Planning a trip to Rome with kids and want to make it educational yet fun? Keep scrolling to check out my tips for becoming a gladiator for a day on your next Rome vacation!
This post about how to become a gladiator for a day was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
If your kids have learned anything about Ancient Roman history, they probably know something about gladiators. Even my 6-year-old and 9-year-old had a basic understanding of who the gladiators were and what they did.
It’s a big reason why they had the Colosseum on their bucket list and why they were so excited when I told them I signed them up for Gladiator School!
Keep scrolling to see exactly how we spent one day in Rome learning about Roman gladiators.
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Rome blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Rome with kids.
Popular Rome Tours/Activities
- Golf Cart Tour (this is a great way to sightsee without having to walk everywhere)
- Skip-The-Line Colosseum for Families Tour (definitely the way to go)
- Rome Gladiator School (seriously, the best Rome activity for my kids)
- Family Vatican Highlight Scavenger Hunt (great way to keep kids engaged)
- Rome Tour for Kids with Gelato & Pizza (tasty tour for families)
- Flytographer photo shoot (they are easy to book and really affordable)
Kid-Friendly Rome Hotels
- Parlamento Boutique Hotel (easy walk to the Trevi Fountain and has free WiFi and A/C)
- Il Campo Marzio (easy walk to Trevi Fountain and Pantheon and has free WiFi and A/C)
- Charme Spagna Boutique Hotel (they have a family suite and have free WiFi and A/C)
- Hotel Scalinata di Spagna (offers free breakfast, A/C, and WiFi)
- Hotel Manfredi Suite in Rome (great location with lots of family rooms, free WiFi and A/C)
What are the Top Things to Know About Ancient Rome?
It’s helpful to know the following Ancient Roman facts before your trip so you’ll have a general understanding of what Ancient Rome was like.
Founding of Rome
According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by twin brothers Romulus and Remus, who were raised by a she-wolf. Romulus eventually killed Remus and became the first king of Rome, which was named after him.
Republic to Empire
Rome was originally a monarchy, but it became a republic in 509 BC after the last of its seven kings was overthrown.
This republic lasted until 27 BC, when Julius Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, became Emperor Augustus, marking the start of the Roman Empire.
The Romans were extraordinary engineers and architects. They constructed roads and walls – things we now take for granted.
They built grand structures like the Colosseum and aqueducts, and utilized advanced technologies such as underfloor heating in their buildings.
The Roman legal code is the basis of many modern legal systems. The Romans were the first to introduce the idea that a person was innocent until proven guilty.
The Roman Army
The Roman army was a formidable force and a crucial part of the expansion of the Roman Empire. They were highly disciplined, well-trained, and used innovative battle strategies.
Fall of the Roman Empire
The fall of the Western Roman Empire occurred in 476 AD, marking the end of ancient Rome. This fall was due to a combination of internal decay and external threats from Germanic tribes.
Before You Go to Rome
Tickets to the Colosseum sell out quickly, especially during high season. The easiest way to secure tickets is by booking a Colosseum tour because your tour guide will take care of getting tickets.
Otherwise, you can reserve your own Colosseum tickets through this site, but it can be tricky to get them.
The best gladiator school in Rome is the Rome Gladiator School. It’s open to kids of all ages and parents don’t need to book a ticket for themselves if they are just watching.
You’ll need to book tickets ahead of time for anyone participating to reserve your spot.
I suggest packing anything you might need for a day of adventure and exploration. This includes sunscreen, bug spray, hats for everyone, and comfortable shoes.
You might also want to have your own snacks and drinks just to stay hydrated and fueled up.
If you really want to go above and beyond, I suggest reading some books with your kids, such as this See Inside Ancient Rome flap book or The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome: A Handbook for Time Travelers.
Gladiator for a Day: 1 Day Rome Itinerary for Families
For families who want to learn about Ancient Rome through hands-on experiences, I’ve got the ultimate one-day Rome itinerary for kids and families.
Morning: Exploring the Roman Forum and Colosseum
We booked a 2-hour private tour of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. It started at 9:00 a.m. so we could beat some of the heat and enjoy fewer crowds. Although Rome in the summer is always crowded!
