How to enjoy the Roman Forum as a family
“Look, here’s another one!” Both our children kneel down and look intently at something on the ground. My son is the first to raise his head and start looking around him again. And with the blink of an eye they are both off again, back to their tasks. Our son and daughter zigzagged their way through the tourist crowd at the Roman Forum. I try my best to keep up, without running after them. After all, we are at the Forum Romanum, an ancient sight that has been here for over thousands of years. It deserves to be discovered in a slow pace. My children, aged five and seven, however do not agree. They have their minds set to find as many carriage tracks as possible.
When we entered the Roman Forum at the entrance next to the Coliseum, both of them were not too enthusiastic about visiting this field full of boulders, rocks and ruins. They were not allowed to climb them. Surely we were not just going to walk around and look at these ruins? But just a few minutes into our visit, a casual remark of my husband had them captured. “Can you see these tracks in the stones on the ground? This is what happened when carriages drove along these roads day after day for hundreds of years.” After all our talk to prepare for this trip about ‘long ago’ and ‘the daily life of the Romans’ this detail was what they needed to make the ancient Romans come to life. We had already found three tracks so far and there was so much of the sight still left uncovered.
It kick-starts a story about the oxen-drawn carriages that used for bringing food into the city. They were only allowed in during the night, to prevent them blocking the paths during the day.
Daily life at the Roman Empire
Upon arrival in Rome we bought a very touristy, but also very convenient book called Daily Life at the Roman Empire. Its unique selling point are the see-through pages that depict how Rome used to look in its glory days. It turned out to be the best way to enthuse our kids about ancient Rome. While it is difficult to explain about the Roman civilization 2000 years ago, this book brings it to life.
Our youngest dragged her new favorite book with her, while running. “What did they use the carriages for? For the princesses?” (Her princess phase is still going strong). Meanwhile they were happily hopping along across the stone paved paths. The book tells the story of how Romans used rocks across the paths, much like our zebra crossings today.
So, if you plan on taking your children to the Roman Forum? This book is definitely worth the small investment of 10 euros.
All in all, it made our visit truly a memorable one. It was clear that both our kids, even at their age, were very interested in this place full of ancient ruins. They both used the book which has pictures of how the temples and buildings used to look. All of us searched the sight for tracks of Roman carriages. They asked if they could take pictures themselves.
This experience taught me that you can visit ancient sights with young children. Not all the time, sometimes you have to be lucky. But if you prepare your family visit well, you can share the information in a way that is suitable to their age and level of interest.
Visitors 17 and under can access the ancient sites for free. Adults over 25 pay € 12,- each for this combi-ticket. The official website for booking tickets is Coopculture.it. Whatever you do, buy your tickets in advance. The best tip I read online was to buy a combi-ticket for both the Coliseum and the Roman Forum/Palantine Hill. This combined ticket is valid for one entry in the two sites for two days. Since many visitors to Rome skip the Forum and head straight for the Coliseum, you have quick access to the Forum without waiting in line. Therefore – and this will prove to be the best advice you read before heading to Rome – you can walk past the 200 meters long waiting line at the Coliseum with the ticket you picked up at the Roman Forum ticket booth!