Vatican Museums evaluate putting a limit on the number of visitorsNovember 3, 2018
The Vatican Museums are evaluating putting a limit to the number of daily visitors, in view of the fear expressed by tour guides of a stampede in the midst of overcrowding and the warning of having at least ten fainting spells per day among the crowd.
The museums, an extensive structure of 54 galleries that contains a vast collection of treasures gathered by the pontiffs throughout the centuries, attract more than 6 million people a year. But unlike other important places in Rome, such as the Colosseum, there is currently no daily limit for visitors.
According to The Guardian, tour guides claimed that At least ten visitors faint every day while the crowds move slowly through the long narrow corridor that leads to the most popular attraction: the Sistine Chapel. While, others suffer injuries and panic attacks, and a guard was saved after suffering a heart attack in February.
The tour guides, who pay 250 euros a year for a license to work there, say that the conditions are more dangerous during the high summer season, when The number of visitors can increase to more than 30,000 per day and the temperatures can reach 40ºC. Only the Sistine Chapel has air conditioning.
The guides say that at least ten tourists pass out every day on their way to the Sistine Chapel (Víctor Sokolowicz).
The building has several emergency exits, but there are only two along the aisle of the Sistine Chapel, 1.6 km long, one at each end.
“The situation is slowly returning to normal as the high season ends, but from March to October is hellish“said one of the guides.
“Safety is the main problem, because when you feel completely trapped, you can barely see your feet. The crowds are one of the most dangerous things; look what happened in Mecca. It may never happen in the Vatican, but it can also happen. That’s what scares. ”
Nearly 3,000 guides work in museums. One of them said he fainted last year and broke his foot: “It is dangerous for tourists, for heritage and for us“While investigating how to sue the Vatican, lawyers told him it was impossible because the state had its own set of rules on building security.
The Vatican Museums can be visited with audio guides.
Measures for 2019
In response to these affirmations, Barbara Jatta, whom Pope Francis appointed director of the Museums at the end of 2016, told The Guardian: “Along with the Vatican government, we are working hard to set the correct number as of 2019. ”
Jatta added that a Spanish firm had been hired to improve the ticketing system and security measures, while work to extend the air conditioning to the Raphael rooms and Borgia apartments would begin during November.
There are also plans to open a second ticket to relieve congestion and extend opening hours on the busiest days of the year. 20 additional custodians have been hired, which allow to open previously closed galleries, while tour guides receive training, with the emphasis on guiding their clients to lesser known parts of the complex, such as the Etruscan Gregorian Museum, which will be accessible by lift from Christmas.
“There are seven miles of corridors, I would recommend that the guides take people somewhere instead of the Sistine Chapel,” Jatta said.
The request to the guides to take people to other places instead of the Sistine Chapel is the first sign of the Vatican that shows serious signs of limiting the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel. your biggest source of income.
Museums also represent the Catholic faith and, in the past, the church has been reluctant to close the door to pilgrims who may have traveled to Rome from poorer countries on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but without booking tickets for online advance.
To the 40,000 works of the Papal Palaces, terraces and gardens are added the impressive paintings of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
A regular ticket costs between 17 and 20 euros, while A guided tour that lasts three to four hours leaves around 70 euros. Private tours can be made one hour before the museum opens for around 400 euros per person.
The number of visitors increased rapidly from 2011 along with the growth of mass tourism. Antonio Paolucci, the previous director, determined 6 million per year and suggested a limit if the situation became intolerable.
Jatta recognizes the great challenge of ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all and protecting the works of art from the dust, moisture and perspiration that accompany millions of visitors a year, but also the difficulty of improving conditions in a centuries-old building of antiquity.
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