and barely arguing about the "Playmobil" males they took with them to play at original locations. It touches me that they perceive the ruins of the Forum Romanum on the one hand as a playground and a place for toes and on the other tenderly stroke the remains of the marble statues.

As we adults understand history with reason, the children seem to be deeply immersed. Gudrun unpacks bones used by the children of antiquity and old Roman coins. Joris, when she speaks, gets that banned, slightly withdrawn look that shows he's deep in the sun. Months later, he will be able to give a few details that we adults have long since forgotten.

But Gudrun has much more than just classical knowledge in store. In the Circus Maximus she unpacks a football and proposes to bolt the 600 meters on which chariot races were driven in antiquity. For our football crazy guys, this is like a long-awaited break, despite the dogbones and shards of broken glass that we'll have to kick around in the days to come.

Very close to the Circus Maximus is the church "Santa Maria in Cosmedin", in whose portal the antique lie detector "Bocca della Verità" can be seen. Weeks before the trip, we talked about small everyday lies: "Did you wash your hands?", "Did you use soap?", "Did you brush teeth?", "Think about ... who Lies, gets bitten by the Bocca's hand, "we warned and had thus fueled the boys considerable panic. Hardly they want to queue up in front of the stone mask, let alone hold their hands. After some hesitation, finally dare the eldest. Simon moves in after Joris remains intact ("I know Joris sometimes lies, too"), only Linus does not put more than a fingertip in the monster's throat.

Joris: "St. Peter's Basilica is the largest church in the world, and there is also a picture of Mary, where she holds the Jesus when he is already dead." Mary looks very sad and yet very, very beautiful "

Although none of us is baptized, we visit most of the churches along the way. The children like the festive atmosphere, perhaps because faith is not part of their everyday life. And they like the adventurous stories I try to tell about all the images of the saints and Bible frescoes. We like the childlike enthusiasm for Catholicism, which is why we spontaneously decide to visit St. Peter's Basilica.

We are lucky and can join Gudrun's group. A good dozen children and once again so many adults, who leads them by radio and button in the ear. Linus is thrilled with the system: turn it on, turn it off, put it on loudly, make it quiet - the visit to St. Peter's Basilica will be the highlight of the journey for him, only marred by the fact that he will return the device after the end of the tour (under a furious, deafening protest) must give.

Linus: "In St. Peter's Basilica - there are super cool hearing aids"

Joris, on the other hand, is mesmerized. Away from all the gold and different colored marble, the mosaics, tombs and sculptures. But he has not forgotten where the bronze for the baroque main altar comes from: "The Pope stole it from the Pantheon, which certainly did not please God!" He says indignantly, and my church-critical man smiles contentedly.

© Espen Eichhöfer

It is so crowded in St. Peter's Basilica that after that we have the need for rest. Everything we had planned is now ticked off, and we decide: get out of the city! With the subway we go to Ostia, from the train station there we are in 10 minutes on the beach. Neither the promenade nor the beach are particularly beautiful or well maintained - but the sea view and the fresh air are good. The boys enjoy spending the last holiday afternoon digging and splashing around.

Only in the plane, somewhere over the Alps, it dawns on me that I did not throw any coin into the famous pool due to the stress of losing Simon at the Trevi Fountain. Only those who did that, it is said, come back to Rome. A little sad I tell the children about it. Simon comforts me: "I put five cents in it, Mama, I'll take you with me when I travel back to Rome!"

