Vatican City, May 23, 2020 / 08:35 am (CNA).- The Vatican Museums announced Saturday that it will reopen on June 1, two days before Italy opens its borders to European visitors after nearly three months of lockdown.
Entrance to the Vatican Museums will only be possible via prior reservation to limit the number of people in the museum and stagger entrance times. All visitors will be required to wear a mask and mandatory temperature checks will be conducted at the entrance.
To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, group visits to the museums will be capped at a maximum of 10 people.
The Vatican Museums will have been closed for 12 weeks since the Italian government announced the closure of all museums and archaeological sites throughout the country on March 8.
Throughout Italy’s lockdown, the Vatican Museums maintained only essential services requiring about 30 employees. The museums employee nearly 1,000 people, among them are administrators, restorers, art historians, and ticket agents.
The Italian government has announced that Italy will open its regional and international borders on June 3, allowing tourists from the European Union to visit Italy without being subjected to a quarantine requirement.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that this will create the conditions to help Italy’s tourism industry to recover.
The Vatican Museums receive millions of visitors each year, and generated around $87 million annually as of 2015, half of which was surplus revenue for Vatican City, according to the Economist. In the months that the museums have been closed due to the pandemic, Vatican City has likely lost millions of dollars in revenue.
Due to the travel restrictions, the first visitors to the reopened Vatican Museums on June 1 will likely be local Romans, rather than the usual tourists.
To accommodate local visitors, the museums have extended their hours to encourage afternoon and evening visits, especially over the weekend.
The museums will be open Monday through Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. each day. On Friday and Saturday the museums and gardens will stay open until 10 p.m. with an optional cocktail hour in the courtyard.
The Vatican Museums have also added an open-bus tour of the Vatican Gardens.
“I would like this moment of difficulty to turn into an opportunity,” Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga said in an interview published by L’Osservatore Romano.
The museum and gardens at the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo will also be reopening on June 6 with additional safety measures.
Vergez, the general secretary of Vatican City State, encouraged Italian families to visit the museums and the gardens.
“The weekend … could become an ideal opportunity to seize the extraordinary opportunity to visit the summer residence of the popes and the splendid Gardens of Villa Barberini. The hot and beautiful sun of these days seems to invite us to this!” Vergez said.