WHEN the Vatican Museums reopens, visitors are in line for a rare treat: the chance to see the world-famous Sistine Chapel free of crowds.
With tourism still hobbled by the pandemic, museums director Barbara Jatta said she does not expect a large number of visitors starting from June 1.
“Now is the ideal time to come,“ she said at a recent press preview before the opening.
She noted that other museums in Rome which opened last week have hardly been busy with fewer visitors than previously. For example, the Galleria Borghese only had around 100 visitors in three days, she said.
Jatta also said 90% of visitors come from abroad, and foreign travel to Italy is currently restricted.
Borders are set to reopen next month, but it is unclear how many people will come.
In pre-pandemic times, a visit to the Vatican Museums often meant queues, overcrowding and guards telling you to move along.
Visitor numbers have risen steadily in recent years, to 6.7 million in 2019. Ticket sales are an important source of revenue for the Vatican City State.
As part of new safety precautions, visitors now have to wear masks, respect social distancing and have their body temperature scanned at the entrance.
The museums are limiting tour groups to 10 and forcing people to book to keep crowd numbers in check, but a 4-euro (US$4.30) booking surcharge over the 17-euro standard ticket has been scrapped. – dpa