ROME – With COVID-19 restrictions easing as new infections decrease in Italy, the Vatican has reopened the majestic doors of its art-filled museums this week to the public.
The relaxation of restrictions in place since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy last year has brought good news to the museums and to art lovers who are now able to return after a two-month lockdown.
But the museums will not be seeing the crowds of the past for some time.
For now, all access to the museums will strictly require booking a specific time slot. Limited numbers will be allowed in for all time slots available and all those who enter the museums will have their temperature checked at the entrance. All staff working at the Vatican Museums have been vaccinated.
A maximum number of 400 visitors will be allowed into the museums every 30 minutes so as to maintain social distancing. Masks are mandatory both inside and in the Vatican gardens.
Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, is enthusiastic about the re-opening and eager to welcome visitors back to enjoy the masterpieces that have found a home here. She said that museums are a way to nourish people’s souls.
She said this is the time to come to the Vatican Museums, because they are totally safe to visit and without that flow of people that existed in previous years.
With limited foreign travel still and few tourists in the Eternal City, it is mainly Italians at this time who are booking to visit.
Antonio, a Rome resident, said he has been wanting to come for a long time and so immediately seized the opportunity. He added that he is delighted and looks forward to the visit.
During the closures caused by the pandemic, the only way to see the works in the museums was through free virtual online tours on the museums’ website. During the closure, staff used the opportunity to carry out maintenance work and improve both its digital services and security.
As Italy this year marks 700 years of the death of its famous 14-th century poet, the museums are featuring a special exhibit on Dante Alighieri titled “Dante in the Vatican Museums.”
Pre-pandemic, close to an estimated seven million visitors a year visit the Vatican Museums with their magnificent frescoed ceiling of “The Last Judgement” by Renaissance artist Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, its passageway and galleries and the Vatican Gardens.