It was specifically geared for kids and our tour guide had lots of visuals that she brought out. Some of these showed the different gladiator outfits and others showed what the Colosseum originally looked like.
As we walked through the Colosseum, our guide Valeria told us about its history and significance. She also had a scavenger hunt for the kids where they had to find specific details during the tour.
One of the places we saw at the Colosseum was the bathroom for the spectators and our guide had an illustration of what it probably looked like. The communal toilet paper brush thing made a big impression on my boys!
My favorite part of the tour was when she’d let us know the best spots for photos.
A Few Things Parents Should Know About the Colosseum
- There’s actually a lot of shade
- Pay attention to signs so you know where you can’t sit down
- Pay attention to the signs that tell you where you can sit but NOT put your feet on
- The stairs are kind of steep so you may need to help toddlers and preschoolers
Midday: Lunch Break and Rest
After our Colosseum tour, my family was mostly interested in getting gelato. Our tour guide gave us a link to a Google map where she had marked all the best gelato stops nearby.
After eating gelato in Italy all week, we knew there was a huge difference between “meh” gelato and the good stuff!
So, we ended up just doing gelato and grabbing cold drinks from a convenience store instead of a full lunch. But there are lots of kid-friendly places to eat near the Colosseum.
- Hostaria Isidoro: This place offers a children’s menu alongside a wide range of Italian dishes, pizza, and seafood. It has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, ideal for a family meal.
- Li Rioni Pizzeria: Located close to the Colosseum, this pizzeria is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. They offer a variety of pizzas cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven.
- Trattoria Luzzi: This trattoria offers generous portions of traditional Roman cuisine at reasonable prices, including pasta, pizza, and gelato. It has a relaxed and casual atmosphere that’s perfect for families.
Afternoon: Rome Gladiator School Experience
After we had our gelato, we hopped in an Uber to head to the Rome Gladiator School. It’s NOT located at the Colosseum but in a quieter area of Rome.
The Rome Gladiator School, also known as the Roman Gladiator School, or the Gruppo Storico Romano, is a unique experience in Rome that offers participants the chance to train as a Roman gladiator.
The school is operated by the Gruppo Storico Romano, a historical reenactment group that stages gladiator shows and events.
At the school, you can learn about ancient Roman history, specifically about the life of a gladiator in the ancient Roman Empire.
With our 2-hour Rome gladiator experience, we got to try on different replica helmets and hold weapons (like swords) and shields to see how they were used. This took place in their little museum.
Then, we got to wear traditional Roman gladiator costumes before doing a full gladiator training session. This included dodging swinging sandbags, hopping through ladders, jumping over ropes, and doing pushups.
After that, our guide taught us basic techniques for combat and combinations of moves. This included partnering up to practice both offensive and defensive strategies.
There was also a section where teams had to construct an item in less than a minute!
Finally, after everyone was trained, it was time to head into the small arena for a battle!
They had the kids battle each other, then the adults, and then the kids partnered with the adults to battle everyone. It was quite entertaining!
At the very end, everyone earned a new Roman name and got a certificate. Check the latest rates and availability.
A Few Things Parents Should Know About Rome Gladiator School
- You can choose to participate or just go as a spectator while your kid participates
- There are tons of bugs, so you’ll want to apply lots of bug spray
- It’s mostly shaded
- You can take as many pictures or videos as you like
- The school can help you arrange a taxi after your experience
Family Discussion Ideas
We spent a lot of time talking about the stuff we learned at the Colosseum and Rome Gladiator School while we enjoyed dinner that evening.
We talked a lot about the historical and cultural significance of gladiators. We also chatted about how we learned slightly conflicting things between each experience and how that just goes to show that you shouldn’t rely on just one source of information.
Our kids spent a lot of time talking about the “doctor” who was in charge of seeing if gladiators were actually too hurt to fight but would survive or if they were so hurt that he needed to smash their heads with a hammer.
