Parents often ask me for strategies to help their kids engage with sightseeing, and I think I’ve finally hit upon two very useful guidelines:
- Allow children to focus in on the little details. They have the ability to understand the significance much better when it is illustrated via one or two very special sites, rather than trying to squeeze in too much.
- No matter how young they are, find a way to clearly inform your children of the plan. For example, on each leg of our excursions in Rome, I would explain to the children where we were headed and get them excited about what we were going to see there. This seemed to prevent the usual feet dragging and chorus of “are we there yet”? Upon departing for the next site, I would then entice them with something wonderful to anticipate both along the way and once we get there—ice cream, an elephant statue, a giant foot, and, finally, rounding the corner to the magnificent Pantheon, which took my older daughter’s breath away.
Her number one favorite site in Rome: the Carcere Mamertino. This sacred shrine is said to have been the prison where Saints Peter and Paul were confined, with infamous barbarians and other derelicts of antiquity, yet the tables were turned when a spring miraculously burst through the floor in front of the column to which Peter was shackled, allowing him to baptize his fellow inmates. Dipping her hand down into the spring which still exists in the floor of the cavern today truly satiated my daughter’s voracious imagination. (J. M. Pasquesi’s wonderful book Rome with Kids was an incredibly useful resource in planning the details of our day. She expertly lays out the city from a child’s vantage point, while at the same time providing simple explanations of important elements of Rome’s rich history. Thank you J. M.!)
My younger daughter delved into our local neighborhood near Via Giulia, from the amazing window at Josephine’s bakery off Campo de’Fiori (with delightful birthday cakes), to crossing Ponte Sisto for dinner in Trastevere, to her favorite cucina alla Romana at Trattoria ai Balestri (off Campo de’Fiori). Her number one favorite memory from Rome: attending the “On the Terraces of Castel Sant’Angelo” event at night, a remarkable affair that included performances, art exhibits, a clown show, a restaurant, and more interspersed throughout the captivating ramparts of the castello.