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Sistine Chapel… closer than it has ever been before

If you’re in Rome and you would like to experience something completely new and overwhelming, you cannot miss the Last Judgment. Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel.

This 3D experience was created with the scientific supervision of the Vatican Museums and it’s something original, innovative, first time available to the general public. The use of the advanced technology will reveal how Michelangelo has realized his masterpiece and it will uncover the secrets of the Sistine Chapel.

Sting has composed the original music for the show that is 60 minutes long. The special effects, the narration and the music will give you a complete experience about the history and mystery of the Sistine Chapel. The images are shown on a 270° screen.

The characters depicted by Michelangelo will take part of this show as living characters and you will feel like you were there when he started to create this marvelous masterpiece.

If you are planning the visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgment Show will complete your experience and your knowledge about Michelangelo’s work. The Show can be seen in Auditorium della Conciliazione, in Via della Conciliazione, just a few steps from the St Peter’s Basilica.

You can buy your tickets here and you will have 10% discount on all our tours.

In case you want to feel the history that occurred within the walls of the Sistine Chapel you can join one of our tours. The one that gives you a great opportunity without too much crowd is the EARLY VATICAN VIP TOUR  and you will have the chance to enter among the first ones inside the Vatican Museums.

There is more than just the Vatican Museums!

Many people come to Rome and rush to see the Colosseum, Roman Forum, line up for the Vatican for hours…

You can make your Roman holiday much more enjoyable and stress-free if you book your Vatican City tour and get more of your visit to the Sistine Chapel or you get a guided tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum for an easy-going stroll among the Ancient Rome ruins.

However, as you know, Rome wasn’t built in a day and there is much more to see. Even if you’re staying just few days, you should get a couple of hours and visit one of the hidden gems of Rome.

If you think that it’s hidden and you have to search for it, that’s not true.

For example, if you stroll down from the Vatican toward Trastevere (having the river Tiber on your left hand side) after less than 1 mile you will notice a marvelous palace surrounded by a fabulous garden. That’s where you will discover something that will leave you breathless. That is Villa Farnese.



Villa Farnese, dating from the XV century, was almost completely painted by Raffaello. The Villa was commissioned and owned by a Chigi family (family of merchants and bankers) whose member, Agostino, wanted to leave a legacy of his passion for art and culture.

For about 2 years in a row, Raphael has dedicated his time to the decoration of the Villa. He wasn’t alone working in this huge villa, but most of the frescoes are his own.

Raphael decided to adapt his paintings to every room, in order for every fresco to narrate the story of each room. Hence, there are many hidden messages with which Raffaello wanted to add his personal touch to every story-painting.

 

It is a hidden gem, as you would never think that this building, artistically and historically, has a huge importance for the history of Rome and Italy. Also, imagine to spend a couple of hours in a place where one of the masterminds of Renaissance art has spent more than 2 years creating this unbelievable artistic legacy.

The opening hours of Villa Farnesina are from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm and on the second Sunday of the month from 9 am to 5 pm.

The ticket costs only 6€ adults and 5€ reduced.

After visiting the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel with the Michelangelo’s masterpiece, take some time and pay a visit to this marvelous place. You will also have a discount by showing the Vatican Museums ticket (within 7 days of your Vatican visit).

Put Villa Farnesina on your check list and you won’t regret it!

Rome City Marathon 2018

The countdown has started: in less than one month the marathon runners will gather in Rome. This year the Rome Marathon will take place on Sunday 8th April.

The runners will follow an itinerary that was traced among the most beautiful parts of Rome. The start line will be near the Colosseum, between Roman Forum and Imperial Forums. The route, in part covered in cobble-stones, will run by historical sites of the city like Piazza Venezia, Circus Maximus, the Piramide, the Vatican, Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps and the Quirinale.

The registrations are still open, so hurry up if you don’t have your race number yet!

Also while in Rome… alone or with your family, why don’t you plan to visit the most beautiful historical sites of Rome!

