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Are you sure you know all these things about Palermo?

You have heard about Palermo many and many times, but you probably don’t know that the city is so peculiar in much more aspects that you can even think of.

Palermo is known for its long history, peculiar variegated culture, diversified architecture, and Mediterranean unique cuisine. Over the centuries it has been playing an important cultural and artistic role.

If you only think that Palermo is more than 2700 years old, only this data is enough to give you an idea of the cultural and artistic richness of this city.

The city has been proclaimed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016, while in 2017 it has been chosen, among other Italian cities, as the Capital of the Italian Culture 2018.

If you’re planning to visit the city, you will never be completely prepared as you would be overwhelmed with the past and the present of this unique place. The historical richness and architectural variety will transport you in another world made of ancient Greek, Roman and Norman civilizations.

If we want to “start from the beginning” we need to go far back in time. It was during the 8th century BC when Palermo was founded by Phoenicians. Afterwards, the city was Carthaginian, Roman an also Byzantine settlement until the Arabs conquered Palermo during the 9th century AC. The golden age of Palermo was during the Normans’ presence while a certain decline was contemporary to the arrival of the Spanish Kingdom that lasted for several centuries.

Also, the name of the city has changed throughout the years. The Phoenician name Ziz (flower) later has been transformed into Greek name Panormus (complete port). The Arabs changed the name into Balarme (Bal’harm – بَلَرْم) that actually contains the roots of the present-day name.

Many cultures that have been settled here and have influenced the culture and also the culinary tradition of Palermo and Sicily in general. That’s why both the city and the whole region are world-wide known for their specialties among which you will probably recall cannoli, cassata, arancina, pasta alla Norma and of course, granita.

The architecture has been transformed throughout the centuries and many already existing buildings have been adapted to the conquerors’ art and taste of that moment. For example, the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption is composed of various styles combined together throughout the centuries. During the Arab domination, this church has also served as a mosque. In Palermo you can find many other buildings that are reflecting the architectonic richness of the city and reveal its variegated tradition, history and culture.

If you’re planning a visit to Palermo and you still don’t have an idea from where to start, here you can find some suggestions of what you shouldn’t miss. Be sure that all of them are unique places and don’t forget to put them on your check-list.

Santa Rosalia in Monte Pellegrino The façade of this sanctuary is carved into the rock overlooking the city of Palermo. The Santuario serves as the burial place to Santa Rosalia, which is also the patron saint of the city.

Palazzo dei Normanni + Cappella Palatina. Royal Palace constructed during the Norman domination and finalized during several foreign dominations, has been used as the palace of the rulers. According to some studies, Palazzo dei Normani is the oldest royal existing residence in Europe.

Duomo di Monreale is the typical example of Norman, Arab and Byzantine architectural elements combined together and hence it is one of the most important cultural heritages of the Italian Middle Ages.

La Cuba was completed during the 12th century and it is mostly inspired by Arabic style. In 2015 it has been inserted (among many other Sicilian sites) in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

La Zisa was also inspired by the Moorish art. It is a castle in Palermo that has been built as the summer residence for the Norman kings. The building has been modified and restored throughout the centuries. In the past, like many Arabic-style buildings, the central room had a beautiful water fountain but now is decorated “only” by a magnificent mosaic.

Before visiting Palermo get as many information about the city as you can. Chose if to explore it on your own, or opt to join a tour of the city or book a guide and a tour of the main sites. Also, don’t forget that the food tour, anywhere in Sicily, could be a good idea (also have a look on the article about chocolate from Modica). And still, you will realize that whatever time you have at your disposal, it will be never enough.

When is the best time to visit the Vatican?

If you’re planning a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel and you have few days available, here is short “guide” for the best day to organize your Vatican City tour.

Whether you are going to join one of the so-called “Vatican tour skip the line” or you decide to go on your own, it is always useful to know a little bit more about the crowds at the Vatican.

St Peter’s line

The time of the year:

The low season in Rome starts every year at the beginning of November until around 20th December, when the Christmas period starts, and it finishes on the 6th January. The high season every year starts around Easter and finishes at the end of October.

However, during the high season, the crowd flow can vary and it could be helpful to know when you could encounter more or less people accessing the Vatican Museums.

