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The best time to tour the Vatican, Sistine Chapel & Colosseum & Roman Forum; closures, holidays and crowded days in April 2019

As the high season is approaching it might be useful, to give you some “insiders” information about the best time to visit these two sites. Being the Colosseum and the Vatican, among the most visited places in the World, these tips can save you some time and some stress. Why get stressed during your holidays?

In the last couple of years, regardless to our pre booked, hour slot, purchased tickets, we have been experiencing delays at the security check at both sites. Among the reasons of these delays are increasing numbers of visitors coming to the Vatican and to the Colosseum and also more severe security checks on certain days. You might get stuck at the entrance sometimes even for an hour – whether you have bought your tickets in advance or booked a tour.

Have a look here below for the most crowded days we expect in April.

April Vatican

It’s Easter Month and anytime around Easter, from the 18th to the 22nd you might find some sections closed, very long security check line and most of the times the St Peter’s Basilica will be closed. Also, once inside, it will be so crowded that you’ll lose the whole point of visiting the Vatican and your expectations will be highly disappointed.

We would recommend to avoid 19th and 20th April this year. Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel will be closed on the 21st and 22nd April (Easter and Easter Monday).

Also, on the 9th of April the Vatican Museums will open at 11am and not at 9am as usual. Only if you have already your booked tickets you will be allowed to access the site.

From the 18th to the 30th April the Vatican Museums will extend the opening hours to 5pm (last entrance) instead the usual closing time at 4pm. During these days visitors will be allowed to stay inside the Museums until 7pm.

April Colosseum

From our years-long experience, we have noticed that Mondays are the less busy days of the week at the Colosseum.

On Sundays, Colosseum and Roman Forum are usually overcrowded by foreign tourists, “long-weekend” visitors, Italians coming from other parts of Italy and by locals. We would suggest to avoid Sundays at the Colosseum.  

From the 31st March and throughout the whole summer, the opening hours of both sites, Colosseum and Roman Forum will be extended. The last entrance to the site will be at 6.15pm (closure at 7.15pm). Take enough time to visit both (or all three) sites – at least a couple of hours.

The Colosseum and Roman Forum will be open on the Easter Day, 21st April and Easter Monday 22nd April.

In our next article we will bring you the latest news about the closures and most crowded days in May! Stay tuned…

Photo: www.correre.it

Are you ready for the International Rome Marathon 2019

The 25th International Rome Marathon will be held this year on the first Sunday of April. On the 7th of April 2019 thousands of runners will gather in front of the Colosseum at the start line. What other place would have been better to start the race in the Eternal City than the Flavian Amphitheater?

The route of the race, as every year, will stretch around some of the most beautiful landmarks in Rome. At the very start the runners will pass by the ruins of the Roman Forum and Imperial Forums from where they will be able to notice the majestic Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia. Then the route will follow the streets that will bring the runners to the Circus Maximus, the ancient stadium which capacity was around 120.000 spectators. The race will continue just behind the Caracalla Thermal baths and will continue down the Cristoforo Colombo street. The race will bend and will pass around St Paul’s Basilica (St Paul’s outside the walls).  After a couple of kilometers the panorama will change and the athletes will run around the Pyramid (Piramide Cestia). This pyramid is not Egyptian, even if it was inspired by the Egyptian constructions, and it was used as the burial chamber of Gaius Cestius.

The Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina) will be soon spotted on the left hand side of the runners’ route that will lead the marathon all the way along the river to the Vatican and the St Peter’s Basilica.

After the Vatican, the second half of the marathon, will follow the route that reaches the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Village, both built in the occasion of the Olympic games held in Rome in 1960. The race will continue again along the river Tiber and will reach the magnificent Piazza del Popolo with its impressive Porta del Popolo. Just few steps further the Spanish Steps square (Piazza di Spagna) will welcome the racers that will pass by the famous Bernini’s fountain, La Barcaccia.

After passing by Piazza Navona, Largo Argentina (the archaeological site where Julius Caesar has been killed) the race will reach again Piazza Venezia. Here, the last efforts will be necessary, as just before the finish a short but pretty steep hill will be in sight. The road that will bring all the racers to the finish is in downhill, just around the Colosseum.

The runners of the Rome City Maraton will have a unique panorama for the race!

You can download the Marathon route here.

During the days before and after the International Rome Marathon, City Lights Tours will welcome all marathon runners, tourists, visitors and supporters with a 20% discount. At the checkout just insert RUNNERS to get your discount. You are not obliged to proof that you’re running the marathon! You don’t have to run! We will bring you for a nice strolls along the best places in the city!

For all the visitors in Rome, City Lights Tours will also arrange all your transfers, so you can save your energy for the race (or for a tour!).

Soon we will publish the discount code reserved for all visitors in Rome during the International Rome Marathon, stay tuned!

A (“new”) Emperor Nero’s house to be open to the public on the Palatine Hill

After Domus Aurea that has been opened to the visitors for a long time, another Emperor Nero’s palace, will be soon accessible to the public.

