From the cruise ship you need to take a port shuttle to the edge of the port and then head for the train station, which is about a mile away. We were hoping to take a taxi to the station to save Harry's legs, but there weren't any to be found so we ended up walking. On the way back though we managed to pick up the bus which cost just 80 cents and was clearly labelled. At the station we bought a BIRG pass which covers your train travel to Rome and back, as well as public transport once there. It cost 12 Euros for an adult and 5 Euros for Harry, with his travel within Rome being free. The staff at the station were very helpful when it came to buying the ticket and reminding us to validate it before we left, and you can find the train timetables online. We took the train to Roma Ostiense which is linked to the Piramide Metro station, and then the Metro to Colosseo which is just a couple of stops.
Ram and I visited Rome together almost ten years ago, and despite staying for nearly a week we still felt that we'd not seen everything. We had places in mind that we wanted to take Harry, but we were very conscious that he's only little, and there would be a lot of walking in the heat, so we tried to stick to just the highlights.
We started our day at the Colosseum. We purchased joint tickets for the Colosseum and the Forum in advance on the official website, which was well worth doing as it was very busy. There was still a queue to collect the tickets, but it wasn't as bad as the queue to buy tickets. It was well organised, and once inside although busy there was still plenty of space to see everything. We didn't do a guided tour and there isn't a great deal of interpretation, so if you aren't doing a tour it's worth getting hold of a guide book if you want to learn more about what you are seeing.
Harry was very interested, we have a Playmobil arena set which he enjoys playing with so he had some idea of what to expect. It doesn't take too long to visit and you can have a good look around on the ground floor and one of the higher up levels.
Next we headed to the Basilica San Clemente, and I'd definitely recommend a visit if you are in Rome. We discovered it on our previous visit and it really was a hidden gem. It was a little busier this time, so it's obviously become a bit more well known, but it wasn't at all crowded. When you enter the basilica it looks like a normal old church, although still interesting to visit, then you descend to find the remains of the old fourth century church underneath, and then you go down again to discover the remains of a first century pagan temple and Roman streets, and a villa with a spring, all dug out at the bottom. It really is amazing, and gives a good sense of just how much history is buried underneath modern day Rome. Admission to the excavations is currently 5 Euros with children free, but this will rise to 10 Euros come July 2015, and check the opening times before you visit, as it closes for a couple of hours over lunch. Unfortunately you aren't allowed to take photographs, but you can see some on the website above, it really is a fascinating place.
Next we headed to the Forum. Again, there was quite a queue to get inside even with pre-booked tickets, but once inside it is such a large space that there are no problems with the crowds. Once again, there isn't a lot of interpretation if you aren't doing a tour and we only found a couple of maps on boards, so if you want to know more about what you are seeing but don't fancy a guided tour I'd recommend buying a guide book.
We knew that Harry wouldn't have the patience to stay very long, so we did a quick walk around, stopping at the places that interested him with plenty of breaks for snacks in the shade. He was getting tired in the heat but we still managed to have a good look around and he really was interested in everything. There is a lot to take in, and we found it was a good idea to find somewhere to sit where you can see a lot at once and talk about it, to get the bigger picture.
We finished our day with a walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali, which is a route that we often walked on our previous visit as it was close to our hotel. There are lots more excavations along by the side of the road that you can just wander past, and there is also Trajan's Column to see, which was covered in scaffolding on our last visit so it was nice to have a proper look!
We stopped in at the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument, an imposing structure which you are free to climb for some fantastic views of Rome. You can also take a scenic elevator ride to the very top.
Harry was definitely flagging by this point so we abandoned our tentative plan to stop at the Vatican City on the way back. We later found out that was a good idea, as the queues would have been so long by that time that we would have seen very little. So we walked back to the Colosseo Metro station, and it was time to catch the train and head back to the ship after a very tiring day!
On our cruise we also visited Pompeii, this time with both children, and you can find my post on Visiting Pompeii with small children here.