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When in Rome, do like Romans do and eat Carbonara!

You’ve already heard about Carbonara and you might think it’s a very complicated dish to prepare! Believe us, it’s not! Basically, the original recipe includes pork guanciale (pork cheek lard), egg yolks, pecorino cheese and spaghetti. The only thing you should be very careful with is the egg-yolk that might get overcooked.

In the authentic Carbonara recipe you MUST use Pecorino cheese and Guanciale, but many people replace pecorino with Parmigiano and guanciale with bacon or pancetta. You can do whatever you like, just don’t mention it to Romans!

The tasty cream you find in Carbonara dish is made by egg yolks and pecorino that has to be added at the end of the cooking process.

Pasta Carbonara

You can try to prepare it on your own, but while in Rome you have to visit one of these places:

  • Saltimbocca Ristorante. Just a few steps from Navona square here you can taste the real and traditional Carbonara for just 9,00 euros such a great deal right? Many Romans likes this places cause it´s very traditional and the staff is very friendly and polite. Location: Via di Tor Millina 5, Piazza Navona area
  • La Vecchia Roma. If it´s your first time in Rome, you have to try this delicious Carbonara. The recipe here is a handed down from an old family from Rome. Inside the restaurant you can find the owner: an Italian grandfather, “nonno”, welcoming everyone. For 8€ you will feel a typically Italian atmosphere and you will have a delicious carbonara. Location: Via Leonina, 10, Monti area
  • Pastasciutta , Carbonara take away. Pastasciutta is for those who like street and genuine food and an easy going atmosphere. In Pastasciutta you will always find fresh pasta (made in the morning). For only 5.50€, at the Vatican area that is usually rather expensive, you will get a box full of delicious food that you can enjoy at the sunlight of the St Peter’s Square. Location: Via delle Grazie, 5, Vatican area

Try it and you won’t regret it!

It’s there, but you probably don’t know it: discover the Jewish Ghetto in Rome!

The Jewish district of Rome or also called the Jewish Ghetto is considered one of the oldest in the world along with the Jewish neighborhood of Venice. It is a historic neighborhood full of history, unfortunately including the segregation past within it and, at the same time, it embraces also a history full of sentimentality and pride. The historical inhabitants of this part of the city, throughout the centuries, strove to keep alive their traditions, culture and religion. All this wasn’t an easy task considering persecutions they have been going through.

In the last century, this neighborhood faced the horrible effects of Italian fascism. In the middle of the Second World War Benito Mussolini ordered massive deportations of Jews to this neighborhood with racial laws, then the German SS entered on 16th October 1943 to deport Jews of this Roman Ghetto to Nazi extermination camps. The names of the deported ones are still remembered thanks to the “stumbling stones” placed in front of their houses.

 

Today it is a renovated neighborhood with a unique and particular charm. Ghetto is a neighborhood that knew how to renew itself as times change.

It is located a few meters from the Altar of the Homeland in Piazza Venezia. It is a historic neighborhood with artworks that are worth visiting, such as the Fountain of the Turtles (Fontana delle Tartarughe) of Giacomo della Porta or the Great Synagogue of Rome. Also, this Jewish Roman neighborhood is a “must” for those visitors in search of tasty traditional food. In fact, Roman cuisine has been strongly influenced by the Jewish culinary traditions and here in the Ghetto you’ll be able to find some of the best restaurants in Rome.

The Fountain of the Turtles in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome

So now you know that Rome is not only about the Colosseum or the Vatican… there is so much more!!!! Come and find it out!!!!

MARCUS AURELIUS, THE WISE EMPEROR

One of the landmarks in Rome is the Capitol Hill where you can spot a big equestrian statue. If you are wondering who is this important guy, here is his short history.

He is Marco Aurelio who was born in 121 AC in Rome. He was undoubtedly one of the most exceptional and brilliant emperors of ancient Rome. He was actually one of the five great “good” emperors.

His reign was characterized by the famous “PAX ROMANA” (Roman Peace), which was remembered as a period of peace and prosperity of the Roman Empire.