Days:

  • Monday is one of the busiest days for the Vatican Museums as they are closed on Sundays. A lot of people don’t know about the closure day of the Vatican Museums and they leave the Vatican City tour as (the best and) the last on the check-list. Therefore, since early morning you will find people queuing at the entrance. If you have no choice you can join one of our “beat the crowds” solutions like the Early Vatican Tour with privileged access
  • Tuesday can be a quiet day for the Vatican Museums and it can be a good choice for a visit. However, always check the Vatican calendar to see if there is any special ceremonies or Vatican City holidays when they close the Museums.
  • Wednesday is the day of the Pope’s Audience. So if you are not planning to attend the Audience at the St Peters Square, this is the perfect time to visit the Vatican Museums. You should go in the morning and you will probably have a chance to see what is like when the Vatican Museums are almost empty.
  • Thursday is not a particularly busy day for the Vatican except for the days when there is a holiday or some special ceremony in the Vatican.
  • Friday can be considered one of the busiest days for the Vatican City. At any time you go, you will find crowds accessing the Museums. This is also because of the “long-weekend” holiday travelers.
  • Saturday, together with Monday, is the busiest day at the Vatican. On Sundays the Vatican is closed and on Saturdays, at any time during the high season, you will always find a long line at the entrance.

In case you’ve already purchased or you’re planning to arrange a Vatican City tour, please keep in mind that all the guided tours organized by City Lights Tours are skip-the-line-tours. This means that you will skip the line at any time. The above-mentioned list can help you to organize your Vatican City tour better and to choose the day when there are less visitors inside the Museums.

Also in order to avoid the “big crowd” entering the Museums, you can always choose to join the Early morning Vatican tour that will allow you to enter one hour earlier than the general public.

 

 

 

 

Monet is in Rome! 19th Oct 2017- 11th Feb 2018

From 19th October 2017 until 11th February 2018 Rome will host the exhibition of the best Monet artworks.

The visitors will have the pleasure to admire 60 works of the father of the Impressionism. The collection belongs to the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris and it has been organized by Gruppo Arthemisia. These masterpieces were the personal collection of the artist, who kept all the paintings in his home in Giverny.

Through these works, it is possible to understand Monet’s artistic intensity and to recognize multiple aspects of his work.

Monet’s most beautiful works will be exposed

from 19th Oct 2017 until 11th Feb 2018

in Vittoriano – Altare della Patria.

It is possible to buy tickets on-line here.

Check also how to obtain discounts, to hire a guide or to get an audio-guide.

Don’t miss it!

The first European PGI chocolate might be Italian!!!

If you say Sicily you can think of beautiful island in Italy, surrounded by clear blue sea, fantastic beaches, great food. You will also remember huge archaeological sites, history and culture of this unique place. And don’t forget the Etna volcano, still active and smoking.

However, these things are not the only uniqueness of Sicily.

Modica Chocolate, produced in Sicily, has been included in the list of EU-certified products while awaiting final acknowledgement and, therefore, official protection. Actually, the PGI stands for Protected Geographical Indication and certifies the authenticity of unique products to a particular area.

This chocolate produced with old manner treatment, avoiding the industrial production is an added value to this unique product. The technique was acquired by Spaniards (who lived in the area centuries ago) and the result is an inimitable granular consistency of the Modica chocolate. The making process consists in low heat (35°-40°) elaboration of the cocoa paste.

This “old school” production procedure maintains the sugar crystals that never melt. The result is a nubby, crunchy, uneven brown colour chocolate blocks. The uniqueness of these chocolate is not only the production process or the shape. The first impression is the taste of roasted cocoa beans that can be also flavoured by nuances of cinnamon, vanilla, red chilli, coffee, Sicilian citrus flavours, pistachio, etc…

What are you waiting for… come to Italy and ask for cioccolato di Modica!!!

Ciampino Airport gets connected with the City Centre of Rome

When you are visiting a city for the first time it can be very confusing to organize an affordable transport from the airport.

Fiumicino airport in Rome is easily connected to the city centre by a train that departs every 20 minutes.

However, many low-cost airlines are landing to the Ciampino airport and the connection with the city centre was very tricky.

From now you have Rome public transport company ATAC that will provide a bus line that will connect Ciampino Airport to the Laurentina Metro Station. And it will cost only 1.50€pp!!

The tickets can be purchased inside Ciampino Airport at the Tourist Info Point (PIT). Also, for those who already bought the Roma Pass on-line, they can use it for this journey instead of buying a new bus ticket.

The line that will bring you to Laurentina Metro station is n°720 and you can find it at the bus stop n°4 in front of the Ciampino Metro Station.

The bus will be running every 20 minutes from 5.30am to 11.30pm.

Once you get to the city center and you don’t know where to go, what to see first, whether to take a tour or not, just let us know and we will be happy to give you our best tips and offers 🙂

Rome by Night!!