Our Rome tips (not only) for families


HomeAway, The holiday home portal has listed more than 8,000 apartments in Rome - in all districts, in comfort, size and price ranges. A 100 square meter apartment with five beds near the Coliseum costs from 200 euros per night (

Hotel Nord Nuova, In this particularly child-friendly hotel, Studiosus accommodates the families. Nobody feels disturbed when children romp or make lift races. Also nice: the lovingly planted roof terrace overlooking the Diocletian baths. DZ / F from 69 Euro (Via G. Amendola 3, Tel. 06/488 54 41,

Hotel de Rome, Design hotel directly on the Forum Romanum. The rooms are colorful and well maintained, in the backyard there is a small garden. Friendly staff. DZ / F from 85 Euro (Via del Colosseo 72, Tel. 06/89 56 96 06,

Hotel degli Artisti, Classy and elegant hotel with a sensational roof terrace, located above the Spanish Steps. DZ / F from 145 Euro (Via degli Artisti 18, Tel. 06/42 01 49 91,
Profumo Maison d? Hôtes, Elegant guesthouse with lavish breakfast for Italian standards. DZ / F from 81 Euro (Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 108, Tel. 06/709 60 43,

to eat and drink

© Espen Eichhöfer

La Bottega del Caffè, We were here for breakfast (especially creamy chocolate cornetti, but also salty stuffed, about 2 euros); For evening aperitifs, the bar is popular with locals (Piazza della Madonna dei Monti 5).

Ristorante Iari, Our favorite - not only, because vis-a-vis "our" apartment located! Small terrace on a quiet piazza, humorous and child-friendly service, huge, delicious pizzas, homemade pasta - extensive and inexpensive wine list. Depending on the market situation daily changing specialties. Do not miss: Pasta with truffles for 14 euros (Via del Colosseo 5, Tel. 06/69 19 10 69).

Osteria Rinascimento, Modern, almost cool osteria with classic Roman cuisine, eg. B. Zucchini flowers as an appetizer (6 €), "Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe" (Pasta with pepper and cheese sauce, 7 €) and many organic meat dishes, eg. "Saltimbocca alla Romana" for 13 euros (Corso Rinascimento 66, Tel. 06/64 76 11 19,

La Montecarlo, Loud, tight and always crowded - although the store is huge. In the kitchen ten men work at full speed, and the pizzas (about 5 euros), which are served on aluminum plates, are cheap and delicious (Vicolo Savelli 13,

Angelino ai Fori, Food empire across from the Roman Forum with (chic and location rather expensive) restaurant, deli, bar and ice cream parlor. We liked the rich and unusual Panini and Tramezzini (sandwiches, from 4 euros). Very practical, especially on Sunday, when the Via dei Fori Imperiali is closed and you can have a picnic on the wall of the Forum (Largo Corrado Ricci 40? 43a,

Il Fornaio, Sensational bakery in a beautiful shop. One would like to try everything: pizza (about 3 euros), stuffed dumplings, biscotti, sweet particles and of course the breads. Buy takeaway pizza, walk to nearby Piazza Farnese (not nearly as crowded as the nearby Piazza Navona or the Campo dei Fiori) and picnic there on the edge of the fountain (Via dei Baullari 5/7).

Tiberino, Located on the Tiber Island on a small square with no traffic, where the kids can romp about. Delicious panini and tramezzini sandwiches from 3 euros (Via Ponte Quattro Capi 18,

Pizzeria Rustica, A visit to the Vatican is exhausting, and then (not only children) need something quickly. At this street pizzeria you stand in line for a while, but the fresh pizzas are especially tasty for that. Children's favorite: "Margherita" with buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, the huge piece for 2 euros (Viale Giulio Cesare 183).

Gunther Gelato Italiano, For us adults the best ice cream parlor! Handmade ice cream, there are ten different types of chocolate and extravagant creations like pear-ginger or buffalo mozzarella pepper. The small portion (two sorts) costs - like almost everywhere? € 2.50 (Via dei Pettinari 43,

Gelateria della Palma, The children's favorite ice cream parlor, probably because the ice cream is especially sugary. More than 150 varieties - plan for longer decision-making! Three varieties 3 euros (Via della Maddalena 19).

