While this may appear an antiseptic way of enjoying one of the world’s greatest churches, it will come as a welcome relief to hundreds of Italians and foreign visitors, deprived until now of a glimpse of the divine since churches and cultural institutions closed in March.
“It’s beautiful and touching to see the Duomo open again, especially since it’s not often that you see it so empty,” said Marco, a local resident. “It’s even better that way.”
Visits to the cathedral and its associated sights – which include the famous octagonal Baptistery and Giotto’s free-standing 85 metre tall Campanile – are all free until the end of the month.
Within 24 hours of the announcement that the Duomo was to reopen more than 10,000 people reserved tickets.
Lorenzo Luchetti, director general of Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, which administers the cathedral, said the reopening marked a symbolic moment for Italy following the ordeal of the pandemic, which has killed more than 32,600 people on the peninsula.
“We decided to reopen free of charge for everyone to give a message of hope, of revival, of a return to normal life,” he said.
The Vatican announced on Saturday its museums will reopen on June 1, ending a closure caused by the coronavirus lockdown that has drained the Holy See’s coffers.
A statement said the Museums, which house some of the world’s greatest Renaissance masterpieces as well as ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts, can be visited from the beginning of June, though only by making on-line reservations in order to control the number of people.
Visitors will have their temperatures checked and will have to wear masks and use hand sanitiser. Staff will wear masks and gloves and health workers will be on hand.
Similar conditions will apply to visitors to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.
Italian museums began reopening on May 18 as part of a staged easing of lockdown measures.
The pandemic has drastically slowed the flow of funds to the Vatican’s coffers. The Museums received some 7 million visitors last year and are the Holy See’s most reliable source of income, previously generating an estimated $US100 million yearly.
Even after the reopening, officials fear that enhanced security measures, social distancing requirements, new health regulations and an expected dearth of international tourists will erode ticket and souvenir sales.
The Telegraph, London; Reuters