Italy to scrap free monthly museum entry

Italy's new culture minister has announced that the country's free monthly entry to state museums will end after the summer.

Italy to scrap free monthly museum entry
The ruins of Pompeii were among the sites offering free entry once a month. Photo: Carlo Hermann/AFP

Currently, it's possible to visit many of Italy's most popular sites on the first Sunday of each month for free as part of the Domenica al museo (Sunday at the museum) project.

But at a press conference on Tuesday, Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli said the monthly offer would be scrapped in order to avoid “undervaluing our sites” and to help prevent logistical problems when huge numbers of tourists turn up at some of the country's most popular sites on summer Sundays.

Bonisoli said the project had been good as a “publicity launch”, but added: “If we continue with it, in my opinion we'll go in a direction that nobody will like.”

His predecessor, Dario Franceschini of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), called on Bonisoli to “rethink” the plan.

“I can't keep quiet, because the free Sundays aren't something related to me, but are a cultural and social event that has involved around 10 million people […] a large number of whom were visiting a museum for the first time in their life,” he said. “Don't make culture and Italians pay for a desire to break with the political past.”

Franceschini first launched the initiative in summer 2014 and around 3.5 million people took part in 2017 alone.

READ ALSO: Why you've never heard of Italy's best museum

Responding to criticism from Italy's opposition parties, Bonisoli explained in a Facebook video that he had spoken to museum directors and that the majority were keen to end the Domenica al museo programme.

However, he stressed that there would still be opportunities to offer free entry, with the directors given greater choice in planning the offers. “[Free entry] could happen to a greater extent than in the past, but in an intelligent way,” Bonisoli said.

He added that more flexible planning would better account for seasonal fluctuations in visitor numbers and differences between museums and geographical areas.

Museums already have the power to introduce other free offers, either independently or in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture. For example, for the past few years Italy's state museums have offered free entry to all women on International Women's Day, while Turin's Egyptian Museum has offered discounts for Arabic speakers and two-for-one offers for couples on Valentine's Day.

READ ALSO: From taps to ancient erotica, 15 of the strangest museums across Italy


Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.