Rome with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

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Rome with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Visiting Rome, a city steeped in history and culture, can make for a memorable family vacation with tweens.


Morning


You will experience frustration and disappointment if you insist on starting your day with a typical American breakfast in Rome. When in Rome, and visiting with tweens, do as the Romans do and enjoy a simple breakfast of rich, freshly roasted coffee and a classic pastry. And while it may seem there's a Starbucks on every corner across the globe, you will be hard-pressed to find one in Rome. Italians associate coffee with community and good conversation. Taking a coffee "to go" would be on par with Norm Pederson walking into Cheers in Boston and asking for his beer "to go." If you are not privileged to have a Roman momma make your breakfast, then the standard fare of coffee, cookies and pastries may be found at any nearby neighborhood pasticceria.

After breakfast, your tribe should visit Rome's historic attractions before the heat arrives and brings scores of tourists with it, typically around midday. In the veritable center of Rome, The Colosseum is one of the greatest and best known examples of Roman architecture and engineering; adult admission is € 13,5, college students are € 9 and kids under 18 are free; call +39 0639967700 for advance tickets. The landmark becomes more impressive when you learn that construction started on this massive undertaking about 70 AD and was completed less than 10 years later. The Colosseum was capable of seating 50,000, and in its early days hosted such public spectacles as mock sea battles, animal hunts and, of course, gladiatorial contests. In the past several hundred years it has been the victim of earthquakes, looting, fire and erosion. Strongly resist any inclination (or persistent coercion) to hire one of the expensive guides in abundance outside.


Afternoon


As lunchtime nears, you should trust the old adage that wisely cautions to never eat near a high traffic tourist area, as some of the best and most authentic cuisine can be found off the beaten path. Follow a pleasant 10-minute walk along Via degli Annibaldi (which turns into Via dei Serpenti) into the charming and historic Monti quarter. Make a right onto Via Panisperna and enjoy lunch at Ristorante Tema, located on Via Panisperna, 96/98. As this restaurant caters to a very local clientele, the service is excellent and the food outstanding. In a city that receives an influx of tourists throughout the year, it is comforting to receive friendly and attentive service that caters to your every culinary whim (and your picky tween eaters). The pastas are homemade, and the knowledgeable staff will guide you through the menu of divine meat and seafood offerings, highlighting personal favorites. Visit once, and you might even find yourself coming back again before your family vacation in Rome has ended.

Wind your way west along Via Panisperna towards Piazza Venezia, the geographic center of Rome. On a sunny day, the blinding brilliance of white marble used to construct the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a united Italy, provides a glimmer of the majestic splendors of ancient Rome, which crumbles along Capitoline Hill just behind the monument. Here lies the ancient Roman Forum, a huge complex of ruined temples, arches and basilicas which served as the legal, social and business center of Rome nearly 2,000 years ago. A totally cool way to see the best of Rome with tweens is a bike tour offered by Italy Guides. For tickets, call +39 05327951009. This reputable firm has a fleet of cruisers with V-brakes, helmets and complementary downloads of audio tour highlights to your iPod or MP3 player (something every tween is sure to appreciate). You can choose a guided tour of 4 hours for € 49 or you can go at your own pace and tailor what you want to see and when you want to see it with a non guided tour of 4 hours for € 19. It's a perfect way to see the sights of Rome and ensure your tween has a chance to burn off extra energy.


Evening


Late afternoon and early evening are the best times to visit Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel, as crowds tend to line up early in the day for these attractions. Adult admission is €15, kids over six and college students with valid ID are €8 and kids under 6 are free. Vatican City is the smallest sovereign state in the world; a walled enclave covering about 110 acres and housing a population of about 800. The economy is supported primarily by the sale of postage stamps and souvenirs, as well as admissions to museums. Of interest to tweens within Vatican City will be St. Peter's Square, the Swiss guards and the Sistine Chapel, where they are sure to recognize parts of Michelangelo's masterpiece.

St. Peter's Square is about 6 acres in size and is designed to hold as many as 125,000 people. The Square is an architectural marvel, flanked by hundreds of columns and pillars creating a space worthy of showcasing St. Peter's Basilica.

Swiss guards have been used as palace guards since the late 15th century in posts at various European courts. Vatican City is the only place where Swiss guards can be seen today. Recruits must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship, having completed basic training with the Swiss military and produced certificates of their good conduct. They must be between 19 and 30 years of age and at least 5 feet, 9 inches tall.They are required to serve a term lasting between 2 and 25 years. Swiss guards are recognized worldwide for their colorful uniform of blue, red, orange and yellow, evoking the whimsy of the European Renaissance. The uniform weighs 8 pounds and very well may be the heaviest uniform in use by any standing army today. A photo with your tween and a Swiss guard will commemorate a priceless memory and may even become their Facebook picture.

The Sistine Chapel is the official residence of the pope but is accessible for the architectural masterpieces of Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini and Botticelli. A tour of the Sistine Chapel is sure to be revisited with fond memories by your tween, and hopefully an education through experience they would never find in a textbook. Here is your opportunity for them to see it firsthand. Don't pass it up.

To put a signature end on what might prove to be one of your kids' favorite vacations, head to one of the best pizzerias in all of Rome: La Fraschetta located at 134 Via S. Francesco a Ripa in nearby Trastevere; call +39 065816012 for reservations. They offer a perfect, thin crust pizza with a wide variety of unique toppings such as buffalo milk mozzarella, arugula, sausage, zucchini flower and wild mushroom.

Save room for the very best gelato in Rome, at Il Gelato di San Crispino near the Trevi fountain. Savor traditional and exotic flavors such as strawberry with Barolo wine, honey with ginger and cinnamon, or hazelnut and plum. As evening brings the perfect day in Rome with your tweens to an end, cast your coins into the breathtaking, magically illuminated Trevi fountain to guarantee your family will travel to Rome once more.

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