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Positano, Amalfi Coast… an unforgettable experience!!

Do you have the Winter Blues? Dreaming of Summer? Now is the time to start planning your Italian escape to one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, the Amalfi Coast!

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Your private driver will whisk you away for a day of eating, drinking local wines, limoncello tasting and visiting a local buffalo-mozzarella farm! If one day isn’t enough, we can arrange a week-long itinerary for you as well, to include private boat trips to Capri and Sorrento, cooking classes in a private Villa, day-trip to Ravello and much more.  You can also visit the ruins of  Pompeii easy from the coast!

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You can choose among our several itineraries or we can arrange a customized itinerary only for you!

Message or call us today to set up your day trip!!

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The charm of the Venice Carnival and its inimitable masks through the centuries

 

You have probably heard about Venice Carnival, but did you know that it is one of the most famous Carnivals in the world and most of all, it is probably one of the oldest Carnivals ever existed. And it has a very interesting history that you probably didn’t know.

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There are some records of Carnivals held before 1000, but the first certain evidence is dating from 1162 when people of Venice were celebrating the victory of the Republic of Venice against the Patriarch of Aquileia.

However, throughout different historical periods, Venice has been conquered and dominated by several external powers. Although the importance and significance of the Carnival have evolved during the centuries, there were some dark times when the Carnival was prohibited and even outlawed. During the rule of Hapsburgs, wearing masks in public was forbidden. The dominators were afraid of their political opponents who could have easily hidden their identity and organize a conspiracy against the Austrian dominion.

After these ups and downs, the Carnival of Venice has been officially established only in 1979! The mask makers have again started to craft these fantastic creations made of leather, papier-mâché, gypsum, with ornaments made with hand painted decorations, gold and silver applications, feathers, silk, crystals and precious stones.mm0006

Some of the most famous Venetian masks are: bauta, colombina, medico della peste, moretta, volto, pantalone, arlecchino, zanni… Each of them has a history behind and all of them were used in different occasions throughout the centuries. They were not only related to the Carnival but to the social traditions through different centuries.

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Nowadays more than 3 million tourists visit Venice during the Carnival period that starts with “The Flight of The Angel” in San Marco’s Square. This year the Carnival will start on 11th February and it will go on for two weeks. Let’s see who is going the win the “Best Mask of the Venice Carnival”, the competition that gathers mask makers from all over the world.

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All those “lies”….at Carnival

If you happened to be in Italy during the pre-Carneval time, you will be wondering what are those strange, irregular shaped pastries you see everywhere. You will find them at the counter of the coffee bars, bakeries and pastry shops. You can get a paper bag full of these pastries and once you started to eat them you won’t be able to stop. Well, if you didn’t know, these are “lies”. Yes, they are called bugie or chiacchiere, according to the region you are from, or in some parts of Italy they are also called frappe. In English speaking countries they are known as Carnival fritters.

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These fried sweets are made of flour, eggs, liquor and honey mixed together. By shaping them in small rectangles and by frying them, you will obtain this irregular shaped “clouds” of dough, that, once sparkled with powdered sugar you will have these fragrant and crunchy sweets that you will become addicted to.

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The origin of the Carnival fritters brings us back to the Roman times when frappe were made and offered to the crowd celebrating on the streets. Usually, a big quantity was prepared and it was lasting for the whole period of the celebrations.

In case you have never tried them before and you still don’t have an idea what are we talking about, just imagine crunchy thin sweet fried dough that first noisily breaks under your teeth and then melts in your mouth releasing the taste of vanilla, honey and liquor.

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And if this is not enough, here is the recipe!

Michelangelo’s grocery list… a piece of art

When we think about Michelangelo, Raffaello and many other artists who left their indelible sign in the history of art, we always think about their artworks that leave us breathless every time we look at them.

But we never think they were also (almost) ordinary people and they used to do all the things that ordinary people do.

