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 2013 Cultural Week.)
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: www.beniculturali.it
This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.
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