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maja

All-Stars In The House!!

Famous basketball players from the Italian League, Maarten Lennen and Marques Green, joined our Vatican Tour this week with their family and friends!

Book with City Lights Tours to “skip the lines” and get VIP treatment too!

basketball players

Funday Friday with City Lights Tours!!

It’s Funday Friday with City Lights Tours!   Guests from five different countries are joining our “Skip The Line” tour with Emanuele, our guide,  into the Vatican Museums with special passage into St. Peters Basilica.

Emanuele group

What to do in Naples!!!!!

Coordinated Chaos is how to describe Naples. Most never really expect to fall in love with Naples – but that’s what happens to most who visit this chaotic city.  Whether you are visiting for one day or a few, here’s our list of our favorite things to do in Naples:

1.    Eat pizza!!  you must eat pizza in Naples. It may sound weird that the first thing to do or see in a city is actually something to eat, but this is, after all, the birthplace of pizza and the locals take their signature dish very seriously. Make sure you go to a pizzeria that’s serving “pizza vera napoletana,” true Neapolitan pizza, and you’ll be good to go.  Wherever you go, savor the experience, and know that you may very well be spoiled for pizza for the rest of your life.

2.  Wander Aimlessly in the Historic Center
The best way to enjoy the historic center of Naples is to wander without a plan.  The storico antico is at once ancient and modern – the street plan is older than the hills and the buildings have contained shops and apartments for centuries. But unlike some kind of preserved museum piece, the old center is very much alive. What’s spilling out of those shops may have changed over the last several hundred years, but the fact that it’s a storefront hasn’t. It’s a densely populated area and the locals don’t slow down for tourists. It’s frenetic, it’s not advisable to wander alone at night, and there are parts of even the small historic center you probably don’t want to visit without a guide. But this is easily one of the most exciting ways I can think of to see history as a living thing. (Plus, these streets are eye-candy for photographers.)

3.  Take a Day-Trip to Pompeii & Herculaneum
topnaples5Many people who choose to spend a night in Naples do so only because it’s a great base from which to explore two of Italy’s most popular tourist sights – the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Either combined into one long day-trip or split into two, this look into ancient Roman life is unforgettable and well worth the effort it takes to get there and back. Pompeii is the more famous of the two archaeological sites, although some say Herculaneum is the more interesting one due to its smaller size and the fact that more of the artifacts remain in situ. But even if you only make it to Pompeii, you’ll still get a feel for what the city looked like.  The important thing is that you see both in order to put the puzzle together. And if you want help with the puzzle, there are great guided tours of Pompeii & Herculaneum that you can book from Naples or before you leave home.

5. Eat Sfogliatelle
topnaples6Yes, another food thing is making an appearance on this,  but any good meal has to include something sweet, so we can’t make this list without talking about Naples’ signature sweet pastry, the sfogliatella. It’s a study in contradictions – light layers of flaky pastry dough on the outside hide a dense filling of sweetened ricotta cheese on the inside. You’ll usually find two varieties – called riccia  and frolla  The former has the flaky exterior (and is more difficult to make), the latter has a smooth outer crust (and is no less delicious). They’re often eaten for breakfast, but enjoy them as a snack any time of the day.

6.  Tour Naples Underground
topnaples8If you’re reading the words “Naples” and “underground” and thinking I’m referring to the city’s “seedy underbelly,” then think again. We are talking about the area literally underneath your feet as you’re walking around the historic center. Rome isn’t the only city that’s a honeycomb of ruins below street level – Naples also has trouble building Metro lines! There’s a tour in Naples that’s just about what lies underfoot, called Napoli Sotteranea, which includes ruins from Greek and Roman times and can be worth a stop. But our favorite glimpse at centuries past is underneath the San Lorenzo Maggiore church where you’ll find the remains of a Roman market.

7.  Take a Day-Trip to the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, or the Islands
topnaples9Even if you end up falling in love with Naples, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the city’s proximity to the stunning Amalfi Coast or nearby islands – especially if you’re staying for a few days. You’ve got a few choices when it comes to soaking in the coastal sun, and a few ways of getting to your chosen destination. Sorrento isn’t on the Amalfi Coast proper, but it’s quite Amalfi-like and only 40 minutes from Naples by boat. If you want to see the actual Amalfi Coast, then towns like Amalfi or Positano are also pretty easy to get to (if a bit further away). And the islands of Ischia, Capri, and Procida are great options as well. Some of these spots are more touristy than others, and you may feel like the town’s been invaded by incoming cruise ships (and often, it has) – but the bright colors, stunning views, and excellent seafood make it worth the trip. Oh, and don’t forget to sample some of the local dessert liqueur, limoncello!

There are many other things to add to this list, like castles and museums…..just go and fall in love with Naples!!

 

 

One of the best views of Rome….the Garden of Oranges!

One of the loveliest views over the city can be found in an unimposing Garden of Oranges,  high up on the Aventine. As you make your way from the Mouth Of Truth to the secret keyhole at the Villa del Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta, you can find this unexpected gem of a garden skulking quietly behind ancient walls.  Around the corner a graceful archway afforded a glimpse of the gardens beyond.

garden of oranges

In summer the gardens are host to a variety of outdoor theater productions and a popular picnic spot, but in the off-season it is a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of big city life. It is the perfect spot to go for a wander, take in the view and maybe read a book underneath one of those glorious orange trees.

garden

 

If you fancy a wander through the orange grove next time you’re in Rome, you can find it on the Via di Santa Sabina on the top of the Aventine Hill. It is open from 7am until sunset.

garden sunset

 

Rome with kids…..it can be fun!

