This is my first in a series of posts related to my recent trip to Italy with my little global citizens, ages 7 and 9. I wish they were small babies again, that way when they get tired of walking around the vatican, I could just lay down the baby play mat and they could have a refreshing break. Now they’re just grumpy when they get tired.

Vatican City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a treasure trove of traditions and culture. It’s bursting at the seams with over two thousand years worth of rich and captivating history.

The shear volume of things to view and learn about in the Vatican may be overwhelming, even for adults. Thus, it is necessary to take steps to make certain that this venture is fun for the whole family. After all, international travel can be quite pricey, and we don’t want priceless memories to be overshadowed by memories of boredom or breakdowns. Conducting copious amounts research on the Vatican led me to the conclusion that, with young kids in tow, the best way to experience a visit to a behemoth treasury of history, art and culture like this is to make it into a treasure hunt!

We’ve done museum treasure hunts before and they are always a fun interactive experience for the kids. It’s a wonderful way to introduce children into the world of art appreciation, and helps kids learn to search for small details and to discover interesting facts about new and thought-provoking subjects.

To begin this endeavor, as with any of our travel adventures, I like to prepare the kids for the journey with a well-researched plan about what we will see and why. Leading up to our voyage to Rome, I often engaged the kids in discussions about Vatican City and gave them a brief description of the history represented by the churches, the grounds and the museums contained within Vatican City.

We also discussed the role of the Pope in the Catholic religion (a hot topic right now given the news-worthiness of newly-elected pope) and how he is the head of state for Vatican City, and is elected by the College of Cardinals. They learned that the Pope is elected for life, and is the only remaining absolute monarch in Europe. Also, in addition to his title as secular ruler of Vatican City, the Pope also acts as the Bishop of Rome, and as the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

There are always fun facts about any destination that will pique a child’s interest and build excitement before they arrive. (This is especially helpful if you’re traveling long distances as it’s a good way to pass the time and relieve boredom associated with long journeys). For example, my boys were fascinated to learn that the Vatican City is an independent state with 110 acres and a population of about 900, and that it is contained within the capital city of Italy, Rome. It made them even more enthusiastic to get there and cross over the border from Italy into the Vatican by foot.