Sundays in Italy are for relaxing. Italians like to indulge on mamma’s delicious italian treats, while drinking some good vino and spending time with loved ones. But what if you’re not a local? What if you’re visiting Italy on vacation and happen to be over the first Sunday of the month? Well, no time to relax! Did you know you could access Italy’s state museums for FREE!? That’s right! Free Museums in Italy!
Free Museums in Italy
On the first Sunday of every month, you can get free tickets to over 300 Italian state museums, gardens, monuments and archeological sites! Yes, it’s true!
Domenica al museo is a government initiative that has been running since July 2014. It started when the Italian Minister of Culture decided that more action had to be taken to encourage people to take more of an interest in the arts that Italy has to offer. So, what better way to do that than offer free admission to state museums once a month!
I know what you’re thinking. “I’m not a resident in Italy, so why am I reading this?” Well, good news for all because this initiative is not limited to Italian residents, visitors can make the most of it too. Including you!
You can find a list of participating museums on the Italian Ministry of Culture and Environment website. The list is in Italian but if you Google the name of the place you’d like to visit you can easily fins the Italian equivalent to search for.
Before You Go!
Be prepared. You’ll be up against many other visitors looking for free entrance to top attractions. At the Colosseum, for example, you may be in for a long wait in line, so we recommend you bring a snack, water and umbrella (for shade and shelter purposes). Some places allow you to book in advanced online ,which means waiting in a separate line for entry, but not all sights offer this. Be careful to do your research beforehand and get there early!
Tour Companies tend not to offer tours of sights on “Free Sunday”, so read up on the place you’ll be visiting before you go so you actually know what you’re looking at and make your time spent in line worth it! Some places offer their own guides or audioguides, but that could mean an extra line and these are not free unless stated otherwise. If you’re planning on doing it all for free, be prepared! I’ll say it one more time, be prepared!
IMPORTANT: not every museum in Italy takes part. Private and civic museums do not partake in the government scheme, but you may find some of them offer free entry on their own accord. So it’s worth doing the research! The Vatican Museums are not included on the list and, instead, offers free entrance on the LAST SUNDAY of the month between 9:00am-12:30pm.
Night at the Museum Event
Another initiative, though less frequent, is the Night at the Museum (“La notte dei musei”). Once or twice a year, venues across Italy stay open late at night, allowing you to marvel at priceless masterpieces by moonlight.
Unlike Free Sunday, the initiative is not always free. In fact, many ask for a donation of minimum ONE EURO! Is it worth it I hear you ask…well of course it is! In our opinion, this initiative is more exciting and memorable than “Free Sunday” by leaps and bounds.
Not only can you wander the corridors of museums with a fraction of the crowds than during the day time, but you can also attend shows, concerts and other events that take place in the museums during the special night. Many museums open their doors at 8pm to start the evening and stay open until 2am the next morning.
In 2016, a total of 46 museums, auditoriums, cultural institutes and universities took part! Participating venues included the Capitoline Museums and Trajan’s Market! You can download the program on the Musei in Comune Roma website through this link: Scarica la brochure col programma.
Before You Go!
The lines may not be as significant as Free Sunday, but don’t expect to be the only ones who know about this event. We advise you arrive an hour before the museums re-open for the evening. this way you’ll be one of the first in line and will lead the rest of the visitors through the museums. You may be the first to enter a room or gallery and have that whole space to yourself for a few minutes.
IMPORTANT: not every museum in Italy takes part. Make sure you check the program online beforehand!
Colosseum Underground Small Group Tour
Not here over the first Sunday of the month? Want to make the most of your Colosseum experience and feel like a VIP while doing it? A Colosseum Underground Tour is the cheapest way to be a VIP at the Colosseum in Rome. Say goodbye to all the crowds, waiting in line and pre-visit research.
With an expert Rome Guide you’ll be take behind a padlocked gate, where regular tour groups and visiting members of the public don’t get access. As other visitors looks at you with envy, you’ll get to walk out onto the reconstructed arena floor (perfect for that posing gladiator Instagram snap). You’ll also be taken underground into the Colosseum dungeons where wild animals and gladiators were once kept. All this, before also getting a guided tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill!
It may not be free, but thousands of visitors to Rome agree that this “once in a lifetime” experience is well worth those extra dollars. Just check all the reviews on TripAdvisor!