Settimana della Cultura

Italy's "Culture Week" not only lets you into all state-run sights in Rome for free, but also sees hundreds of normally-closed sights open for one day only

All state-run sights (national museums, galleries, monuments, and archaeological sites) throughout Italy are admission-free during the annual "Week for Culture," which is usually the second or third week of April.

(Note: Sadly, Italy's ongoing economic crisis led authorities to cancel the Cultural Week in 2013 and again in 2014.)

All sorts of interesting guided tours are offered, both within individual sights as well as thematic walks across Rome to visit multiple sights, many of them normally closed to the public.

See, Italy has a problem. It's a problem of excess: there's just too much good stuff here. UNESCO has estimated that 40% of the world's cultural heritage that's been preserved lies in Italy.

Italy's heritage is so rich it would take a vast army of people simply to staff all the historic palaces, ancient ruins, minor museums, and other sights of interest, and the costs would be prohibitive, so only the top 30% or so are kept open regularly.

That's another major reason for the Settimana della Cultura: hundreds of sights normally closed to the public are staffed by volunteers and their doors thrown open free of charge—though I warn you, the lines can get quite long.

(Luckily, the stampede of people heading to the major museum that are always open, but don't charge admission for this week, helps keep numbers down at these far more special, usually-closed sights.)

There are literally thousands of initiatives across Italy, and hundreds just in Rome, so it'd be impossible to list them all (plus, they change year-to-year).

You can learn more at the Web site of Italy's "Ministry for the Cultural Good" (don't you wish we had one of those?)—though it's all in Italian:

Tips & links

How long does Rome take?

Planning your day: Rome wasn't built in a day, and you'd be hard-pressed to see it in that brief a time as well. Still, you can cram a lot into just a day or three.

To help you get the most out of your limited time in the Eternal City, here are some perfect itineraries, whether you have one, two, three, or four days to spend in Rome.

» Rome itineraries

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