Asking a child to visit a museum can be a daunting task. Historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural exhibits are to a child’s unaccustomed eyes often obscure and mysterious places, filled with boredom and unreachable artifacts, too much information, and incomprehensible terminology.
Why not try to attract our children’s attention with a more playful and less academic approach? Few Roman museums provide didactic or multimedia areas that speak directly to younger visitors; but it’s also true that Rome offers a rich and articulate choice of fun themed and child-enticing museums. It is our job, the parents, to alternate the more scholarly ones, to the simply playful and educating for a more thorough and enjoyable cultural experience of the city. Here are a few favorites.
Zoology Museum | Museo Civico di Zoologia (Parioli)
Via Ulisse Aldrovandi 18 | Tel. +39 06 6710 9270 | http://www.museodizoologia.it | Opening hours: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Closed Mon. | Entrance fee: €6,00, free admission for kids under 18 and over 65!
Rome’s natural history and animal kingdom museum. Located next door to the Rome Conservation Zoo (Bioparco) the museum can be accessed by either the main Museum entrance or through the Zoo. There are five million specimens in total (molluscs, insects, birds, mammals and fossils). The displays are newly rearranged following modern criteria, with over 3200 square feet of multi-sensorial and interactive exhibitions and 3D reconstructions. Kids love to compare the chimpanzee, orangutan and human skeletons, as well as marvel before the giant elephant one. The lifesize giraffe is always a hit. A biodiversity display includes sections on the significance of reproduction in the animal world; adaptations in borderline environments and ecosystems.
Mineralogy Museum (Via Veneto)
Largo Santa Susanna 13 | Tel. +39 06 481 9747
The origin of this Museum is connected with the foundation of the Italian Geological Committee (1869) that in 1873 moved to Rome from Florence. The items on display include fossils, rocks and minerals. The palaeontological section includes organisms belonging to the flora and the fauna kingdoms from the Palaeozoic to the Neolithic age. Another very interesting area is the lithological section, which includes marbles and materials used for decorations and constructions.
Chocolate Museum | SAID Società Azionaria Industria Dolciaria (San Lorenzo)
Via Tiburtina, 135 | Tel. +39 06 446 8210 | www.said.it | Free admission
This ancient chocolate manufacturer founded by Aldo De Mauro in 1923 was severely damaged during the July 1943 bombings of the San Lorenzo housing development. It was recently brought back to life to house a museum dedicated to the princess of sweet delights. Kids can enjoy the still functioning ancient chocolate machinery, the steel tabletop used to cool the molten caramel, the heating tunnel used for the molds; and also the plant’s library, a to-die-for confectioner’s store, the drawing-room where visitors can read, attend classes, and taste a cup of Brazilian chocolate with organic whipped cream, or some delicious pizza bianca with dark chocolate and excellent chocolate pralines made with soft ricotta filling in the SAID restaurant. For the parents, a nip of the house rare cacao liqueur is a must…
Geology Museum (San Lorenzo-University area)
Piazzale Aldo Moro 5 – First Floor Earth Sciences Department | Tel. +39 06 4991 4825
Founded by the Roman doctor and scientist Giuseppe Ponzi (1805 – 1885), this University Museum is famous for the “T. Belli” collection of ancient marbles, formed by 550 marble-chip floor tiles, discovered during archeological excavations. Another important collection is the “Dodwell” one, constituting about 1000 marble chip floor tiles, coming from various localities in Europe.
Centrale Montemartini | Classical art in a converted electric plant (Garbatella)
Via Ostiense 106 | Tel. +30 06 0608 | Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9.00 am-7.00 pm- Christmas and New Year’s Day 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. (the ticket office closes 30 minutes earlier) | Closed Mon. | www.centralemontemartini.org
The history if the new exhibition space for the Rome Musei Capitolini in the former Giovanni Montemartini Thermoelectric Plant, is an extraordinary example of industrial archaeology converted into a museum. When hundreds of sculptures were transferred during the remodeling works carried out across much of the Roman complex, a temporary exhibition was created in 1997 in the newly restored rooms of the first public electricity plant in Rome. Despite its temporary onset, it was decided to turn the building into a permanent expo location. Free admission for kids under 12 on Sundays. Drawing and painting materials are available for reproducing the sculptures on display, and guided tours for children are furthermore available. Visit the website for tour info, entrance fees and discounts.
Dario Argento Horror Movie Museum (Prati)
Via dei Gracchi, 260 | Tel. +39 06 321 1395 | Opening hours: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 3.30-8 p.m. | Closed Sun.
Scene reconstruction and special effects from famous films by Italian horror director icon Dario Argento. More suited for older kids, as some artifacts can get quite gory.
National Pasta Museum | Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari (Trevi Fountain area)
Piazza Scanderbeg, 117 | Tel. +39 06 699 1119 | www.museodellapasta.it
Opening hours: 9.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. | Entrance fee €7.75
Utensils and objects documenting the history of pasta, from the Etruscan era to the present day.
