This weekend sees a special outdoor edition of the open days held twice a year by the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano), the trust that maintains and manages thousands of heritage sites around Italy, from castles and stately homes to libraries, gardens and lighthouses.
While its spring 'Giornate FAI' usually take place in March, this year they had to be cancelled because of Italy's coronavirus lockdown.
Instead the trust is organising special visits to gardens, terraces and woodlands to help minimise the infection risk.
Visitors will be limited to small groups with staggered entry times, and tours now have to be booked in advance via the FAI website.
Usually the Giornate FAI are a rare chance to see inside properties that are off-limits to visitors for most of the year, but in this case the programme also includes public parks and forests where FAI guides will point out features you might otherwise miss – like the 'secret gardens' tucked inside Rome's Villa Borghese park, or the Borgo Pirelli, a residential neighbourhood built at the start of the 20th century for workers in the nearby Pirelli factories and since engulfed by later developments.
Some visits will also take the form of bike rides, hikes or lessons in botany. The idea is to “bring Italians closer to nature and our landscapes” and promote Italy's “green heritage”, the FAI says.
While the FAI usually asks for donations rather than charging entry, this weekend it's requesting minimum contributions of €3 for members and €5 for non-members to help support the trust after Italy's long lockdown, which kept its sites closed and hurt its finances.
The complete list of more than 200 sites open this weekend in 150 locations around around can be found on the FAI's website.
Booking opened on Tuesday, June 23rd and is open until Friday, June 26th. Some sites or times may be reserved for FAI members, which you can join for an annual fee here.