There are some things in Rome that are best done young.  See the eternal city through fresh eyes with our selection of the top family-fun activites in Rome and get ready to have some fun!

Watch your kids perk up with these lively activities:

You can rent boats, bicycles, segways and rollerblades at the Villa Borghese gardens and whizz around its beautiful green paths. For an overview of the park’s main sights hop on the miniature train which runs everyday from 10:30 till sunset.  While you’re in Villa Borghese, head to Bioparco. The zoo has 222 different species and a special butterfly greenhouse until July.

bioparco rome

Beginning in April, Rainbow Magicland theme park, with its 35 rides and 3 theatres, is a full day of fun for the family. Located 45 minutes drive from the center of Rome, it is also accessible by train and shuttle bus.

rainbow magicland

If your kids crave a challenge, head to the ropes courses at EurPark Adventure, a short walk from the Palasport metro. A dozen courses are rated according to difficulty, with multi-lingual instructors on hand to review safety procedures. Or try your hand with a bow and arrow.
Parco Carlo Ciocci, Piazza Pakistan. Open Mon-Sun, 10am-8pm.  eurpark.it

Hop on, Hop off!  Did you know Rome is built on 7 hills? For anyone carrying a child in a carrier or traveling with a preschooler who refuses to sit in the stroller but can’t walk for more than a couple hours, I highly recommend seeing the main sights of Rome from the top of the Hop On Hop Off red bus #110. Catch it at Termini Station where it begins so that you get a good seat, and don’t hop off. Just ride the whole loop (which takes a couple of hours) and listen to the narration on the provided headphones.

Let the kids explore, and give them a theme. If they’re little, have them find fountains or look out for the letters SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus, which means The Senate and the People of Rome in Latin) found all over the city. If they’re a little older have them try to find family crests and symbols which are carved around Rome – they’ll find lions, dragons, bees, stars, balls, trees, and eagles to name a few.

Piazzas aka squares. Kids can run around in car-free Italian piazzas and get a history lesson at the same time. In don’t miss Piazza Navona, with its gorgeous fountains and unusual shape, and the huge Piazza del Popolo.

Learning fun:

A fun and educational alternative to the long museum queues, Time Elevator is a multi-sensory cinema experience, complete with moving seats, flight simulators, wind and rain machines and 3D glasses. The “time machine” will take you and your little one back to ancient Rome time for a half hour of adventure and antiquity, or to the age of dinosaurs, to learn about the making of mankind.

time-elevator-rome
Via dei Santi Apostoli, 20; everyday from 10.30am – 7.30pm  time-elevator.itVigamus is a museum dedicated entirely to video games. Along with a history of gaming, the museum offers the chance to play retro arcade games and experience a virtual reality in 3D.
Via Sabotino, 4; Tue – Sun 10am to 8pm; vigamus.com

Just for children, Explora is a totally interactive museum near Piazza del Popolo where young visitors can learn about history, society and science.
Via Flaminia, 80/86; Tues – Sun 10am – 5pm

Best city workshops: Cinecittà offers workshops and daily guided tours for families, revealing cinema secrets from the most famous of Italian film studios.
Via Tuscolana, 1055; every day (except Tues)  cinecittasimostra.itDon’t just go see art in Rome – make it! The Casina di Raffaello in the Villa Borghese is a museum dedicated to kids between the ages of 3 and 10 every weekend using workshops, activities, and a large game room.
Villa Borghese; Tue-Fri, 10am-6pm; Sat-Sun 10am-7pm casinadiraffaello.itEver wondered what it would be like to be a gladiator for the day? At Rome’s only Gladiator School, just off the ancient Appian Way, you can take part in a two-hour lesson and train to become a true little warrior.
Via Appia Antica 18, prices vary, reservation required. gruppostoricoromano.it

gladiator school

Have a wonderful time!

 

Frascati, wine lovers Paradise!

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get away from the hustle and bustle of Rome.  Though the city is absolutely beautiful, it can also be loud, crazy and chaotic. When enough is enough, and you’re looking for a refreshing retreat away from the Eternal City, Frascati is your place.

Just a half hour away from Rome, Frascati is a splendid little hillside town located in the Castelli Romani (Roman castles) area known for its beautiful villas. It’s not only popular among tourists; Romans themselves love coming here on the weekends for an afternoon or evening stroll. The town is easily reached by a local train from Rome’s Termini train station. What’s even more convenient is that the trains run to and from Frascati every hour and costs less than a few euros.

Frascati is perched atop a hill offering tourists and locals fresh air, good food and captivating views of surrounding towns and Rome from a distance. About 100,000 people live in this town, which is best known for its locally produced wine.

Once you reach the town by train, you’ll want to follow the crowds up to the center of the city (or the main ‘piazza’), which is where virtually everyone meets for coffee, a snack or an afternoon stroll. From the main piazza, off in the distance, you’ll notice the resplendent Villa Aldobrandini,  designed by Giacomo Della Porta for the nephew of a pope. Unfortunately, this particular villa is closed off to the public, however the lush gardens can be visited with a special permit. On the other side of the piazza, you’ll notice a balcony-like terrace with stunning views.

villa_aldobrandini_frascati_original

 

Also worth checking out, is the nearby Villa Torlonia, which was once important until it was destroyed in the war. Today, it serves as a public park where one can admire the gardens and the beautiful fountain, the Teatro delle Acque (water theatre) designed by Carlo Maderno. After you’re done strolling and admiring, it’s time to head into town and to the centro of the city for lunch.

 

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