At these three sites, all very close together, I finally got a good feel for the might of Rome. The sheer scale of the constructions, the engineering needed to build them, the beautiful art work, and the fact that so much is still standing after 2,000 years, is just amazing.
Having just watched Gladiator with the boys, we were most excited by the Colosseum but the Palatine, and esp. the Forum with all its temples, also captured our interest. If you have kids, I strongly recommend you watch programs about Rome before you visit. Firing up their imaginations is one of the best things you can do. We also watched one of Rick Steves' videos, and the decent Ancient Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire. Hunting for Roman numerals turned out to be a surprise hit: the boys really enjoyed learning these concepts and still make up their own Roman math problems.
This was the first area we visited in Rome and made for a great start.
- To take pictures of the whole Colosseum, visit at midday so one side isn't in the shade
- A guided visit may be nice but you can learn a lot just through the extensive explanations and exhibits (though this will likely be long for children)
- If you buy a Roma pass, which gives you 3 days' unlimited travel on public transportation + 2 free museums, the Colosseum / Palantine / Forum counts as one visit and you can bypass the lines at the Colosseum
- Bring food & drinks: you can easily spend the whole day here and the nearest food stalls are very expensive (in the summer bring lots of water!)
- The Colosseum's bookstore has a great selection of books on Roman history, mythology, games, customs, etc. including an excellent children's section
- Contrary to the Colosseum, there aren't many explanations / signs to read at the Palatine and Forum, so get guide or buy a book to help you better appreciate what you're seeing
- You rent audio guides at many sites in Rome though we did see people listening to guides on their iPods (something to investigate...)