He was also known for his poetry and philosophy! For this reason, he earned the nickname of the “philosophical emperor”, especially thanks to his outstanding work called “Meditations”, where he manifests his personal vision of how to create a good government and a perfect administration.

Marcus Aurelius had a prosperous period until his death, occurred in the 180 AC (he died at the age of 59). His tomb was in the mausoleum of Hadrian, current Castle of the Holy Angel (Castel Sant’Angelo).

You can find the equestrian statue of Marco Aurelio (replica) in front of the City Hall of Rome. The original statue is only a few meters from the City Hall’s Square, inside the famous Museum of the Capitol (Musei Capitolini) – one of the first public museums of central Europe inaugurated in 1471.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the Roman Empire, about Emperors, history and culture of the Ancient Rome, join us for a walk through the Roman Forum with our Colosseum and Roman Forum Tour or if you are an early bird we have an option for you with Sunrise Colosseum and Roman Forum

CIRCUS MAXIMUS: FROM CHARIOT RACES TO ROLLING STONES

Circus Maximus“, built approximately in II century BC, was the largest Roman chariots racing stadium in the ancient world, with a spectacular capacity of approximately 150,000 spectators (according to some sources it could fit even 250.000 spectators). Located in the heart of Rome, it is an example of the magnificence of the ancient Roman world. It has been used as a racetrack, where the whole Roman society gathered to feel the clamor, the adrenaline and the speed of the Roman teams competing. Have a look at how the Circus Maximus was in its most glorious times

On the track, there were twelve Roman chariots pulled by horses. The ring of the racetracks was determined by two huge Egyptian obelisks, dating from the golden period of this civilization (1200 years before Christ to be exact).

Throughout the time, the Circus Maximus has been improved several times from its initial construction that started in the V century BC.

Nowadays, the Circus Maximus preserved only its original shape, but almost everything else has been lost. Many ancient buildings have been dismantled over the centuries and probably many pieces of the Circus Maximus have been used to build churches and various buildings in the city. Lately, the space of the Circus Maximus (just behind the Palatine Hill), has been utilized for concerts, so bands and musicians like Rolling Stones and David Gilmour had a chance to perform in the same place where Ancient Romans used to entertain themselves.

To discover many other interesting facts about the Ancient Rome and the history of the Roman Empire you can choose one of our Ancient Rome tours: Colosseum and Roman Forum Sunrise tour, Colosseum and Roman Forum group tour, Colosseum and Roman Forum Private tour.

CHRISTMAS AT THE VATICAN

This year all the citizens of Rome and visitors to this wonderful city will have the chance to admire something very unique. For the first time the Nativity will be made entirely of sand! 700 tons of sand has been transported from Jesolo (near Venice) to Rome and 4 artists from around the World will work to erect a huge pyramid.

Photo Rai News rainews.it

Also, the 21meters high three has been donated to the Pope from the City of Pordenone (close to Trieste) and it will be lit on the 8th of December.

Photo: avvenire.it

The St Peter’s will be adorned by this beautiful Nativity scene until the 13th of January.

During the Christmas time the Vatican Museums, as usual, will be closed for Holidays, therefore please check before planning your visit.

On the 24th December the last entrance to the Vatican Museums will be at 1.30pm instead of 4pm. Also, keep in mind that on that day is usually very busy and your experience might be affected by long delays at the security check.

On the 25th and the 26th December the Vatican Museums will be closed.

During the end of the Christmas week, from the 27th until the 29th December, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel will be open from 9am to 4pm (from 8am for those who booked the Early Vatican Tour with privileged access or Early Vatican Tour).

On the 31st December the closure of the Vatican Museums will be anticipated at 1.30pm and also on this day some delays are expected as the following day the (1st of January) the site will be closed for

Book your tours in advance and make your experience enjoyable!

TripAdvisor is becoming a 5 stars social network

Since we started running our tours as City Lights Tour company, we have been committed, all the time, to offer high-quality service. We were a very small company, made by two people. Slowly we grew and now we have a lot of guides and tours running around Italy. Our main goal was clients’ satisfaction as without clients we wouldn’t exist.