If you’re planning to have some rest, but you still don’t want to miss the best part of Rome, with us you will have a special discount.

Whether you decide to join the Vatican City Guided Tour that includes Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel or you prefer to wander between Ancient Rome ruins and visit the Colosseum with a guide, we can arrange all of this for you.

All our prices include tickets, reservations fees, guide and there is no additional charges

Your discount code with City Lights Tours is FUNRUN18 and you can use it during the checkout on our page.

In case you want to plan your visit to Rome, a tailored guided tour and if you need some info and details, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Sistine Chapel only for you!

The Vatican Museum is one of the most visited places in the World. During the high season, between 30 thousand to 40 thousand people enter the Vatican every day.

However, everybody is trying to tolerate the crowd, the heat and the stress just to see the Sistine Chapel. During the guided tours of the Vatican Museums, that are 2 hours long, you will be able to remain inside the Sistine Chapel from 10 to 15 minutes.

But there is a way to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel completely alone!

City Lights Tours has the chance to arrange for our guests a private access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel in the when they are closed to the public.

The tour starts when the huge bronze doors open in front of you and you will be allowed to enter alone with your guide inside the Vatican Museums.

This 2 hours guided tour consists in a private visit of the Vatican Museums’ Upper Galleries (Gallery of Maps, Gallery of Tapestries and Gallery of Candelabra), Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel. With this private visit you will be able to stay completely alone inside the Sistine Chapel for almost 30 minutes, which is not possible at any other time and with any other tour!

If you want to know more about this exclusive guided tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel you can find here a detailed story that our guests wrote.

 

A close encounter with Michelangelo

(an article by Italian Insider)

VATICAN CITY — Gazing up at Michelangelo’s magnificent altar in the Sistine Chapel with nothing to distract me save the soft sound of our guide’s footsteps pacing behind me, I couldn’t help but count my lucky stars. Usually, it’s a different story. Mile-long queues, fed-up tourists, guides trying to scam you, and that’s before you even get in. Followed by airport-style security checks, guards shuffling you along, and the constant feeling of being watched. Snakes of single-file tours worm their way through the crowds, led by a stone-faced guide holding a flag, reeling off their speech which the group can hardly hear because of the background noise, despite the headset provided. The whole scene is almost zombie-like — visitors trudging through the Vatican museums, barely able to stop and appreciate the art surrounding them. By the time they arrive at the Sistine Chapel, exhausted from having to fight through the throngs, amidst a constant sound of ‘shhhh,’ and people being told off for taking photos, they are left unable to take in the breath-taking frescoes by Michelangelo, Raphael and some of the most talented artists in the world.

The situation is all-too familiar. But this is another world compared with the exclusive City Lights tour that I was fortunate to join on Monday evening, when the Vatican was closed to the general public. The appeal of the dazzling tour is that it is quite the opposite of the usual crowded, rushed experience in the Vatican museums. It gives you the opportunity really to see the beauty around you, without the hustle and bustle of any old tour.

Maja Ajdin and Sean Egan, founders of the company, and Mario Baas, the tour guide for the evening, greeted their 10 guests in a nearby bar with complimentary prosecco and nibbles. It was a chance to get to know each other before this once-in-a-lifetime experience that we would share. Some had visited the Vatican, for others it was their first time, but we were all assured it would be completely different from any other visit.

Heading into the Vatican at 6 P.M, it seemed a ghost town, with just a couple of guards to check our bags. We were inside in a matter of minutes, a world apart to the usual entrance procedures, where they see over 35,000 visitors a day.

There was certainly a feeling of having to tiptoe, or as our guide put it, feeling like “a thief in the house of the pope.” As we made our way through the Vatican Museums, pausing briefly in the Egyptian Gallery, the Gallery of the Candelabra, the Gallery of Tapestries, the Gallery of Maps, the Room of Immaculate Conception and Raphael’s Rooms, Mario pointed out favourite works, made memorable with interesting details, such as the minute mosaics made using tweezers to pick the pieces of glass. Hiding on the corner of a table showcasing different copies of the Dogma, they would have been easy to miss were it not for, first, a knowledgeable guide, and, second, the space and time required to actually see them. ‘If you had five seconds to see every piece of art in the Vatican museum it would still take you over 25 years,’ Mario explained.

