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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.

Early bird, but not too early

It has been years that many tour operators, bloggers, vloggers and travel story-tellers, have been advertising a “secret” way of seeing the Vatican Museums “before the crowds” or promising that you’ll be completely alone inside the Sistine Chapel. Visiting the Sistine Chapel alone is possible but not with the so-called Early option.

The “privilege” was advertised as the so-called VIP entrance, early morning Vatican, VIP early morning Vatican before the crowds etc….. none of these things is so Vip or privileged anymore…. Everybody discovered this secret and the term “vip entrance” lately got inflated more than a Venezuelan bolivar.

We from City Lights Tours have been working in the area for the last 10 years and we have experienced the trend change in the past 5 years, at least.

Few years ago, the Early Vatican tour was some sort of Vip tour as the Vatican Museums doors would open at 8am and all the “vip” groups ready to enter, would be inside in about 10-15 minutes.

Now, that’s not the case anymore. Numbers of visitors increased over the years, making crowds ten times worse than it used to be.

If you are flexible and you are planning to spend several days in Rome, have a look which day is the best to visit the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel.

In case you are thinking of going early there is a new way that only we, who are always on the spot, can discover for you.

Go early yes, but not too early: get a tour at 8.30am

Practically what happens: all the groups/tour companies with “vip” and “early” entrance will start to queue up from 7.20am on, waiting to enter at 8am. In this case, you go early to catch the spot in the security check line. You start early but you will be outside until the 8am access is allowed, exactly at 8am. If you’re lucky you and your group will be in at around 8.15am – 8.20am. So, if you start to line up at 7.20, you’ll be in at 8am; if you get your spot in the line at 7.30/35am, you’ll be in at 8.10am and so on… If the math isn’t wrong, the time you spend outside lining up in front of the Vatican Museums is 40 – 60 mins. So, logically, there is no “vip”, “early” or even worse “skip the line”.

8am groups line at the entrance of the Vatican Museums

Our trick is to meet at 8.20am, grab a coffee-to-go and with our group(s), each up to max 10 participants, enter at 8.30am by skipping (obviously) the line of those entering at 9am and, moreover, by skipping the line of the groups queuing from 7.20am. Small groups up to 10 people are allowed to skip all the lines and enter through a privileged access from 8.30am on.

Keep in mind that there are days before and after some extraordinary closures of the Vatican Museums that the line for the 8am tours is so long and some groups enter at 8.50am!

So, you don’t have to be necessarily “vip-early”, be just “smart-early”, join the Early Vatican Tour With Privileged Access which is a real privileged access and we can promise you will feel like a real vip.

 

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!!!!

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