Looking for a way to entertain your kids in Rome?
Tired of their complaints at having been schlepped around endless churches and museums? Worn down from their constant demands for pizza and gelato? Exhausted by their boundless energy and desperate for something at which they can wear themselves out and therefore get a good night’s sleep?
Well, call off the dogs because I’ve found just the activity for them. Just a short trip from the historic centre of Rome, there’s a place they can get a history lesson, get fit and have fun, simultaneously.
Welcome to Gladiator School.
Located on the Via Appia Antica (one of the oldest and most important Roman roads), the ‘Gruppo Storico Romano’ offers young kids and teenagers short courses (throughout a morning or afternoon) in gladiator training, complete with full attire (including a fake sword!)
The event kicks off with a tour around a small historical museum on site, where kids are told a little about the history of the sport, as well as given the opportunity to try on some helmet, and pick up armour!
Then, it’s out to the courtyard to don red tunics.
First of all, there’s warm-up exercises - laps of the courtyard, jumping over logs, press-ups and the like. And no respite for laggards either - because your leaders won’t be afraid to use a (pretend!) whip on you either…
After that, kids are taught the same sword skills that gladiators used, two thousand years ago. Their tutors (a couple of handsome young men, in skimpy tunics) really made the training come alive with their skill and wit and Lucretia (our 14-year old) and Romeo (10 years old) were completely enthralled, as they were paired off with other kids to practice their newly-learned manouevres.
Finally, it’s into a the arena, where the tournaments take place, with the adults watching from the sidelines (wooden benches), cheering and jeering in equal measure! In years gone by, if a gladiator lost his battle he was given a choice - either beg for mercy (and hope the crowds took pity on him) or die with honour. You can’t imagine how proud I was of Romeo when he chose to die with dignity!
Each child receives both a snack (half-way through the two hours) and a Certificate of Accomplishment to take home - to hang on their wall and act as a reminder of their bravery!
Here’s a link on how to book tickets, along with a video to give you an idea of what to expect…
Gladiator School is a fantastic means of introducing your kids to Roman history, in a fun and active setting. I’d recommend it for kids aged 8 and up (since there are a few complex moves to learn and - when all is said and done - it is a fighting-based activity!) I’d also advise combining it with a trip to the Colosseum beforehand - this will give the activity extra meaning.
As they said, in times gone by, “Gloria Exercitus!” (“Glory of the Army!”)
Gladiator School, Via Appia Antica 18, Rome
(15 minutes by cab from the city centre - look out for the large red logo on the door)