One of our main windows to the world was Tripadvisor.

We have always encouraged our costumers to leave us an honest review as, especially at the beginning, every comment can help the newly born business: the good ones gave us huge motivation to work harder and in case of the bad ones we could have noticed where we needed to intervene and improve our service.

However, sometimes we were discouraged by some listings, new as ours, growing ten times faster than ours, even if we didn’t have an explanation of how that could happen. Later, we understood how that can actually happen.

Last week, the Italian court has faced the first legal case of this kind: a company has been condemned to a fine and its legal representative to 9 months prison for selling packages of false reviews on Tripadvisor. The packages could have been bought in order to increase companies’ visibility and rating on Tripadvisor and consequently also on the web in general.

The community of Tripadvisor should be honest, free community of costumers who share their experience for the good of all of us: service providers and users. If the review is honest, negative or positive, it will still, probably, produce some long terms effects as said before. However there are always people who are never happy or whose expectations were completely wrong and the review can damage or in a better case, make us laugh. (for example: “it’s a great beach, just too sandy”).

We at City Lights were always committed to provide high standards of quality tours and that’s why we can proudly say that we, for the fourth year in row, are winners of the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence. We also need to say a big “thank you” to all our costumers – Tripadvisor users who took some time and left a review on our Tripadvisor listing.

We are grateful to all of those who are putting the effort to preserve Tripadvisor as useful tool and to keep it a “clean” and trustworthy community. Whether you like it or not, Tripadvisor will affect your business and only if you’re not engaged in offering good quality service, you should be afraid of it.

In our case what people usually complain about is that the Vatican Museums are crowded or that the Colosseum is “just an old building”… Maybe we should warn our clients that the Vatican Museums are the third most visited place in the World and the Colosseum was built only about 2000 years ago.

Recently The Sun had published a list of most hilarious reviews on Tripadvisor; some of them are just incredibly funny. (article here)

HOT AND BOTHERED IN CENTRAL AMERICA

“You said the town was next to a volcano, but we went and there was no lava. I’m pretty sure it was just a mountain.”

NEW YORK’S NO ZOOTOPIA

“The animals at the zoo looked very sad and it made our children cry. Can’t they train them to smile?”

LOST IN SPAIN

“The street signs weren’t in English. I don’t understand how anyone can get around.”

NAAN TOO PLEASED IN INDIA

“I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry and I don’t like spicy food at all.”

SIGHT-SEETHING IN KENYA

“The elephants we saw on our honeymoon were visibly aroused which made my wife upset and made me feel inadequate.”

DOUBLE TROUBLE IN FRANCE

“My boyfriend and I asked for single beds in our room and you gave us a double. Now I am pregnant.”

FEELING SECOND BREAST IN SPAIN

“Women were sunbathing topless on the beach and my husband spent all day looking at them.”

IN DEEP WATER IN ITALY

“No one told us there would be fish in the sea — the children were surprised and upset.”

TAKEN FOR A RIDE IN TURKEY

“There was no sign telling you that you shouldn’t get on the hot air balloon ride if you’re afraid of heights.”

IT GOT OUT OF SAND IN THAILAND

“The beach was so sandy that sand got into my clothes and was hard to wash off my skin.”

TIME MACHINE IN CARIBBEAN

“It took nine hours for our flight to get from the UK to Antigua but the Americans at our resort said it took them just three.”

OFF COLOUR IN MALDIVES

“The sand was much too white and not yellow like it is shown in your brochure.”

DOOM AND ROOM IN PORTUGAL

“Our one-bedroom apartment was much smaller than the two-bedroom one next door.”

TAKING THE BISCUIT IN BULGARIA

“The local store sold hardly any British food and did not stock my favourite brand of biscuits.”

LOST IN TRANSLATION EN ESPANA

“There were way too many foreigners and everyone spoke Spanish.”

