Rome with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Visiting the ancient city of Rome, Italy, is an experience that is filled with ancient history, religious icons and ruins. Your teens will surely appreciate the wonders of the Eternal City, but they may just get a bit burnt out once you have seen the Colosseum, the Forum, Vatican City and the Pantheon. So why not switch things up a bit and take a day to see another side of Rome, one that is sure to delight your teens.
Usher your teens into the shower and head out to a nearby pasticceria for provisions to fuel your journey to your first destination on this Perfect Day in Rome with teens. In pasticcerias throughout Italy it is common for the wife to sell pastries in the front of the house while the husband bakes in the ovens below ground. Pick an assortment of traditional breakfast cookies and pannini which will be skillfully placed in a pink box and securely tied with string to ensure nothing is consumed before your return. Grab a few liters of water and bottles of San Pellegrino Limonata and Aranciata. Depending upon the season of your visit, pick up some ripe strawberries, peaches, oranges or apples at a fruit stand as proof you've not totally lost your mind.
Ostia Antica. Under the guise that this was to be a day geared for teens, allow the sugars to enliven the family along the 30 minute journey as you demonstrate your ability to spin this visit to demonstrate how an ancient Roman family would spend a day at the beach. Two thousand years ago this was Rome's seaport, but due to silting of the River Tiber and a drop in sea level, Ostia Antica is now more than two miles from the coast. While the ruins of Rome are, well, in a state of ruin, structures in Ostia Antica are well-preserved with magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics. Your teens can imagine a Nine Inch Nails-like band of 2000 years ago perform in the amphitheatre with no need for microphones due to its perfect acoustics. Ostia Antica is free for those under 18. Throughout your visit to Rome you will have seen the present reality of ruins and artist's interpretations of how this or that looked 2000 years ago. Your next destination takes you to what Ostia Antica would look like today, the resort city of modern day Ostia-which really is on the beach.
Ostia has a manageable population of about 80,000, so there's enough to see and do without feeling overwhelmed as you might in Rome. In the summer, however, the population swells as it has since the early twentieth century when Ostia became firmly established as a summer resort for Romans seeking to escape the oppressive heat of the city. Though less than 20 miles from Rome, Ostia has a distinct Mediterranean micro-climate where you can still enjoy good beach weather as early as May and as late as October and pleasant weather even in the off-season.
There are dozens of "managed" (private) beaches that dominate the stretch of beach and shore in Ostia each year with a different vibe and attitude. Some are fashioned in the style of 1950s surf culture permeated by sounds of The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean (Le Dune Village, at Lungomare Duilio, 22 in Lido di Ostia) and others that follow a more hip, urban groove (La Rotonda – Shilling, further south along the beach at Piazzale Cristoforo Colombo, 25). Either way, you'll at least understand the lyrics. You can check out these options as well as many others online beforehand at: http://en.turismoroma.it/scoprire_roma/il_mare_di_roma/stabilimenti.
Some of the clubs have fitness and spa facilities, or you can participate in beach volleyball games, sand-castle contests, Frisbee tournaments, or receive instruction in wind-surfing. If you don't want to schlep your stuff, private beaches are a great option and complete with restaurants and cafes (where you will spend all of the money you saved on the train here), changing room facilities and lockers are available to safely store your things, as well as towels and chairs to rent and shops to buy the requisite 60-SPF.
If you'd like a more relaxed (and less expensive) option, you can take a bus just south of the city to the quieter area at the end of Lungomare Amerigo Vespucci. A trip to Ostia may just provide the necessary break from sensory overload you've experienced moving from one Roman ruin to the next. No matter where you choose to lay your towel, an abundance of Italian teen boys and girls provide more than enough eye-candy that needs no translation.
As the sun begins to set, it's a good time to get the heck out of Dodge as Ostia pulses and grinds to an unabashed hedonistic rhythm at night. Head back into the city and after a quick shower and change, head to your next destination: the young and hip ("strabello" in Italian) neighborhood of Trastevere, home to countless restaurants and cafes. This area escaped redevelopment over the centuries and was neglected as it was considered a poor, working class neighborhood. Today, Trastevere retains an intimate feel with narrow lanes and ivy climbing along crumbling buildings dating back to the medieval period. Piazza di Santa Maria is a pedestrian only piazza with a luminous central fountain lined with restaurants and side-streets filled with quirky and inexpensive shops. Dar Poeta, at Vicolo del Bologna 45/46 is hard to find (best to take a taxi to Via Garibaldi and walk down Via della Scala away from the arch and take a left on Vicolo del Bologna), but well worth the effort. Dar Poeta is considered to offer the very best pizza in Rome, which is considered to offer the best pizza in the known universe. It offers outdoor seating and is busy with locals in the evening but is filled with tourists late at night who congregate en masse.
The Campo de' Fiori is the perfect conclusion to your day in Rome with teens. The vibrant neighborhood takes on a club feel in the evening as music and people spill out from cafes onto the historic, cobblestone streets. If gelato could have a pedigree, you would find it at Gelateria Alberto Pica, located at via della Seggiola, 12. Impressive certificates hang on the walls as credit to this master and his old-fashioned style with modern interpretations such as the unforgettable riso alla canella, a masterful collaboration of cinnamon and rice. Amble slowly along charming side streets with your family. All that is important in life is with you. Cherish the moment.
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