Museum of Musical Instruments | Museo Strumentale dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Vatican area)
Via della Conciliazione, 4 | Tel. +39 06 328 171 | Opening hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. | Closed Wed. | Free admission
The collection includes 255 musical instruments, including a 1690 noteworthy Stradivari violin.
Museum at the Owl House | Museo della Casina delle Civette (Nomentana area)
Villa Torlonia on Via Nomentana, 70 | Tel. +39 06 4425 0072
Opening hours: winter 9 a.m. -5 p.m. in summer 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Closed on Monday | Entrance fee: €2.58
A fanciful building on the grounds of the stunning Villa Torlonia park, graced with several splendid Art-Nouveau stained glass windows produced between 1908 and 1930.
Fire Brigade Museum (Testaccio)
Via Galvani, 2 | Opening hours: 9.30 – 12.30 p.m. and 4.30 – 7.30 p.m. | Closed Mon. a.m. | Free admission
The museum shows the history of Rome’s fire-fighting service, starting from the age of Emperor Augustus to the present day. Kids will love seeing the many pictures on display as well as the many videos, or participating in experiments with special optical and sound effects.
Antique Chariots and Stagecoaches | Carrozze d’Epoca (Ardeatina/Cecchignola area)
Via Andrea Millevoi, 693 | Tel. +39 06 5195 8112 – 06 507 3500 | www.lecarrozzedepoca.it | Opening hours: Tue-Fri 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 3.30-6.30 p.m. Sat and Sun. 9.30 a.m. – 1.30 p.m. and 3.30-7 p.m. | Entrance fee: €7,00 (children between 6-12 €5,00) Free admission for kids under 6
In a 10,000 square-foot space, the Carrozze d’Epoca permanent display of ancient vehicles features 160 models of antique carriages, complete with saddles, harnesses, paintings related to the subject, valuable porcelain, suits of armour, saddlecloths, period weapons, antique equipment and toys, accessories and peculiarities. Kids can also enjoy the majestic official carriages used by governors, magistrates, princes, popes and knights of Malta, the chariots featured in the films Ben Hur and Gladiator, several antique stagecoaches, the Egyptian chariot of Aida, a horse-drawn omnibus which carried 15 passengers for the price of 5 pennies, coupés, convertibles, a caravan of the Far West, work carts, two-wheeled Sicilian carts, firemen and of farmers’ wagons, oriental carriages, and much more.
Prehistoric Museum | Museo Pigorini (EUR)
Piazza Marconi, 14 | Tel. +39 06 549 521 | Opening hours: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. – Sun. and holidays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Free admission for the disabled and EU citizens under 18 and over 60 | Entrance fee: €3,00-€6,00 | Closed Mon. | www.pigorini.arti.beniculturali.it
The first floor exhibits an ethnographic section, divided by continent. But kids love the second floor, where the prehistoric and protohistoric items are displayed. These sections are constantly brought up to date thanks to findings coming from all over Italy. The paleontology and Africa sections are equipped with a CD guide for the visually impaired.
Via della Pittura | Tel. +39 06 591 4484 | Opening hours: Mon. to Fri. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sat, Sun & holidays 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Free admission for kids under 6
Not a real museum per se, rather a hands-on area where the laws of physics can be tested with the help of stimulating experiments: squared soap bubbles, boats navigating uphill and all sorts of other curious science oddities.
Museum of Roman Civilization | Museo della Civiltà Romana (EUR)
Piazza G. Agnelli | Opening hours: Tue-Sat 9 a.m. to 6.45 p.m. and Sun 9 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. | Closed Mon.
The museum retraces the history of Rome and its civilization all over the world. The approximately 4,000 items on view in the museum include plaster casts of statues, busts, bas-reliefs and inscriptions as well as reproductions of objects of everyday use. The magnificent model of Imperial Rome in 1:250 scale is not to be missed. In this hands-on museum, kids here are free to touch the statues without parents getting fined for vandalism.
Out-of-town bonus trip:
Roman Vessel Museum | Museo delle Navi Romane di Nemi
Via Diana, 15, Nemi | Tel. +39 06 939 8040 | Opening hours: every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Closed New Year’s day, May 1st and Christmas.
The museum in the lovely town of Nemi (33 Km south of Rome View Map) houses two ancient ship hulls belonging to Emperor Caligula’s laker fleet, recovered between 1929 ans 1932 at the bottom of Lake Nemi. Each ship was 70 meters long and were used by the emperor as floating party venues, following the Greek custom of building “floating palaces.” What you and the kids can visit today are however smaller replicas of the original vessels. In May 1944 an arson attack destroyed the precious ships and the entire museum. In 1953 they were reconstructed in 1:5 scale; and in 2001 the museum was fully remodeled to display them.
During the first Sunday in June, the museum visit can be followed by a taste of the delightful local wild strawberries called fragoline di bosco, at the Sagra delle Fragoline, where the fresh fruit is showcased and sold all across town.