KENYA TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

“We bought designer sunglasses from the market and later found out they were fake.”

GHASTLY GREECE

“We could not enjoy the tour as our guide was too ugly.”

GIVING IT LARGE IN SPAIN

“The beach had too many fat people. It was gross.” 

 

Whether you like it or not, imagine to find yourself doubtful whether joining an experience, a tour or eat in a restaurant: Tripadvisor can help you to make the right choice. Would you eat in a restaurant that has mostly negative reviews or would you join a tour organized by a company which clients have been complaining about bad guides and poor quality standards?

And this is not all: Tripadvisor is becoming more “social” that it has been so far. By the end of the year, this powerful tool will give you the opportunity to read opinions from different points of view. Users will be able to learn all about a certain place from locals, influencers, food critiques and main brands like Smarter Travel, Cruise Critic, TheFork, National Geographic, GoPro. Also, you’ll be able to connect with your friends, to see what they’ve liked in a certain location, to read their reviews and you’ll be also notified on your smartphone if you’re near a place your friends already visited. So, your Tripadvisor will become your personal Tripadvisor feed with which you can see a lot and share more!

We think that everybody should participate to this community and make it a better place.

Our favourite bars, restaurants and corners of the Vatican area

Although we are organizing Vatican tours, Colosseum tours, Underground tours and we are running tours and creating experiences in Florence, Venice, Milan, Amalfi Coast and Pompei, we thought that it would be handy for our guests and followers to discover places where locals in Rome hang out, especially around one of the most visited places in the World, the Vatican.

Some of us actually live in the Vatican area, so here is the list of some places where you will be part of the local crowd and where you can experience a real Roman atmosphere. Also, on our map attached bellow, you can find directions for some useful shops, like pharmacies and supermakets that sometimes are difficult to find in touristic areas.

Our favorite places will help you whether you stay at the Vatican area or you just happen to be there for your Vatican and St Peter’s tour. These are our favorites because they are good, they have great service and we are sure you will be delighted with all of them, as we are!

Have a look on our map below for more places!

 

  1. Trattoria sul Tetto. A cozy place on top of the Orange Hotel. Excellent service and client oriented staff. Fresh food and Italian delicacies served. Good choice of wines and a fantastic view over the Vatican. The staff is very accommodating and they will be happy to give the explanation of all the food they are serving. Great place! Seats indoors and outdoors. Ask them to let you climb the stairs of the upper terrace as well – you’ll be “on top” of the Vatican Dome.
  2. La Zanzara. Fantastic aperitivo/happy hour served from 5.30pm on, accompanied by freshly prepared snacks served every few minutes. You pay only for your drinks. Try Ginger Spritz and you won’t regret it. If you would like to stay for a dinner, make sure you reserve your spots previously.
  3. Porto. Fish restaurant with affordable prices and very big portions. Excellent wines and a wide range of fish and seafood. The interior design recalls some old but fancy fishermen ship, while outside is a great place to enjoy summer evenings. You have a buffet for lunch with a variety of fish at price of 10€.
  4. Latteria. Fantastic place for breakfast with fresh pastries and great coffee. It’s more than 100 years old and you can notice it by entering inside. Few tables outside with a nice view to Porta Sant’Anna of the Vatican. Very Roman atmosphere and we feel like warmly recommending this place as we have breakfast in this coffee bar on daily basis. In the evening they serve cocktails and snacks as well.
  5. Passpartout. Recently opened restaurant/bar in Borgo Pio. Its modern furniture and design make this restaurant a cozy and sophisticated place, but it’s not all! They have a secret garden on the back of the restaurant where you can enjoy your lunch, dinner or just a drink accompanied by some meat cuts and Italian cheese.
  6. Venerina. If you want to experience some authentic Italian food in the heart of Borgo, you must have a meal at Venerina’s. They serve fresh home-made pasta and they have a great variety of fish and meat as well. In the summer evenings it’s nice to have a table outside on Borgo Pio and “breath” the atmosphere of this marvelous corner of Rome. If you’re lucky you will also spot Venerina, the lady who founded this restaurant some decades ago.
  7. Hedera. This ice cream shop on the corner in Borgo Pio (next to the fountain) is one of those romantic places that brings back childhood memories. Tiny shop with just a few tables, but fantastic gelato flavors. Don’t miss “Hedera” flavour, the recipe is secret, and the taste is unique!
  8. Tommi’s Burger. We can say that this is one of the best burgers in Rome. Try a burger of your choice with sweet potatoes and choose sauces (free to take next to the counter) and combine them with your meat. Great place, great food!
  9. Trattoria Giggi. Very simple family restaurant, serving traditional Italian dishes. Loved by Italians, loved by locals from the neighbourhood and prices are super affordable.
  10. E.G.G. You cannot leave Rome without trying their pasta. So it works like this: you chose the pasta you want and they prepare it in front of you in just 5 mins. Be patient as sometimes this tiny take-away place is packed and probably you will wait not 5 but 10 mins, but then….you will find out what REAL pasta tastes like. We love it and you will love it for sure!
  11. Zazie. If you had it enough of pasta and pizza (and be sure you have had the right ones and not the frozen ones!!), Zazie is the place to go. They serve fresh salads, mixtures of cous-cous with fresh vegetables, fruits and seeds or quinoa salad with zucchini and fresh cheese. They will always give you the best advice for your salad dressings and you can choose the one or all of them that suit your taste the best. If it’s not the lunch-time, they will prepare for you a super tasty smoothie that will make your day.
  12. Sushi Go. It’s not all about pizza and pasta, we know. This is not a restaurant, this is a sushi shop where you can choose whatever you like on the shelves. They will give you all the necessary tools, sauces and they also have Japanese beer! Super fresh, friendly staff and a great variety of sushi.

