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5 Secret Things to do in Rome with Teens Besides the Usual Stuff

ONE- Take an art class.

Before leaving home I set up an afternoon of art with Kelly at Sketching Rome Tours. This was going to be a short 3 days in Rome for us, and I wanted my thirteen-year-old twins to enjoy and learn (…gotta throw some new ideas into every trip), but do stuff that was fun for them. So an art class fit the bill! Kelly was amazing to work with, I emailed her directly with our availability, questions about the weather (it was winter) and let her know up front that it would be just the three of us. We set something up and we were good to go!! Kelly provided all of the supplies, pens, pencils, watercolors, and the cutest little book that she puts together by hand, all of this in an easy carry case (which is now a must have travel staple).

Sketching Rome Tour

We landed in Rome after an over-night flight and hit the ground running. We met up with our instructor at the park overlooking Piazza del Popolo and just relaxed. She went over some basic sketching ideas, shading and then we moved on to drawing with pen and watercolors. This was an amazing, relaxing afternoon. We moved at our own pace and the instructor was very laid back but informative and guided the twins with a gentle hand.

Look how cool our watercolors are!

Sketching in Rome

Doing this activity first thing changed our entire trip. Instead of taking out devices, we sketched and painted everywhere we went!!! Dinner, check. Bus, check. Coliseum, check. Forum, check. We even sketched while waiting for the Pope’s Noon Angelus. This experience changed the way the twins (and I) look at their surroundings; they now take note of architecture and genuinely look at art from a different perspective.

TWO and THREE- Go to Mass and Noon Angelus

Rome has so many beautiful cathedrals and churches, you can’t walk a block without seeing a dozen! We visited a ton of them, and I think the twins were about “church-ed out” after day 1! We were in Rome during Advent, and though time was short, we went to mass at Santo Spirito in Sassia. This was an English service so following along was easy, but this was so different than attending Mass at home. Experiencing the cultural differences, at this level was eye-opening. So many small things were different. The Santo Spirito is about a block from the Vatican, so we headed over to St. Peter’s Square. The Pope has a Noon Angelus on Sundays (check the schedule to see if he will be there when you are). I didn’t know what a Noon Angelus was… It’s a prayer and blessing that the Pope leads over the people in Saint Peter’s Square from his apartment in the Vatican. Pope Francis will give his Apostolic Blessing, which extends to you, your loved ones, and any devotional items that you have brought with you to be blessed. You don’t need a ticket (or be Catholic) to attend, but you do have to go through security and this did get crowded, but we a great time! AND we pulled out our sketching pads and drew while waited.

Santo Spirito

Noon Angelus in St. Peter's Square

FOUR- Catacomb and Crypts Tour

There are a couple different tours out there, we took the Dark Rome version because it fit our tight schedule and all of the reviews were great. We grabbed lunch on the Piazza Barberini, the meeting point for the tour. At first I was worried because it looked like we were taking a tour with 500 other people, but really no worries at all. This is the meeting point for numerous different tours and all of these people would not be with us!! We boarded a bus and our tour guide weaved together history, myth and scary stories, making the bus ride interesting and quick. This tour had three stops: the Roman Catacombs and Crypts just outside the city, the “lasagna” church, and finished at the “Bone Chapel”. Experiencing the “underbelly” of Rome was the most retold tale of the trip. The twins couldn’t wait to share the gruesome (and not too gruesome) stories with their friends back home.

First stop in the Dark Rome Tour

FIVE- Gelato!!!!

All the time, everywhere. We stopped. We ate. Lots of gelato. Too much gelato. We devoured gelato at Venchi twice, it was our favorite…. Loved the chocolate wall.

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