After almost 1950 years after his death, Nero still intrigues historians, archaeologists and, of course, visitors of Rome. This year, after 60 years, another of his palaces, precedent to the Domus Aurea, the Domus Transitoria, will be finally open and will give us another marvellous site to admire and to learn better about the curious and eccentric personality of Nero.

The mansion, decorated with frescoes and with marbles from all over the Roman Empire, has been used for parties and entertainment of the Emperor and his friends. It has been built as a party house; several fountains located inside the numerous marble columns were used to cool down the hot summer air and to create a spectacular water shows.

Photo bu repubblica.it

Now the visitors will be able to enjoy a light show set up in order to recreate the fantastic waterfall show Nero used to have in his house.

The Nero’s Domus Transitoria is planned to be open to the public in April 2019. The access will be allowed with a new Roman Forum and Palatine Hill ticket that will give you the chance to visit some other sites, recently opened, inside the Roman Forum.

We from City Lights are known to organize small groups and this new opening will be included in our itinerary, as only small groups will be allowed. At the beginning of March new announcements are to be made regarding the reservations and ticketing for Nero’s Domus Transitoria. For all the details, guided tours and new openings we will keep you updated.

Week of Culture in Italy. List of free Museums in Rome!

During the Week of Culture in Italy, as we mentioned in one of our previous articles, the entrance will be free of charge and if you’re in Rome between 5th and 10th of March 2019, you cannot miss this opportunity.

If you’re in Venice, Florence, Naples and any other city in Italy, keep in mind that almost all state museums will be free during the Week of Culture 2019.

In case of archaeological sites and museums that belong to the Vatican (like Vatican Museums or catacombs), the admission won’t be free and it is required to purchase or book your ticket.

Here is the list of the free museums in Rome.

Ostia Antica archaeological site

Roman forum and Palatine Hill

Colosseum

Campo di Bove

Galleria Borghese

Galleria Spada

Galleria Corsini

Palazzo BArberini

Galleria Nazionale

Cecilia Metella Mausoleum and Castrum Caetani

“Lamberto Loria” Museums

“Alessandro Vaccaro” Museum

“Giuseppe Tucci” Museum

“Luigi Pigorini” Museum

National Museum of Musical Instruments

National Museum of Palazzo Venezia

Castel Sant’Angelo

Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia

Crypta Balbi

Palazzo Altemps

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

Baths of Diocletian

Ostiense Museum

Santa Maria Nova (Appian Way)

Villa Adriana Tivoli

Villa d’Este Tivoli

Villa dei Quintili

In case you’re lucky to be in Rome from 5th to 10th March 2019 and you would like to arrange or join a guided tour and save some money, contact us during the Week of Culture and book your private guide in Rome! Remember, your price will be much cheaper as you won’t pay for tickets!

And… don’t forget! City of Rome is an open-air museum!

Photo by Serena Repice Lentini on Unsplash
Photo by Serena Repice Lentini

GOOD MORNING VATICAN!

GOOD MORNING VATICAN!

We didn’t know what to expect and having already arranged many tour options of the Vatican Museums, we thought it would have been another similar experience. We were going for a survey of a new experience.

The Early, the Super-Early, the VIP, the Fast track and Skip the line Vatican Museums tour…. all these tours are fine, good, great, but you cannot compare the Good Morning Vatican Museums with anything else, ever. The feeling isn’t anything you have tried so far. It feels a little bit like the Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller and, a little bit, like Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise. At 6am, while it’s still dark, you access the Museums through the magnificent door, under the sight of two statues of Raffaello and Michelangelo.

We were accompanied in an ancient-like decorated elevator to the level where the visit would start. Everything was dark.  Il Clavigero, the keyman of the Vatican Museums, Gianni Crea, has welcomed us at the door of the terrace (at the Corrazze Atrium) that looks over the St Peter’s Basilica.

The pale day-light, that was struggling with the dark of the previous night, illuminated enough just to see the silhouette and the lights of the St Peter’s Dome. We were there alone, overlooking the garden and the biggest church in the World, all of this just for ourselves.

We went back into the darkness of the Museums, where we felt the thrill of being alone inside the walls that contain so many centuries of history and art. In the past centuries the Museums have been used as Popes’ apartments. That’s why we felt a little bit like intruders, but mostly like hidden treasure seekers or adventurous explorers. In all that obscurity and silence, broken only by clavigero’s keys’ rattling, you felt like you could spot a ghost or hear some whispering echoes.

Gianni, il Clavigero, the Keyman of the Vatican Museums

Gianni would allow us to try to open some of the doors, by giving us the keys. Just to hold one of nearly 2700 keys of the most important collection of art in the World, was worth the experience (and wakening up at 5am!). The Pio Clementino Museum and the Octagonal Courtyard statues were wrapped up in silence of the courtyard and tranquility of the morning.

We arrived to the door that will eventually bring us into the Galleries of the Vatican Museums. The pitch dark around us was cut only by the torch-light. Gianni opened the door and let us into the darkness of the Gallery of Tapestries that, after the usual “switch-sound”, was illuminated in all its beauty. We opened all other Galleries, opened the window covers in the Gallery of Maps, watched from the window at 6.30am toward the Pope Ratzinger’s house, admired the Vatican Gardens from the balcony with the first, shy sunrays, opened the Raphael Rooms for other nearly 30.000 visitors who will enter the Vatican Museums on that day from 8am on… We were opening the Vatican Museums that day.