These are just some of those we like to hang out, to eat or to have a nice drink! In case you discover your favorite in this area, let us know and we will be happy to include it in our map!

We will enrich this collection many other areas and will provide maps, with many different bars, restaurants, hidden corners, so everyone can find their favorite place in Rome. So stay tuned…

 

Early bird, but not too early

It has been years that many tour operators, bloggers, vloggers and travel story-tellers, have been advertising a “secret” way of seeing the Vatican Museums “before the crowds” or promising that you’ll be completely alone inside the Sistine Chapel. Visiting the Sistine Chapel alone is possible but not with the so-called Early option.

The “privilege” was advertised as the so-called VIP entrance, early morning Vatican, VIP early morning Vatican before the crowds etc….. none of these things is so Vip or privileged anymore…. Everybody discovered this secret and the term “vip entrance” lately got inflated more than a Venezuelan bolivar.

We from City Lights Tours have been working in the area for the last 10 years and we have experienced the trend change in the past 5 years, at least.

Few years ago, the Early Vatican tour was some sort of Vip tour as the Vatican Museums doors would open at 8am and all the “vip” groups ready to enter, would be inside in about 10-15 minutes.

Now, that’s not the case anymore. Numbers of visitors increased over the years, making crowds ten times worse than it used to be.

If you are flexible and you are planning to spend several days in Rome, have a look which day is the best to visit the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel.

In case you are thinking of going early there is a new way that only we, who are always on the spot, can discover for you.

Go early yes, but not too early: get a tour at 8.30am

Practically what happens: all the groups/tour companies with “vip” and “early” entrance will start to queue up from 7.20am on, waiting to enter at 8am. In this case, you go early to catch the spot in the security check line. You start early but you will be outside until the 8am access is allowed, exactly at 8am. If you’re lucky you and your group will be in at around 8.15am – 8.20am. So, if you start to line up at 7.20, you’ll be in at 8am; if you get your spot in the line at 7.30/35am, you’ll be in at 8.10am and so on… If the math isn’t wrong, the time you spend outside lining up in front of the Vatican Museums is 40 – 60 mins. So, logically, there is no “vip”, “early” or even worse “skip the line”.