If you think Rome by day is amazing, Rome by night transforms info a magical city.   The lights, the energy and the sights of people sitting outside at cafes and restaurants enjoying the Eternal City!  You will often find live music and entertainment in the Piazzas and Squares.

 

 

rome by night

The Pantheon

 

 

rome by night2

Trevi Foutain

 

rome by night3

St. Peter’s Square

 

rome by night4

Colosseum

rome by night5

Piazza Navona

Skip the Line, don’t get stuck in the heat!

Baby it’s hot outside but our guests are still smiling!!   Paola, our guide, is heading out with our guests from four different countries today, it’s literally a “Melting Pot” out here!!!!

paola grp pic june 17

 

Join one of our “Skip the Line” tours and spend your time seeing the sites, not waiting in the heat in line!!!

The smallest country in the world!

With just 110 acres of land area and approximately 1,000 citizens,  Vatican City is the world’s smallest country.  The city mints its own euros, has its own army, issues passports to its citizens and has a flag of its own too!  There are no border controls or security checks to enter the city and it is just a road away from Castel Sant’Angelo.

Though small in size, Vatican City deserves one full day to explore its gems.  The main attractions are St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s square with the obelisk and Vatican Museums with Sistine Chapel.

The Museum is known for its unique art collections gathered by various Popes.  With over 54 galleries on exhibit, it would take you weeks to see it all.  If you visit, you will probably visit the highlights, such as the Raphael Rooms, The Gallery of Maps, the Rotunda Room and The Tapestries Hall. Then, of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous frescoes in the world and unsurprisingly it’s one of Rome’s most visited and valued historic sites. Set within the Vatican City and Museums, the Sistine Chapel welcomes around 25,000 visitors a day who flock to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece and marvel at the feat of artistry. As cameras are banned, it’s one to make sure you don’t forget!

sistine chapel

St. Peter’s Square, built in the 17th century, was designed and built by Bernini and is heavily inspired by Baroque style.  It is in the shape of an elongated Trapezoid with semi-cirlce in the middle of it.  The Obelisk stands in the center and was originally located in Heliopolis in Egypt, and brought to Rome in 37 AD.

 

The Museums will take several hours to maneuver through the crowds.  City Lights Tours can provide guided tours throughout the museum, Sistine Chapel and a secret passage into St. Peter’s Basilica.

The last Sunday of every month, entry to the Vatican Museum is free!

 

Strawberry Festival In Nemi

No fruit screams summer quite like the strawberry.  Nemi, a quaint town in the beautiful Castelli Romani region 30 kilometers south of Rome, holds an annual festival in honor of these juicy, refreshing heart-shaped berries.

STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL NEMI2

Every year since 1922, Nemi residents have dedicated the first Sunday of June to strawberry celebration.  Strawberry streamers float over pedestrians who roam the picturesque streets in search of anything and everything strawberry at the various shops and cafes offering more than 1000 preparations, from pizza to pastries to granita to consume on the spot. They stock up on jams, syrups, fragolino wine, crème di fragola liquors, teas and more.

Although the fruit is primarily harvested in May, the festival kicks off in June and the week-long program includes a mass and a blessing of the fruit. Le fragolare, female strawberry gatherers dressed in traditional garb–red skirt, black bodice, white top and a mandrucella atop their heads—distribute free strawberries to passers-by. The festivities include music, dancing and good times, and carry on until the end of the month.

STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL NEMI

This year’s festival—the 83rd edition—got underway on May 28th and goes until Sunday, June 5.  Can’t make it this year? Don’t worry, perhaps you can plan a trip to Rome next year around the strawberry festivities!!!!

STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL NEMI3

The city built in caves!

Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the “Sassi di Matera”.   The Sassi, or caves,  originated in a prehistoric settlement, and these dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in what is now Italy.   The Sassi are habitations dug into the calcereous rock itself, which is characteristic of the region of Basilicata and Apulia.  The area has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

 

sassi

Many of the Sassi are really little more than caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi a street lies on top of another group of dwellings.  The ancient town grew up on one slope of the rocky ravine created by a river that is now a small stream, and this ravine is known locally as “la Gravina”.  In the 1950’s, the government of Italy used force to relocate most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city.

matera4

Matera was built such that it is hidden, but made it difficult to provide a water supply to its inhabitants.  Early dwellers invested tremendous energy in building cisterns and systems of water channels.    The largest cistern has been found under Piazza Vittorio Veneto.  Like other cisterns in the town, it collected rainwater that was filtered and flowed in a controlled way to the Sassi.

matera cistern

 

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