Rome offers a vast number of outdoor public areas provided for children to play, within parks, or as stand-alone recreation venues. Unfortunately many of the city’s playgrounds have been vandalized or are in close proximity to uninviting areas. Here are some of the city’s best.
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· Villa Ada This vast play area is just down the gravel path as you turn right at the Via Salaria 273 or 275 entrance to the Villa Ada public park. There are plenty of well-maintained swings, slides, climbing ropes, seesaws and bench platforms. There is also plenty space for bicycles and a picnic area that serves as an open-air birthday party venue. Tip: you can avoid the traffic on Via Salaria by taking the hidden entrance to the park from Via Panama 29, which is behind the playground on Via Panama (see below). A path veers left and down a wooden ramp of steps into Villa Ada.
· Via Panama Take the cycle path down Via Panama off of Piazza Ungheria, and you won’t miss this large enclosed play space. The equipment is fairly standard but there is plenty of it and there is also space for riding bicycles, tricycles and scooters. The pavement beneath the swings and jungle-gyms is in soft weatherproof foam rubber, and the gravel path circling the perimeter of the enclosed play area was just recently redone. This particular playground is a non-smoking, non-dog area.
· Villa Balestra This small park sits perched on the elegant Parioli district’s Monte Parioli hill and provides a splendid view of Rome. Enter the park at the end of Via Ammannati and proceed to the large enclosed play area at the other end of the park. The equipment is new and there are rides for kids of all ages. Next to the play area, parents can relax at the Villa Balestra’s café with outdoor seating and enjoy a coffee or spremuta while the little ones play. There is also a paved basketball court which doubles as a space for riding bicycles and scooters.
· Villa Glori At the north end of Via di Villa Glori, between the newly founded café and the pony corral, is a small play structure enclosed in a sandy patch. Very little equipment, but fun pony rides for just €3,50. For a higher price, kids can take a guided horse walk around the park.
· Auditorium Parco della Musica In an elevated section of the recently founded Concert Hall’s 50 acre park, the fully equipped playground enjoys sunlight until very late in the day, allowing good Vitamin D intake and lots of free roaming playtime. The jungle-gyms, slides and other structures are brand new and the flooring is in soft weatherproof foam rubber.
Image © Roma Every Day
· Casina di Raffaello Playground Constructed at the beginning of 2007, this play area in Viale della Casina di Raffaello is adjacent to the Casina di Raffaello, an activity center (ludoteca) for children aged 3+. The equipment is not your typical swings and slides rather much more innovative and environment-friendly. There are several balance beams and even wooden planks that make music when you jump on them. For small children, there are also a wooden tractor to sit on, logs shaped like sheep and cattle, and 3 little wooden houses to play in. Inside the ludoteca, there are a book and toy store, and a quiet reading space with Italian children’s books and chalkboard tables that little ones can draw on. The child-proportioned bathrooms also provide changing stations.
· Bioparco The Rome Zoo within the Villa Borghese perimeter has a fantastic Noah’s Ark-shaped playground with several ramps, rope bridges, slides and tunnels. The only drawback is that to access the playground area, parents and children taller than 1 meter (3 ft) must pay an entrance fee to the zoo.
· Villa Torlonia This is a recently refurbished play area within an enclosed space in Via Siracusa. Just down the road, on Viale di Villa Massimo, there is another green area with some equipment for younger children (age 2 to 3). You can also take the kids to the Limonaia di Villa Torlonia, a café and restaurant on the other side of the park, and treat yourselves to some excellent gelato.
· Via della Cava Aurelia n.100 This is not inside a park, but is still worth the visit. It is a large enclosed play space with swings, slides and climbing ropes, plus benches where you can sit while the kids play. There is also room for kids to ride their bicycle, tricycle or scooter. Watch out though: this space can get extremely crowded in the afternoon when school is out.
· Villa Celimontana This public park is up the hill at the south end of the Colosseum, walk up Via Claudia, which eventually becomes Via della Navicella. To the right, at number 12 is the entrance. Walk down the beautiful gravel path to the large playground, where kids can also enjoy riding bikes and scooters too.
· Villa Sciarra A delightful small park with a well-equipped children’s playground, and the American Fine Arts Academy and the American University in close proximity. The swings, slides and seesaws are not stellar, but well-maintained. The park also has a pond and a peacock in a huge cage that kids are strangely attracted to. Take the Tram n.8 from Largo Argentina, get off at the Ministero dell’Instruzione (A large grey official building on the northwest side of the avenue) and walk up the hill on Via Dandolo, and turn left on Via Calandrelli, at number 35 is the Villa’s entrance.
· Villa Doria Pamphili This space has its entrance in Largo Botanica, off Via Aurelia Antica in Monteverde, at the end of the park furthest from the Porta S. Pancrazio entrance. The equipment is not breathtaking (just swings and slides), but the surroundings are beautiful, the park is huge and there is plenty of space for riding bicycles and scooters. Kids can look for pine nuts on the ground and crack them open with a rock. “Pinoli” provide a tasty snack.
On the other side of the Tiber River, there is a playground in front of the Santa Cecilia in Trastevere church, as well as in the moat-park that surrounds Castel Sant’Angelo. Don’t forego the interior of this grandiose tomb-turned-papal fortress-turned-museum. It’s a treasure trove of armor and curious old weapons, with enough of the castle stuff—guard posts, stacks of cannonballs, passageways and lookouts—to keep even antsy little kids happy while parents admire the opulent frescoes and furnishings.