About Judy E
Lives in Rome, Italy
Since Jul 2014
For the past decade Italy has been a constant in my assignments as travel writer and photographer. Rome, Florence, and Venice are the cities where I spend the most time, but much of my time has been spent in small towns and the countryside, too, especially in Southern Italy. It's always a privilege to criss-cross the boot, often in a convertible or by train. The art, culture, food, nature, and wine are all incredible. Italy is so rich in these that the problem is never to find something of interest, it's in all those wonders that for lack of space never make it to the printed page or web page. Born in the U.S. and with treasured years of working in the museum world in Washington, DC, I always bring those perspectives with me, too, including to TripAdvisor. I was delighted that TripAdvisor commissioned me to write some Travel Guides for Rome, Venice, and Sicily. Happy reading and happy travels!
Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites
Historic Sites, Ancient Ruins
Ancient Ruins, Parks
Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Sacred & Religious Sites, Art Museums, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Architectural Buildings
Historic Sites, Churches & Cathedrals, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Art Museums, Observation Decks & Towers
Points of Interest & Landmarks, Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites
Architectural Buildings, Gardens, Parks
The Palatine is the legendary home of Romulus, founder of Rome. Some of the findings here date back to the 10th century BC. Fast-forward 1,000 years, and this was the coveted address of the rich and powerful - Emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero, to name a few. Climb the famous mound to explore the grand ruins, and enjoy views over the Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla, and the Forum. It's also a good spot to discuss sibling rivalry (Romulus killed his twin brother Remus) and civil behavior! Inside the Palatine Museum, you can see models of the Iron Age huts, as well as colorful fragments of marble and frescoes, bringing the flavor of Ancient Rome to life.
One of the great engineering wonders of the Ancient world is enormous in its scale and ingenuity. The Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum (Coliseum), is best experienced from inside its theater. Here, all kinds of spectacles took place, including the notorious gladiator battles. I recommend booking a visit to Ipogeo (or Hypogeum), the underground level where the animals were kept. You can see the corridors and pens, which are fitted with lifts so that the animals could pop up onstage and surprise spectators - as well as the unlucky gladiators who had to battle!
Ride bikes or hike past enormous aqueducts that date to the time of Emperor Claudius in the First century AD. Parco degli Acquedotti is an example of one of several aqueduct systems, a clever feat of Roman engineering that transported water to a thirsty ancient city.
Known by Romans simply as 'Largo Argentina', this fascinating neighborhood makes for a fun family treasure hunt, as it contains the ruins of some of Rome's oldest temples. Look out for the entrance to Pompey's theater, where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 BC; spot the remains of ancient toilets; explore the oculus ('eye' hole) in the dome of The Pantheon, and then find the marble drain holes on the floor (if it rains, you'll see it fall inside!). Plus, visit the fountains at nearby Piazza Navona, where you can guess the rivers of the four continents in its center and find the horse, crocodile, and plants sculpted on it.
The Vatican Museums have some of the world's best art in their collections. Mummies, ancient gods and goddesses, heroes and villains, animal sculptures, and saints all vie for your attention in these famed halls - and that's to say nothing of a certain chapel and its ceiling. Since the museums see up to 25,000 visitors per day, its wise to book ahead - include the adjacent gardens or the necropolis of underground tombs in your visit.
The best way to experience the enormous scale and architectural space of St. Peter's Basilica is to climb the cupola (dome). Inside, you'll see the mosaics up close and can look down at the floor, where people appear as small as ants; outside, you'll have a 360-degree view of Rome. You can even go up into the lantern on which the golden ball and cross rest.
This round castle has many things for kids to explore, including dungeons, tombs, papal chambers, canons, armor, and an angel at the top. Castel Sant'Angelo was originally built as Emperor Hadrian's design for his tomb, but in the 6th century it was converted into a papal fortress. A secret passageway, the 'Passetto di Borgo', links the castle with the papal apartments, which you can also visit.
Majestic umbrella pines grace Villa Borghese, a large park that offers a wide range of possibilities for family fun. Rent a bike inside the park, where you don't have to worry about Rome street traffic, or row a boat on the little pond with its temple dedicated to the god of health. There is plenty of space to run or have a picnic, or you could visit a small zoo or the Zoological Museum, which has a mix of quaint old-fashioned and contemporary displays, some of which are quite amusing. Another fun spot is Cinema dei Piccoli (Cinema of the Small), a charming, historic cinema that screens children's films (movies are usually in Italian by day, but the evening films are often in their original languages).
Located in the Flaminio Neighborhood, Explora Children's Museum is a good springboard from which to explore the rest of the area. A good rainy day option, it provides a space where younger kids can climb into a firetruck, play store, and see what it's like to be a cat or a fly. After they've played, you can relax on a tram ride (Flaminia/Reni stop) to see contemporary architecture at the Auditorium Parco della Musica and the MAXXI, both of which have a few children's programs, including free family concerts.
Have a bargain gourmet lunch at Arancia Blu (Via C. Beccaria 3). The excellent weekday lunch special is super economical and includes three gourmet vegetarian or vegan courses.
Doria Pamphilj is a huge park that is more beautifully landscaped than Villa Borghese. It gets you up into the cooler air of the Gianicolo, and its tall groves of umbrella pines create a magical atmosphere, while elsewhere there are ponds with ducks and swans to feed. On the way up or back, take a walk on the Passeggiata del Gianicolo, a sidewalk and footpath that follows the Gianicolo (Janiculum) hillside, offering great panoramas of Rome (look out for the Pantheon dome). Complete with a lighthouse, this spot is especially lovely at sunrise or sunset, and a canon booms at noon!
The crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione, a spooky destination at the base of Via Veneto, is not for everyone, but it's a big draw for kids who like spooky stories. Here, a creative monk had the idea of using the skeleton bones in the crypt to make wall sconces, chandeliers, and other unusual decorations...