After one hour and 20 minutes, Daniele, the sole guard accompanying our tour, signalled to Mario quietly; “They’re ready.” And then came the climax of the tour, the moment everyone had been waiting for.

It is truly striking that the entry to such a majestic chapel, covered in work by the likes of Michelangelo and Botticelli, is a such a small, simple wooden door.

We gathered outside, and even Mario, who has done hundreds of tours of the Vatican, was visibly excited. ‘Who wants to have the honour of coming in first?’ he asked. One could tell that it was truly a special moment for everyone there. Our Insider photographer Wolf led the way, and we were soon standing in a serene, empty chapel, just the way it was intended to be by Pope Sixtus when he had it renamed and restored between 1477 and 1480. We felt just as VIP as the Cardinals and royalty he would have received there at the time.

 

 

The most noteworthy aspect upon entering the Chapel was the silence. All that could be heard was the gentle hum of the air conditioning. Mario, who until then had talked and joshed with us throughout the visit, fell quiet, letting us take in the artistry that encompassed the space. It felt like another place, a different Chapel to that which regular tourists see in the daytime.

This was miles away from my last visit to the Vatican, 12 years ago. Pope John Paul II had just died. The crowds were even busier than usual, gathering to see his embalmed body. My family were undeterred, however, and so ensued a longer-than-usual wait outside the Vatican Museums, surrounded by a weeping throng.

After a few minutes this time, Mario started to explain the incredible feat we saw before us, taking us through Moses’ panels, read right to left because of Hebrew tradition, on the right side, and Christ’s on the left. He brought history to life by describing the working conditions at the time of the frescoes; details such as how different artists who did not necessarily know or like each other had to collaborate, for instance for the forest from one fresco that followed into that of its neighbour.

Mario then moved onto the iconic ceiling, originally a blue sky with yellow stars, which Pope Julius II had commissioned, hoping to see it in his lifetime. Where we stood there was once scaffolding, designed by Michelangelo himself, which he climbed in order to paint, lying on his back. Gazing up at the artworks for several minutes can hurt the neck, let alone for four years, dust falling into his eyes, ears ringing from the noise around him, working on them.

“But he still came back to work on the altar wall,” continued Mario. Amidst all the ascensions and descents of Judgement Day, he pointed out the skin of St Bartholomew, or Michelangelo’s self-portrait. The insertion of contemporary people, faces, monuments into historic art, was a great theme in the Renaissance, and it had been pointed out to us throughout the tour.

It came as no surprise to learn later that Mario was also an actor, after he recited Michelangelo’s letter to a friend, having finished the altar, as we all gazed up:

“I live alone and miserable, trapped as marrow under the bark of the tree. My voice is like a wasp caught in a bag of skin and bones. My teeth shake and rattle like the keys of a musical instrument. My face is a scarecrow. My ears never cease to buzz … This is the state where art had led me …”

And, on that slightly sad note, the tour was over. Forty minutes in the Sistine Chapel — longer than the normal 30 promised on the exclusive evening tour — had gone by in a flash.

It felt strange, leaving such a stunning building after a wonderful two hours, almost like coming up from underwater, back to real life. Now at 8 P.M, it was dark as we stepped outside the tiny city state and back into Italy. The cleaning staff and security guards who had had to wait until we were finished to leave evidently breathed sighs of relief as we made our way outside.

Overall, at 400 euros per person, the tour does not come cheap. However, group discounts can be made, with a maximum of 10 people per group. If you were left slightly disappointed on a previous visit to the Vatican, or you’ve never been but crowds aren’t your thing, it’s worth every cent. A magical experience.