If they were living nowadays they would be probably using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and their thoughts, opinions and ideas would be spread in real time all over the world. What we know about their everyday life has been written in books and probably we will never know most of the things…

However, this important and, somehow, amusing document tells us a bit more of what Michelangelo was dealing with on a daily basis. And guess why he draw all the items? Because he was an over-ambitious artist? Wrong! His servant was an illiterate person therefore he wasn’t able to read! Can you understand what Michelangelo wanted his housekeeper to buy for him?

And don’t forget that if you want your doodles and scribbles to become famous “artwork” first of all you must realize something as famous as the Sistine Chapel…. at least…

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A hidden gem not far away from Rome… discover Ponza island!

When you plan to visit Italy and you think about its islands you might think first of Sicily and Sardinia. Being these two big islands and it takes time to visit them properly, you might think of some cozier and smaller island to visit. Maybe Capri, or Isola d’Elba.

But, probably, you have never heard of Ponza island!

A quick ferry ride from Anzio, Terracine or Formia, and you will be in Paradise!!

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Location of Ponza

The historical research confirms that the island has been connected to the mainland by a strip of land that sank with a part of the island. Related to this geological phenomenon and to some volcanic activities, there are still some evidences of these researches.

Anyway, you must know that Ponza is a remaining of an extinct volcano and just this add more magic and mystery to the place.

It is believed that the first inhabitants were Etruscans, followed by Romans – in fact there are still some ruins of “Julia’s Palace” in Ponza.

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Pilato’s caves in Ponza

The sea stacks that surround the island give evidence of the extraordinary natural phenomena. You must sail around Ponza in order to discover all the caves and hidden corners of this magnificent place.

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The “cave houses” are also an additional attraction. They are built by locals who have learned how to live in this unusual homes.

However, in contradiction to the pure nature you can enjoy here, Ponza is an esteemed destination of many VIPs and young people who spend their weekends or entire holidays on islands. If you didn’t know anything about the island and you just arrived there, the presence of numerous yachts and sailing boats will give you an idea of a very “VIP place”. In 2016 Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey and Carolina of Monaco, just to mention few, have spent some time on and around the island, while Fendi family are almost regular residents of the island.

Half Moon Beach - Chiaia di Luna

Half Moon Beach – Chiaia di Luna

In addition to the pure and crystalline water and intact nature, you also have this touch of luxury and, the most important thing, a great selection of Mediterranean food, what else would you ask for? Here you can choose a sea excursion around the island or a car ride “coast-to-coast” where you will discover fantastic landscapes from the hills or you can simply enjoy snorkelling not far away from the coast. At the end of the day you can relax in some of the restaurants where they serve fresh fish seasoned with some local herbs and spices.

 

Ask us to organize your trip there and you will not regret. You may stay a weekend or even longer, but every minute of your visit on the island will be unforgettable!!!

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“Secrets & mysteries” of the Vatican Museums and Vatican Tours

In our long carrier as tour operators we have often noticed that, when visiting the Vatican, many tourists actually are not aware of some important facts about the place they are going to visit. Some of these “secrets” concerning the Vatican Museums visit might be very surprising in case you’re not well informed.

  • International border. First of all, Vatican is an independent state. By entering the Vatican Museums you will leave Italy and will enter another country where Vatican law is enforced. Vatican state has its own law, police and army. So you will cross an international border while entering the Vatican Museum, but, don’t worry, nobody will ask you to show your passport.
  • St Peter’s and Vatican Museums. While approaching the Vatican you might see lines everywhere, but you might not be sure which line is for the Vatican Museums and which one is for the St Peter’s Basilica. At the St Peter’s Square you will find the line for the metal detectors, after which you will be allowed to enter the St Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Museums entrance is on the almost opposite side of the Vatican City.

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  • Lines. Once you get to the Vatican Museums entrance it might be tricky to understand which “line” you should join. While approaching the main entrance you will probably pass by a long line that runs along the wall of the Vatican. That line is for those who are waiting to enter and buy tickets on their own. That line can take sometimes 2 or 3 hours and probably it’s not the best way to spend a part of your holiday. In case you already bought your tickets you should pass by the line, get to the guards that are staying at the main entrance and show your tickets.