8am groups line at the entrance of the Vatican Museums

Our trick is to meet at 8.20am, grab a coffee-to-go and with our group(s), each up to max 10 participants, enter at 8.30am by skipping (obviously) the line of those entering at 9am and, moreover, by skipping the line of the groups queuing from 7.20am. Small groups up to 10 people are allowed to skip all the lines and enter through a privileged access from 8.30am on.

Keep in mind that there are days before and after some extraordinary closures of the Vatican Museums that the line for the 8am tours is so long and some groups enter at 8.50am!

So, you don’t have to be necessarily “vip-early”, be just “smart-early”, join the Early Vatican Tour With Privileged Access which is a real privileged access and we can promise you will feel like a real vip.

 

The World Cup is Italian, anyway!!!!!

The World Cup is Italian, anyway!!!!!

The end of the World Cup is near and we can’t wait to see who is going to hold the golden trophy at the end of the World Cup Final game in Moscow on Sunday 15th July 2018 between France and Croatia.

But, for your information, the trophy is Italian, anyway!

It was created in Milan (exactly in Paderno Dugnano) by Italian sculptor and goldsmith Silvio Gazzaniga.

In 1971 among 53 candidates, Gazzaniga’s model was chosen for its fluid design and symbolic significance. The inspiration, as he said, came from “two fundamental images: those of a triumphant athlete and of the world. I wanted to create a dynamic representation of an accomplishment that could express harmony, simplicity and peace simultaneously”.

If I ever have to re-create it, I would not make any changes to the original. The fact that the trophy still endures today in this changing world of fashions is a testament to the fact that I was inspired by beautiful symbols and universal principles that became part of my creation“.

The trophy was adopted in 1972 by FIFA and the original is never given to the winner of the World Cup. In fact, the original is presented at the opening ceremony and at the end of the World Cup. In the meantime, the golden trophy is displayed in the FIFA Headquarters in Switzerland. The winner of the World Cup receives a metal, gold-plated copy. The original just occasionally returns to Milan to be polished.

The trophy is made of 18 carats solid gold, it’s 36.8 cm tall with a base of 13cm and its weight is 6kg 175gr.

The names of the nations who won the FIFA World Cup from 1974 until today are engraved on the bottom of the gold trophy and this tradition will continue until 2038.

Whose name will be written on the bottom the evening of the 15th July?

Croatia or France?

All you should know about delayed and canceled flights in Europe

All you should know about delayed and canceled flights in Europe

It’s holiday time and everybody are impatiently waiting to leave their work desks, daily routine and travel toward exotic, new destinations.

You have probably booked your trip including your trains, flights, hotels, tours in many destinations you are planning to visit and you can’t just wait to get your luggage and start the new adventure.

Exactly! Adventure!

Even if you go to the most romantic city in the world or you have chosen the quietest place on Earth, the trip might become an adventure because of some unforeseen and unexpected issues.

You probably know what we are talking about! Flights!

The start of your trip or a connection in some half-way stop can become a nightmare. We wish you the best flight ever and all the connections on time, but we would like to help you in case you have some undesirable issues with flights in Europe.

There is a European Regulation according to which all the passengers that had a canceled or delayed flight, have the right to some kind of compensation.

If you have time and you would like to know every single detail of it, you can find the EU Regulation that establishes “common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or delay of flights” here

Otherwise, if unfortunately you have already had a canceled or delayed flight you can find the forms (in all the EU languages) here

Usually, all the companies have these forms on their web pages but it’s (strangely! 🙂 ) difficult to find them. Once you have the EU regulation number and the company name, maybe it will be easier to “google-it” and go straight to the right web page.

As for the reimbursement, it can be from 250€ up to 600€ according to different cases.

Also, it is very important to keep all your receipts and evidence of expenses during the unplanned cancellation or delay, as the company is obliged to pay you back for extra expenses you had due to the canceled or delayed flight. They are obliged to reimburse you for most of them

However, we hope you’ll be drinking cocktails on the beach or watching the sunset on a rooftop as soon as possible and after having all your flights on time!

So, happy travels!

 

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