For anyone who wants to experience the full glory of the Eternal City, a visit to the Vatican is essential. The centre of the Roman Catholic Church is one of the richest sources of culture, history, and architecture in Europe, and is home to some of the most iconic Renaissance art in the world.
For those with children, it may seem like a fairly big challenge to engage in a cultural excursion of this proportion. However, with a little bit of planning, it can actually be an extremely fun and fulfilling experience for young ones – and anyone with a family knows that's great news for parents.
Vatican Tours: Perfect for Families
Exploring the Vatican alone can be overwhelming, but with a family it can be positively exhausting. Booking one of the organised Vatican tours can eliminate the stress entirely, allowing you to focus on the truly awe-inspiring experience it should be.
Eschew the Queue
As one of the most popular attractions in Rome, entry queues can stretch as long as several hours in high season – a guaranteed red flag for the attention span of children. But the beauty of booking organised small-group Vatican tours is that you'll meet up with your guide and get streamlined access to the complex.
Art History Can Be Fun
Once you’re inside, the benefits of having a guide who's intimately acquainted with the floor plan of the Vatican’s museums really can't be overstated. The sheer size and scope of the collections (there are over four miles of corridors and galleries) can take a first- time visitor by surprise, making it all too easy to wander aimlessly and bore the children. But with the expert guides’ extensive knowledge and experience, the masterpieces of the Vatican will come alive in young hearts and minds.
Engaging youngsters in art and history is so much easier when they're face to face with the subjects. A passionate guide can make the stories behind the art pieces fascinating with rich, child-friendly renditions of the Greek myths that form the backbone of Roman mythology. Instead of simply glazing over at the sight of a crumbling statue, children will be able to recognise characters like Mercury and Hercules and make a connection with their history.
Pieces like the Statue of Laocoön and His Sons and Apollo del Belvedere, the hallowed chambers of the Gallery of Tapestries and the Gallery of Maps, and the exquisite detail of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel become meaningful and, therefore, memorable.
The lasting effects of such an immersive art history experience don’t end when the tour is over. Once exposed to this vast cultural legacy, children will be able to see its influence everywhere they turn on the streets of Rome and beyond.
Before You Go
In order to make the most of Vatican tours, it's a lovely idea to introduce your children to some of the art work they're going to see beforehand. With the aid of books and videos, you’ll be able to gauge what's likely to pique their interest, and can ensure that they get to see their favourites in the flesh - or, rather, in the stone, marble, or paint! Create a fun list of sculptures and paintings that they relate to, which will give them something to look out for when you tour the Vatican.
In the end, though, it's important to remember that children are just that – young people with curious minds but short attention spans. If you encourage them to be mindful travellers and continue to nurture them with these kinds of cultural experiences, with luck they'll develop a lifelong appreciation for history and art.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group experiences, including Vatican tours , guided visits to view the masterpieces of the great art galleries, and unforgettable Italian cookery classes.