Line for the access to the Vatican Museums

Line at the St Peter’s Square leading to the entrance of the Basilica

 

  • Tickets. If you have already purchased your Vatican Museums tickets (20€ adults and 12€ kids, teenagers and students under 26 yrs old) you will be able to visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. However, this ticket does not give you the chance to skip the line for the St Peter’s Basilica; and the line for the security check at the Basilica is sometimes hours long, even if the entrance is free of charge.

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  • Tours. In case you join a tour you will meet a guide in an office or at a meeting point. From there the tour leader or just a guide will lead you toward the entrance where you will be obliged to go through the security check. Even if you will skip the line for the tickets, some days the security check can take up to 20-30 minutes. Probably you will be asking your self “why am I staying in the line if I paid for the skip-the-line”. Remember, you cannot skip the security line. Also, remember, you are entering another state and nor you nor a tour company can do anything about that issue. The Vatican City has its own rules and this access is not a simple access to a museum, but it is a frontier between two countries.

The positive sides of taking a tour are numerous:

  • you skip the line,
  • you don’t have to wonder around trying to figure out where and how to enter the museums.
  • Most of all, you will have a guide who will lead you through one of the BIGGEST museums in the WORLD (9 miles long). Especially the guide can make a difference, so be careful when you are about to choose the company you are booking with.
  • Another big difference can be the size of the group. Semi-private group is normally up to 13 people maximum. However, depending on companies the meaning of the “group” can vary: it can be 20 – 25 people and it can reach up to 60 people. That makes a huge difference. Considering numerous visitors and the crowd entering (20.000 to 40.000 visitors each day) it is much more enjoyable visiting the Museums within a smaller group. So, when you see “group tour” advertised just check what these guys mean by the group. In case of City Lights Tours our groups are max 24 participants.
  • Another positive thing about joining the tour is that your guide is allowed to bring the group through a privileged passage inside the Sistine Chapel that will bring you directly toward the St Peter’s Basilica. After seeing the line for the Basilica, you will realize that this is also one of the greatest points in favor of getting the tour.

If you have any additional curiosities about visiting the Vatican don’t hesitate to contact us!!

 

Galleria Borghese Private Event by City Lights Tours

We are very honoured of being chosen to organize the closing evening of the Italian National Labour Council CNCL in Rome.

We have opted for Galleria Borghese that has been opened only for us from 8pm. Our 19 guides have led 450 participants through the museums and have unveiled for them all the history and behind-the-scenes stories about the magnificent artworks of Raphael, Canova, Bernini, Tiziano, Caravaggio, Bellini…

After the tour of the Galleria Borghese a dinner and the entertainment has been organized at the Casa del Cinema with some delicious Italian dishes and live music.

We are proud of the success of the event and we are glad that all the participants have immensely enjoyed the tour of the Galleria Borghese – thanks to our knowledgeable and passionate guides!

Also we are pleased to know that we have succeeded in organizing the biggest private tour of the Galleria Borghese in recent times.

Have a look at the gallery of the event. For more pictures click here

Citylightstours - Galleria Borghese - 25 Novembre 2016

Citylightstours - Galleria Borghese - 25 Novembre 2016

Citylightstours - Galleria Borghese - 25 Novembre 2016

Citylightstours - Galleria Borghese - 25 Novembre 2016

Cosmati mosaics: harmony, symmetry, perfection

While the Roman mosaics are very well known all over the world, very few know about the Cosmatesque art of ornamental pavements. The Cosmati Family was a Roman family of marble artisans who during the XII and XIII century created a completely new style of marble ornaments. Probably they didn’t invent this style but they adapted the Arabic ornamental art to the needs of the religious buildings in Italy, especially in the Lazio region.

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The geometrical perfection of these ornaments are in synchrony with the medieval concept of cosmic order and proportion. It has been thought (with the Pitagora philosophy and after with St Agostino and St Thomas Aquinus), that the arithmetic proportion and numbers would have allowed to the man to get closer to the God.

