December 13


A Family Christmas in Rome

By Rick

December 13, 2014

Ah, a family Christmas in Rome, what could be more enchanting? The market in Piazza Navona, the lights running down Via del Corso, the presepi in every church. Bello!

Sure, “bello,” but the kids get bored easily, so what do you do for the other 29 days or so during the holiday season?

Fortunately I ran into Shannon Kenny from Italiakids in Rimini a couple years ago. And although I know Rome quite well, I don’t have the slightest idea of how to amuse the bambini. I’d better learn fast—my little principessa is already four years old, and completely fascinated by the lights, the decorations, and the fat guy dressed in red (she loves to jump up on his lap and yank REALLY HARD on his beard!)

So I’m turning my blog over to Shannon today, and she’s going to tell all of us anxious parents how to keep the ragazzini viziati occupied during the holidays. Here’s her advice…

family christmas in romeRome displays all of its urban finery during the holidays, a fun season for families to visit the Eternal City, when the weather is likely to be mild, and the streets are alive with lights, whimsical decorations, processions and fairs, and even a Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) here and there descending from a shuttered window.

Italians celebrate the Christmas season through the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when the legendary La Befana, an old woman who rides on a broom, delivers toys and treats to the shoes left out by good boys and girls, or coal for the kids who have misbehaved during the year. Piazza Navona plays host every year during this time to the La Befana Christmas market, where families will find rows of market stalls displaying candied nuts, chocolates, roast chestnuts, and seasonal handicrafts and gifts.

Among my daughters’ favorite items here are the giant donuts (big enough for two!) and the stalls with figurines and decorations for making your own presepe (Nativity scene), along with the antique carousel. Piazza Navona is the site of two of our favorite toy shops, flanking either end of the oval-shaped piazza.

Across Bernini’s Bridge of Angels in the play park next to Castel Del’Angelo the city sets up a temporary ice rink, where families can skate to music with a view of the castello. Rental skates are available. The Parco della Musica, just outside the center, also sets up an outdoor ice rink as part of its Christmas Village festivities. The Christmas Village includes a wide range of daily children’s events, with a circus tent and a children’s theater, along with performances by children’s choirs and orchestras.

In fact, throughout the city you will find children’s venues with family-friendly performances. Your holiday wouldn’t be complete without a concert or theatrical event, such as a puppet show. A few good English-language sources for events in Rome include, Wanted in Rome, and In Rome Now.

Our family also enjoys the simple entertainment of taking in the holiday lights, dining at a trattoria among the delicate white lights strung throughout the medieval streets around Campo de’ Fiori or gazing at the grand lights illuminating the fashion houses in the Spanish Steps shopping area around Via Condotti. The kids can snap photos of soaring Christmas trees placed in almost every piazza, perhaps most famously in front of the time in italy for christmas

The whole family will enjoy a visit to the exhibition of hundreds of antique presepi in Piazza del Popolo at the Sale del Bramante in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. Or the kids can make their own Nativity scenes and learn how Rome has celebrated the season since antiquity at the Arte al Sole arts and cultural holiday workshops in English near Piazza Navona. Parents can drop off their children to have fun exploring Rome’s art and history through seasonal projects from 9:30-3:00, giving parents time to do some secret shopping, tour a museum, or enjoy a long Roman lunch.

Just around the corner from here near Via del Governo Vecchio, rest your feet from shopping with tea and hot chocolate at the Chiostro del Bramante, a magical medieval cloister with a café on the second level. The museum also hosts special children’s events and courses just above the café throughout the year.

From ice skating, to echoes of choral ensembles resounding from churches, or the anticipation of the revealing of the manger scene in front of St. Peter’s at midnight on Christmas Eve, enjoying Rome’s holiday festivities makes for an especially memorable family Christmas in Rome!

About the Author

Shannon Kenny is Editor-in-Chief of, an online resource for families traveling in Italy, Director of the children’s cultural program Arte al Sole, with 6 locations in Italy, and Founding Partner of Elaia Travel, a specialty travel concierge with expertise in family travel to Europe.

Recent Posts:

About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • So lovely! I was in Rome on the 28 December 2012 and the atmosphere was still so Christmassy! It was incredible…I remember it fondly. Hopefully one day I’ll go back for Christmas.

  • Oh how I would love to spend Christmas in Rome! These suggestions are appealing to adults with grown children as well; thanks for the post, and Merry Christmas!

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