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TOURISM

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

Want to see the Colosseum or Michelangelo’s David for free? You can on Italy’s free museum Sundays.

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays
The Galleria dell'Accademia in central Florence is home to the original 16th century statue of David by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

People across Italy will be able to visit museums for free once again this Sunday, September 4th, under the nationwide Domenica al Museo or ‘free museum Sundays’ scheme allowing ticketless entry on the first Sunday of every month.

First introduced in 2014, the offer was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns about crowding but reinstated in April 2022.

READ ALSO: Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in September

As tickets for major historical sites and museums in Italy often cost upwards of €15 per person, there are big savings to be made and the free Sundays scheme is understandably popular among both tourists and residents.

The remaining dates for the year are: September 4th, October 2nd, November 6th, and December 4th.

Where can I go?

The scheme applies to hundreds of state-run museums, archaeological parks and monuments, including world-famous sites like the Colosseum, Pompeii, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, the Reggia di Caserta and Trieste’s Miramare Castle.

The offer does not apply to sites that are run by local authorities rather than the state, though many cities run similar initiatives of their own.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

How do I book a free ticket?

In many cases you don’t need to and can simply turn up and walk in.

However, some venues such as Rome’s Galleria Borghese require advance booking, so it’s always wise to find the attraction’s website and check the rules before you go.

Are there any Covid restrictions?

Right now the Italian government does not have any health restrictions in place for museums.

The culture ministry recommends visitors wear masks, but this is no longer obligatory.

Individual venues – as well as local authorities – can however set their own requirements, so it’s another thing you may want to check before your visit.

Will museums be overcrowded?

This really depends on where you go. Italy most famous attractions always draw huge crowds in summer – free entrance or otherwise – while lesser-known spots or those outside the major tourist areas may be less chaotic.

But frankly, it’s likely to be busy in most places. The scheme was cancelled in 2019 (and then reinstated after a change of government) due to concerns about long queues and overcrowding – long before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

Some sites capped visitor numbers when the scheme was initially reinstated in spring but it’s unclear how many still do this.

What else should I know?

You can find a full list of the sites included and links to further information for each on the Italian culture ministry’s website here.

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VENICE

EXPLAINED: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ – again

After the city of Venice announced yet another delay to its long-discussed plan to impose an entry fee, we look at why the project has run aground and what this means for visitors in 2023.

EXPLAINED: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ - again

For an island surrounded by shoals and shallow waters, it seems oddly fitting that Venice’s long-discussed ‘tourist tax’ system remains hopelessly stranded. 

The idea to impose an entry fee on all day-trippers, intended to regulate the number of visitors and supposedly solve the city’s overcrowding problems, was first mooted in 2019.

OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

It has been repeatedly delayed – first after historic floods, and then amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

All the pieces seemed to have finally fallen into place earlier this year, and Venice was expected to get its much-touted ‘tourist tax’ system up and running by January 16th, 2023. 

However, to the surprise of no-one who’s even remotely familiar with the project’s troubled history, the city has now announced another delay – meaning the entry-fee saga will now continue well into the new year.

Why all the delays?

While Venice’s comune (town hall) vaguely attributed the latest deferral to the need to “change and improve” the project, a number of specific longstanding issues seem to have bogged down the city’s plans once more.

Confusion still lingers over who exactly will be exempted from paying the entry fee (contributo d’accesso), which will range from three to ten euros based on the day and time of the year. 

A gondola right in front of Venice's Doge Palace

Under Venice’s new tourism regulation system, day-trippers will have to pay an entry fee of three to ten euros to access the city centre. Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP

While tourists staying in the city overnight, residents, second-home owners and those studying or working in Venice have long been identified as exempt categories, local authorities have never quite clarified what their plans were in relation to people living in other Veneto provinces. 

READ ALSO: How will Venice’s tourist tax affect second-home owners? 

And, according to the latest Italian media reports, a squabble between Venice’s administration and regional authorities over the status of Veneto residents – the region is reportedly pushing for a full exemption, which Venice seems to oppose for now – may have been the main reason behind the latest stand-off. 

But a clearer definition of exemptions isn’t the only outstanding item in the city’s to-do list, not by a long shot. 

The administration’s failure to reach an agreement with local transport operators and port authorities over the enforcement of the new rules has largely contributed to the latest delay, and so have issues related to the planned online booking platform.

In particular, the comune pledged earlier this year that the website allowing day-trippers to book and pay for their visit to the city would be ready by the end of 2022 – but with less than a month to go until the new year there’s no sign of it.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Venice?

Tourist sitting in a cafè by Rialto Bridge in Venice

Due to a number of structural issues, the introduction of Venice’s entry fee system is now expected to happen over the course of next year’s summer. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

It is perhaps telling in this sense that the city is still in the process of asking residents for comments and suggestions on the entry fee plan: the website created to collect feedback on the project went live on Tuesday, December 6th and will remain available until January 7th.

So when might visitors have to pay an entry fee?

Any changes made to the project now will have to be approved by the city’s council (Consiglio Comunale), after which it’ll take months – perhaps as many as six – to get the system ready to go. 

This means that, even if the council somehow managed to approve the new plan by the end of the year, the project’s trial stages could only start next summer at the earliest, with the local Feast of the Redeemer (Festa del Redentore) on July 15th potentially being the first real test for the system. 

But, given the project’s history, we doubt many people will bank on it.

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