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The Cosmatesque art has been considered as the expression of this thought and the mosaics seems to represent kind of a cosmic harmony through the mathematical study of geometrical proportions. Have a look on this beautiful artworks! You can find a lot of churches in Rome with these ornaments, so start to explore!!cosmati-s-maria-trastevere

 

You’re now entering the Sistine Chapel… Mind the masterpiece

You have probably heard a lot about the Sistine Chapel, about Michelangelo and you have seen the most famous fragments of this masterpiece. However, there a several curious facts that you (probably) didn’t know…

When the Pope Julius asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, he refused because he considered himself a sculptor rather than a painter. Michelangelo, who didn’t have any experience with painting the frescoes, has invented a unique system of scaffoldings that allowed him to stand upright and paint the ceiling.

It is thought that in the section named “The Creation of Adam”, the image of the God and angels has the shape of a human brain. With this metaphor Michelangelo probably wanted to represent the bestowal of intellect to the human being.

Since 1492 the Sistine Chapel is hosting the papal conclaves, during which the new pope is elected. The chimney on the top emanates the smoke, which in case of the election of the new pope is white, while the black smoke indicates that nobody of the candidates didn’t receive 2/3 majority.

After seeing the sketches of the Sistine Chapel, one of the Pope’s assistants, Biagio da Cesena, has been criticizing the artwork saying that the paintings are more suitable for a tavern than for a chapel. As revenge, Michelangelo has painted Biagio da Cesena as a devil at the bottom right of the Last Judgement.

Among other characters of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement there is Saint Bartholomew. It is believed that the human skin in Saint Bartholomew’s hand is actually a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. You would probably like to know also why he portrayed himself like this, right?

To learn in depth all the curiosities of this masterpiece choose the unique opportunity with one of our excellent and passionate guides. It will give you all precious details and behind-the-scenes of Michelangelo’s artwork.

All these facts (and more) can be explored on our Vatican Tour & Sistine Chapel Group Tour and Early Vatican VIP Tour.

Just imagine how many things you could discover by entering there after learning exactly what all these depicted figures are representing. Have a look!

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Rome… how to get there? Rome Airport transport solutions

Planning a vacation can include a research of hotels, tours, sightseeing places, sites not to miss. When we talk about Rome, the research can be overwhelming. There is so many things to visit and to do, that your list can be infinite. Tours of archaeological sites, visits to some of the museums, try some authentic Italian food and feel the Roman atmosphere of  places like Trastevere, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona must be on your list. With all these enjoyable things to think about, you will probably not going to plan your transportation to the city centre; and that is so wrong!

Let us give you some tips about the transport on your first day in Rome. Most of the international flights land to Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport. So here are some suggestions that could be useful.

  • Taxi: the ride from Fiumicino to the city centre costs 48€. Please note that this price is from the airport to the city center (city center within Aurelian walls, see the map). If your hotel is not in the center please check the price with your driver before starting the journey.

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  • Train: you will find several signs that will lead you to the train station inside the airport. There is a direct train, Leonardo Express, that doesn’t stop at any stop before Roma Termini (central station) and the ticket for this ride costs 14€. The duration of the journey is around 25 mins. However, you have another train that stops in almost all the train stations and this might be suitable in case your hotel is in Trastevere, Monteverde, Ostiense, Marconi, or even in the area of Campo de Fiori, Ghetto or the Vatican area. According to the station your are planning to get off, the tickets costs from 8€ to 14€. For example, it will take you 25mins to get to Trastevere and you will pay only 8€. From Trastevere station you have plenty of buses and trams that go in any direction.
  • Bus: You can choose between Terravision and Bus Shuttle. They are all leaving the airport every 35 to 45 mins. The first bus leaving in the morning at 5.30am is the Terravision one.
  • Private driver. In case you prefer to hire a private driver the costs are going from 60€ up. This is usually door-to-door service and if your group is more than 2 people, the cost-per-person will be much lower.

While in Rome do not forget that there are only 2 metro lines, A and B, and they are connecting just some parts of the city. There are numerous bus and tram lines but considering the congested traffic in Rome, the transportation in the city can be very slow.

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Therefore, our suggestion is to keep walking in the city and avoid using the public transport, because every corner is hiding something interesting. The city bridges, alleys, squares and nine hundred churches create the most beautiful open air museum. So, go for a discover!

 

 

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