Find out about City Lights’ other tour opportunities and prices here: https://www.citylightstours.com/

 

Guided visit to the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel – organization and procedures

Many people, when they come to Rome, have the Vatican Museums on their check-list (who doesn’t?!). The Vatican Museums are part of the Vatican city, but by entering the Museums you are not going to “visit the city”.

The Vatican city is an independent country and not all of the territory is open to the public.

If you opt for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel there is a procedure to follow.

First of all, if you are part of the group you will skip the line for those who are waiting to enter and purchase their tickets inside.

By entering the Vatican Museums, with a group tour or semi private tour, you will enter from the main entrance where you will have a security check. This is the first step where you need to respect certain rules imposed by the Vatican. It is not allowed to:

  • to carry big backpacks
  • to carry weapons, knives, scissors and/or metal tools
  • to enter with medium and large umbrellas (non-telescopic umbrellas)
  • to enter with long sticks (apart from those used for walking)
  • to bring inside camera supports (like tripods) and stands for photography, banners and signs of any type
  • to bring inside alcoholic and super alcoholic beverages
  • to consume food and drinks inside the exhibition halls

Once you go through the security check, if you’re part of a group, the tour manager or the guide will redeem the Vatican Museums vouchers. You might ask why you have to wait (it can be up to 5 mins) the tour manager to give you the tickets, but the Vatican procedure requires that once inside we redeem our on-line reservations (skip-the-line tickets) purchased in advance.

In the meantime, with your guide, you will approach the desk where you will be given the headsets. The only devices allowed inside the Vatican Museums are those of the Vatican, therefore, we need to wait the personnel to provide the headset with the right frequency. You will have a sound-check with your guide in order to control that every single participant can hear the guide clearly.

Once all the participants have confirmed that their device works properly, the group and the guide will head the Galleries of the Vatican Museums and your tour will start.

All this time, from the meeting point to the entrance, the security check and during the sound check you will be assisted by your guide who will lead the group until the end of the tour.

Please be sure to give back your radio to the guide at the end of the tour (or at any other moment in case you need to leave the tour earlier). Otherwise, you can return your radio to the Postoffice of the Vatican (leaving the Basilica on the right-hand side).

 

 

Have you written a postcard lately?

As a tour-operator we get a feedback from our clients through Tripadvisor, Facebook, email, Whatsapp etc. However, it happens sometimes that we get a postcard from clients who had a nice experience with us and would like to say “thank you” for the service we offered them. It’s a heart-warming moment when we open the envelope and find wonderful words for our guides.

Sending and receiving a postcard today doesn’t happen so often. In the high-tech era we are living in, we are not used to receive this long-distance-traveling thoughts anymore, but when it happens it transmits us a lot of motivation, warmth and kindness.

This time our guide Emanuele got the postcard for the Vatican Tour he did recently and our clients wanted to remember him and the whole City Lights team by writing some warm and kind words. Such a nice surprise for all of us!!!

And what about you? Have you tried to write and send a postcard lately and did you see the reaction of who received it? Lets keep this “old-school” habits alive!!!!

Who was Giordano Bruno?

In 1600 the 17th February was Ash Wednesday and on this day Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake.

He was a Dominican friar, mathematician, poet and philosopher. Born in Nola (near Napoli) and died in Rome in 1600.

During his life, his studies and research were focused on history, philosophy, theology, astronomy and mathematics (to mention just a few) and therefore he was an eclectic scholar with various interests.

With his research he raised many doubts about the some deeply established scientific and religious ideas. While this today could be called the freedom of expression, Giordano Bruno was seen as a heretic and blasphemous person.

The Inquisition accused him of several charges and he was burned in Rome in Campo de’ Fiori hanging upside down while his “tongue was imprisoned because of his wicked words”.

Particularly from the 19th century on he was celebrated as a martyr of science and considered as a pioneer of free thought.

At the end of the 19th century, a statue was erected in his honor, exactly on the spot where he was burned in Campo de’ Fiori in Rome. Now the square hosts one of the most famous city markets. Next time you visit Rome and the market you should raise your eyes to the huge statue watching all of us.

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!

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