Giolitti, The oldest ice cream shop in Rome is always worth a visit, just because of the '50s decor and the waiters with perfectly bound flies. But also the ice cream is excellent! Two varieties for 2.50 euros, cream and crumble are available for free (Via Uffici del Vicario 40,

Package holiday for families

Caesar, popes and gladiators, During this study trip, designed especially for families, the most important sights of the city are phenomenally child-friendly and interesting for adults. Gudrun König accompanied this year from 7.10. until 11.10. a Studiosus family trip to Rome. From 748 Euro / or 1279 Euro / adult incl. Flight, 4 nights, half board, tour guide and all entrance fees (

children program

Roman Forum, Allow plenty of time to go back and forth and rumklettern - here, the little ones can finally move freely free.With one of the books in which (drawn) slides from ancient Rome can be placed over photos of the ruins of today (there's every souvenir shop) it's a lot of fun. Ticket 12 Euro / adult, children have free admission; the ticket is valid for two consecutive days also for the Coliseum and the Palatine. At the entrances Via Sacra or Via di San Gregorio are rarely snakes. Alternatively: buy online at

Colosseum, The largest amphitheater in the world is a memorable, almost magical experience for children! Come early in the morning to avoid the snakes. Take a lot of time and a pair of binoculars! Nice shop with valuable souvenirs upstairs.

St. Peter's Basilica, From 7 o'clock he is open - and who wants to see him without crowds, should come at this time. Otherwise: schedule time (and bribery sweets) because of the queue at the security checkpoint. For all without fear of heights worth the ascent to the dome (early morning, is open from 8 clock, otherwise it is a torture with children in the super narrow stairwell!). Access: to the right of the church entrance. Up to the roof leads a lift, from there one reaches a balcony at the lower, inner end of the dome. Great view of the church! From here, 320 steps lead up to the viewing platform at 120 meters. Tickets: lift 8 euros, dome 6 euros / children free.

Via dei Fori Imperiali, On Sundays, the multi-lane road leading from the Monumento Vittoriano along the Trajan markets and the Roman Forum to the Colosseum is closed to cars. There is a lot to see: jugglers, street vendors, portrait painters and countless relaxed strolling people!

Villa Borghese, Huge park with many jugglers, roller skating, Segway and Kettcar rental. On the small lake you can row, who hopes to meadows for picnics and romping, but is disappointed - parking is unfortunately not a key competence of the Roman administration.

Trajan's Column, The column, which praises the exploits of the Roman army in the Dacian War, is like an antique comic. Tip: Take individual pictures with your mobile phone so that the children can see more details (Via dei Fori Imperiali).

Roma Culta, Unusual city tours in German for parents and children, eg. B. "In the footsteps of Asterix and Obelix" but also to more complex topics of art and cultural history. Well suited for children from the age of eight or nine, because a shaken-up measure of concentration and joy of thinking is expected. Depending on the number of participants from 50 Euro per family (

Good to know

social loafing, The madness of the traffic in Rome is only noticeable when you are traveling with children who are jostling and pushing on the narrow curbs. For smaller ones who do not consider it to be under their dignity, it is therefore highly recommended to bring a buggy, even if it has not been used at home for a long time. Larger ones could be kept in check with the search competition for "wild animals" on the facades of houses. For the accounting of the score: take adhesive dots and paper with you!

Security number, In St. Peter's Basilica and at the Trevi Fountain anyway, but otherwise a lively child in the crowds is quickly lost sight of. Every morning we painted our sons with a ballpoint pen "Telefono Mama" and my cellphone number on the arm.

Half portion, Children's plates do not know the Italians. But it is common in the restaurant (and even in ice cream parlors) to order a "mezza porzione" for the little ones - which then costs only half.

Absolutely take

"Playmobil" -Figürchen, In front of the original scenery, it's twice as fun to play with the Roman legionnaires and their swords, the gladiators with their nets, tridents and chariots. And the parents have a few minutes respite.

Sticker book, 180 stickers that senators, soldiers and gladiators must be "dressed" - perfect to sedate the youngsters in the restaurant until the pizza comes ("My Dress book: In ancient Rome", 5.95 euros, Usborne-Verlag).

travel Guide, "Rome for you" is knowledgeable and very child-friendly travel guide with many puzzles, comics and jokes (12,95 Euro, Publisher Lonitzberg).

phone, The country code of Italy is 00 39. The zero before the first number is selected.

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