We also chatted about what life was like for gladiators and how doing these experiences helped us gain a better understanding of their lives. This is especially true for the gladiators who were slaves and didn’t really have a choice.
Optional Add-Ons and Roman Activities
Of course, this isn’t the only 1-day Rome itinerary that covers Ancient Rome. There are tons of other places to visit or tours to do.
You could also do this Skip-the-Line Tour to Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. It’s 2.5 hours long and you’ll learn a ton of information about the Ancient Romans.
There’s also a really unique event called Welcome To Rome: Immersive Journey Through Rome’s History. It’s a multimedia presentation that is projected on walls and ceilings so people can see what things looked like in Ancient Rome. Talk about bringing history to life!
For families with older kids, you might consider this Circus Maximus Virtual Reality Game. You’ll learn a bit about the history of the Circus Maximus before putting on a VR headset and participating in a chariot race!
Tips for a Successful Gladiator for a Day Experience
Dressing appropriately for the activities and weather conditions
Always check the weather before you go so you can make sure everyone is dressed appropriately.
It was HOT when we went, so we made sure to wear hats, comfortable sandals, and summer clothing. I was totally fine wearing a dress for the whole experience but others might want to wear shorts.
There isn’t really a dress code for the Colosseum, but I would suggest wearing sturdy shoes and clothes that are easy to move around in.
Wear bug spray and re-apply it
We didn’t notice any bugs at the Colosseum, but there were tons at Rome Gladiator School. I’m so glad we all wore bug spray and then re-applied it a few times throughout the afternoon.
You might also want to bring some After Bite for any bug bites you still get that feel itchy.
Staying hydrated and carrying snacks for energy throughout the day
There are a few fountains at the Colosseum where you can refill your water bottle. You can also buy drinks ahead of time. The important thing is that you are staying hydrated.
Kids will also appreciate it if you have some snacks that you can eat before/after visiting the Colosseum. And I definitely recommend re-energizing everyone with mid-day gelato!
Capturing memories through photos and videos
I’m so glad that I was able to take so many photos and videos throughout our day. I mean, how often are your kids going to have the opportunity to be in a historic place like the Colosseum?
Plus, the Gladiator School of Rome is such a unique experience.
I’m planning on showing my kids these photos and videos when they start learning more about Roman history at school!
Rome Gladiator Training FAQs
Is there a gladiator museum in Rome?
There is a small museum at the Rome Gladiator School.
Can kids participate in the Gladiator School of Roe?
Yes, the Gladiator School of Rome is a family-friendly activity. Children can take part, making it a fun and educational experience for them. However, there may be age restrictions depending on the specific program.
How long does the gladiator experience last?
The duration can vary depending on the program, but typically, a session at the Gladiator School lasts around 2 hours. The session includes learning about authentic weapons, participating in training camp, and joining in arena battles with a sword and shield.
Do I need to prepare or bring anything to the Gladiator School?
You don’t need to bring anything special. Just wear comfortable clothes and shoes for physical activity. All equipment, including costumes and weapons, are provided at the school.
Do I need to book in advance?
It’s recommended to book the experience in advance, especially during peak tourist season, to secure your preferred time slot for both the Gladiator School and the Colosseum.
Where is the Gladiator School located?
The Gladiator School, operated by the Gruppo Storico Romano, is located in Rome, near the Appian Way – an ancient road that was one of the earliest and most important Roman roads.
Will there be a language barrier?
The instructors at the Gladiator School speak English and Italian. Therefore, there should not be significant language barriers for English-speaking participants.
Can I really learn how to fight like a gladiator?
While you’ll learn some basic moves and get a taste of what gladiatorial combat was like, remember that the Gladiator School is more of a fun, educational experience than a comprehensive combat training course.
But you’ll still have so much fun doing a bit of gladiator fighting!
Roman Fighters and Gladiators Wrap Up
This was by far my kids’ favorite day in Rome! We got to walk the streets of Ancient Rome at the Roman Forum, explore the Colosseum, and then become gladiators!
We’ve been home for a few weeks and my 6-year-old has been reciting everything he learned in excruciating detail! It was such an immersive way to understand Roman history for kids!