You really feel in symbiosis with the art, with the world that produced that art, you feel closer to the artistic expression displayed in front of you and you feel peace. After this experience, I would never ever enter a Museum for a visit with all the crowds. Only in this way you understand what’s the best way to appreciate the artworks.

We arrived to a double side, not big, wooden door, where Gianni stopped by and handed one of the three big rings with all the keys. He said “who finds the right key, he or she will open the Sistine Chapel today!”. It looked like hundreds of keys on one big ring and we didn’t have a clue how the SISTINE CHAPEL KEY could have looked like!!!! It felt like we were searching for a 1 billion dollar worth key. If you find it, you can really have the once-in-a-life time honor (and unique thrill!!!) to open the Sistine Chapel!!
We are not sure if it will give more value to your CV, but for sure you won’t forget the shiver you get of holding the keys of the Sistine Chapel!

The Key!!! The one that opens the Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel gets illuminated by ALL of the lights and that happens only in the occasions like the Pope’s ceremony, the Conclave and the 6am tour! (Yes, you understood well!).

You cannot take pictures, but also try not to cry overwhelmed by all the emotions.

We left the Museums initially full of unexplainable emotions. Afterwards, we started to realize what this experience brought us: you feel like winning a lottery as you were among millions of people who got a chance to experience something unique. And this is one of those things that you buy and it makes you richer!

And for the rest of your life you will have a vivid memory of something extraordinary and unique you were part of.

This tour is now available on request for 2019 and bookable for 2020. If you would like to join this experience that you will remember for the whole life, contact us on info@citylightstours.com

Enter for free to Museums and archaeological sites in Italy

In a couple of weeks all the visitors will be allowed to access some of the Roman Museums for free!

The Week of Culture, from the 5th to the 10th of March 2019, has been announced and many state museums and archaeological sites will be free of charge, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Borghese Gallery. The tickets will be completely free, but don’t forget that in some Museums the reservation is required and usually it has a cost of 2€ (for example, you will need to get your reservation for Borghese Gallery).

Throughout the whole year, there will be 20 (and not 12 as the last year) free access days to many Italian museums and archaeological sites. The Week of Culture will be chosen every year in a different period of the year and other “free days” will be chosen independently by every single museum.

For this year, the access to the Colosseum (and the Roman Forum) will be free of charge for the following days:

  • Every first Sunday from January to March and from October until December.
  • From the 5th to the 10th of March 2019
  • 9th May
  • 5th June
  • 29th June
  • 23rd September
  • 4th October
  • 4th November

Furthermore, every last Thursday of May, June, September and November the entrance to the Colosseum and Roman Forum will be free of charge for the last three hours during the opening hours of the site.

These dates are:

30th May from 3.30pm until 6.30pm

27th June from 3.30pm until 6.30pm

26th September from 2pm until 5pm

31st October from 11.30 until 2.30pm

28th November from 11.30 until 2.30pm

During the free access days, reservations for sections like Underground of the Colosseum, Belvedere and Arena will be closed and the bookings for the access or a guided tour for these areas won’t be available.

Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel, are under the jurisdiction of the Vatican City (and not under the Italian law) and the free access days are, as usual, every last Sunday of the month.

During the next week the list of the free access days for other museums and archaeological sites will be published and we will keep you updated. Stay tuned..

Bulgari to restore the archaelogical site of Largo Argentina

Rome will have a new archaeological site that will be soon open to all citizens and tourists. The new opening will give the chance to all the visitors to access one of the most important archaeological sites in Rome.

https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/it/larea-sacra-di-largo-di-torre-argentina

In a couple of years the archaeological site of Largo Argentina (Largo di Torre Argentina) will be open to the public thanks to the donation of the fashion maison Bulgari who will donate 1 milion euro for the restoration. After financing the restoration of the Spanish Steps, Bulgari decided to give life to this archaeological site of great importance.

The area has been built in the 3rd century B.C and it’s well known as the place where Julius Caesar has been murdered on 15th March in 44 A.C, on the Ides of March according to the Roman calendar.

The “Sacred Area” of Largo Argentina has been discovered only in 1926 and there were found four temples built from the 4th to the 2nd century B.C. The temples are dedicated to the divinities or events of those times:

Temple of Juturna built after the Roman victory against the Carthaginians in 241 BC;

Temple Fortuna Huiusce Diei dedicated to the “Fortune of This Day”;

Temple of Feronia ancient Italic divinity of fertility;

Temple devoted to Lares Permarini (Lares who protect sailors).

The area will be accessible from the 2021 and there will be built platforms and boardwalks, which will allow visitors to walk over the archaeological site and get closer to the ruins of the Largo Argentina.

Largo Argentina is in the city centre of Rome, walking distance from Piazza Venezia, Pantheon and Campo de’ Fiori and it is very easily reachable with public transport as all the main buses have a stop in Largo Argentina. Don’t miss it even now, when the area can be admired from the walls of the archaological site.

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

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