Should culture be free?

Museums and most of the archeological sites in Rome are not

Rome’s Pantheon may no longer be free to visit

In 2016 it was visited by more than seven million tourists. Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini recently announced a possible introduction of an entry fee. The Minister said that part of the revenues will be used to maintain the site, as it happens with other monuments such as The Coliseum.

The proposal to introduce a ticket to access one of Rome’s most famous sites has immediately caused dissatisfaction, counterposing those who claim that it is reasonable to introduce a fee against those who say it is not acceptable to put a price tag on Italy’s cultural heritage.

Although the price would be modest, many complained the fact that the site should be kept free as it was in the past decades.

Pantheon, Rome. By Dafne Berdini

The Pantheon was built in 27 B.C. as a temple of worship by consul-general-architect Marcus Agrippa, the man who helped Augustus in making Rome “the city of marble”. Its name has Greek roots with the meaning of “all the gods”. In 110 A.D. the landmark was destroyed by a fire, then rebuilt in 118, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.

Pantheon, Rome. By Dafne Berdini

The Pantheon dispute raised a broader issue: should museums and culture itself be free? Is Rome too expensive? What about other European cities?

Pros & Cons of a Free-Culture City

(Video and interviews made by Dafne Berdini in Rome, April 2017)

Romans in the first place, claimed the right as residents to visit the tomb of Raphael as much as they want. Among them, a student claimed the fact that Rome is expensive in terms of culture.

Especially for students, there are no many convenient deals. For example, in the Museum Scuderie del Quirinale, out of a 12 euros entry ticket, the student deal (4 euros) is effective only on Friday and Saturday after 7pm. Otherwise students and youngsters have to pay 9.50 euros.

Although many tourists would not mind paying for culture, some of them are surprised there is an entry charge for almost every Rome’s main museum and archeological site.

An American tourist pointed out that a free entry ticket would make culture available for those who cannot afford to pay. Sites and museums such as The Roman Forum (12 euros), the Vatican Museums (16 euros), Galleria Borghese (20 euros) or the Coliseum (12 euros), are unaffordable for some people.

Moreover, a Londoner who was visiting the Pantheon claimed that culture for free means an increase of tourism, therefore more income for retailers and the city itself.

There are positives and negatives when considering free entry to museums.

United Kingdom’s example

There is a free admission to United Kingdom’s National museums since 15 years. For the Britons, the political benefits are even greater than the economic costs.

The abolition of the entry ticket costs to the English government at least 83 millions of euros a year. But, as soon as the deal was introduced, since the first year there has been an increase of visitors, from 1 million to 2,3 millions.

Despite the costs, the free admission saw an increase of tourism in London and appealed to a new public: the lower classes, those who could not afford to pay for a museum.

Overall, those who benefit the most the free admission in London main attractions are the foreign tourists. Each year, at least 18 million of visitors go to national museums.

The free entry does benefit the City on a larger scale, bringing a lot of income as tourists spend a lot of money during their visits, in terms of restaurants, hotel rooms and transports.

The Italian Most Visited 
Museums and Sites In 2016

Despite many Italian museums have not adopted the free-charge ticket yet, Italy still remains on the top list of touristic European attractions.

According to a recent survey from the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the Pantheon was the most visited site in the country, second the Coliseum, followed by Scavi di Pompei. 2016 was the year of records, with 44 million of visitors.

The Pantheon, with 7.4 million visitors, more than half a million more than the previous year, also hits the peak of the free culture sites, while the Coliseum, the Forum and the Palatine are firmly in the top 30 of the museums (with 6.4 million visitors) in front of Pompei’s excavations (3.2 million).

Will the affluence decrease after the Pantheon will be officially monetised?

Italy Is First In Europe 
For Culture

“Data from 2016” — declares the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Dario Franceschini — “decree a new record for Italian museums. The 44.5 million entrances in Italian sites brought income for over 172 million euros, an increase of 4% and 12% respectively over 2015, which corresponds to 1.2 million more visitors and higher incomes for 18.5 million euros.”

38 million tickets in 2013 went to 44.5 million in 2016: 6 million more visitors in a three-year period, representing an increase of 15 % over the period and led to an increase in cash payments of 45 million.

Growth in which the South plays an important role, with Campania also in 2016 in second place in the ranking of the largest number of visitors thanks to more than 8 million registered entries, an increase of 14.2% over 2015.

A major part is played by the archaeological heritage including Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine. But museums also play an important role, since around half the entrances are concentrated in autonomous museums.

Italian museums affluence by region:

The six regions with the largest number of visitors to state museums are Lazio (19,653,167), Campania (8,075,331), Tuscany (6,394,728), Piedmont (2,464,023), Lombardy (1,791 .931) and Friuli Venezia Giulia (1.198.771).

3 art spots to visit in Rome if you are on a budget

Rome’s main museums and archeological sites might be expensive, but visitors can appreciate a lot of free art in churches. Here are just a few highlights:
1. San Pietro in Vincoli

This little church is located on the Oppian Hill, a short distance from the Colosseum. This minor basilica is best known for hosting the renowned Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.

Credits to Wikipedia
2. Santa Maria della Vittoria

This beautiful church is really close to Termini and Barberini stations. An amazing piece of art to cherish for free is the Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. It is considered to be one of the sculptural Baroque masterpieces.

Credits to Wikipedia

3. Basilica di Sant’Agostino in Campo Marzio

This church is located not far from Piazza Navona. It is one of the Roman churches built in the Renaissance and home to the Madonna di Loreto, also known as Madonna of the Pilgrims, one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces. He donated his piece of art to the church as a thanksgiving for the asylum granted.

Credits to Dafne Berdini
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