Context Travel offers a hands-on, inquiry based tour of Underground Rome that totally engages families traveling with kids. Context Travel offers a very different, hands-on tour of Rome that is geared toward families traveling with kids and has plenty to keep traveling moms interested as well, as my family and I discovered on our family vacation this summer.
The tour started out slowly. We met at Ludus Magnus, a training area for gladiators from which they could enter the Colosseum via an underground tunnel. Our guide, a young American scholar living in Rome, let the kids lead the way, giving them enough information to pique their imaginations but not too much to overload them. The gladiator training ground, although interesting, lacked the tactile intrigue the kids needed; they wanted to know more about the training itself and even try a few moves.
The tour picked up speed and interest at San Clemente, a medieval church built on the remains of a 1st century Mithraic temple and Roman structure. Our guide started the tour by asking the kids about the various types of marble and “graffiti” they saw as they entered. This was brilliant and totally engaging. The kids were patting floors and columns, looking up, down, and sideways at all areas of the church. They were able to identify the marble used throughout the church and relate it to the time period in which it was built. They paid scarcely any attention to the ancient mosaics and were focused on finding anchors and “secret writings” on the walls.
Context Travel engages kids using an inquiry-based learning technique that allows kids the power to “guide” the tour. It is based on the old adage, “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” Each tour is slightly different, depending on the kids’ interest and questions. Prior to the trip, Context asked us to submit information about the kids’ personal interests, overseas travel experience and school subjects. Handouts, interactive activities such as sketching, and other materials are often employed as teaching tools on site.
After the tour, I walked with our tour guide, Katie, to her favorite fruit market and she helped me buy some figs and peaches. Katie also suggested a couple of places to eat in the area, where to buy tickets for the Colliseum visit, as well as where to get a special prosciutto and fig sandwich that is only available in July and August in Campo Di Fiori. Her local tips were as wonderful as her tour. Later that afternoon, my son and I made the one hour walk from the Colliseum to try the fig sandwich – only to find out they had stopped serving them at about 10:30 a.m!
We loved having an American living in Rome as our guide. After more than two weeks in Italy, it was relaxing to have someone to communicate with fluently. I also loved how incredibly smart and enthusiastic Katie is – my 10-year-old daughter took note as well.
In addition to a tour that our family won’t forget, Context Travel implements a sustainable travel program that supports local businesses, public transportation and even sends underprivieged kids to foreign countries. They really walk the walk. So to speak.