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TOURISM

Rome’s Pantheon to start charging visitors for entry

The Pantheon, one of Rome's oldest and most iconic monuments, will soon start charging visitors for entry – a move which drew mixed reactions from tourists on Thursday.

The facade of Rome's Pantheon
Rome's Pantheon will soon start charging visitors for entry. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The ticket price has yet to be confirmed but “is not to not exceed five euros”, Italy’s culture ministry announced, while minors and Rome residents will be exempt.

The change was “based on common sense”, Italy’s Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said, and the price will be “modest” for Italy’s most visited cultural site.

The Pantheon is currently free to enter – though you need to reserve a slot at busy times, and long queues are not unusual.

There was no indication of a timeframe for bringing in the entry fee.

The 2,000-year-old building is currently a consecrated church and part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the diocese of Rome.

Most of the money – 70 percent – will go to the culture ministry, which will bear the costs of cleaning and maintenance.

READ ALSO: Why is Italy’s plan to charge for entry to the Pantheon so controversial?

Among the tourists visiting the Pantheon on Thursday, reaction to the news was mixed.

“It makes sense. Conservation requires money, and it doesn’t shock me to make tourists contribute,” said Gustavo Rojas, a 37-year-old from Chile.

Alessandra Mezzasalma, a 46-year-old Italian tour guide, however, told AFP it was “shameful”.

“The Pantheon, and historical monuments in general, are collective assets and they should remain open to everyone. Culture must be as inclusive as possible,” she said.

“If I had to pay, we wouldn’t have gone in,” said French tourist Clara Dupond, 21.

The other major churches in Rome, including St Peter’s Basilica, are free to visit, but museums and monuments such as the Colosseum are ticketed.

READ ALSO: ‘Americans can pay’: Italian minister says famous sites should hike entry fees

One of the best-preserved relics of ancient Rome, the Pantheon is famed for its extraordinary dome, which measures 43 metres (140 feet) in diameter and includes a circular opening through which light and occasionally rain fall.

It was built as a temple in the first century BC before being completely rebuilt under Emperor Hadrian at the start of the second century AD.

After falling into neglect, the building was given a new life after being consecrated as a church in the seventh century under Pope Boniface IV.

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ROME

The downsides of Rome you should be aware of before moving there

Dotted with ancient ruins and full to the brim with art and scrumptious local cuisine, Rome really is a wonderful place to visit. But what about living there?

The downsides of Rome you should be aware of before moving there

The Eternal City is perhaps one of the best-known places on earth. It is home to one of the new seven wonders of the world, holds the Headquarters of the Catholic Church, and houses multiple works of art spanning from Bernini to Caravaggio.

The Italian capital is steeped in history since its inception in 753 BCE

It is hard not to fall in love with Rome and look at the city with rose-tinted glasses when you first arrive. Nevertheless, there are a few disadvantages you should consider before moving there. Let’s unpack them one by one. 

Issues with transportation

You would think having an effective transportation system for residents and tourists alike would be a top priority for Rome’s local government, wouldn’t you? Think again. Buses catching fire and three metro lines are all part and parcel of getting around the city. Let’s break it down bit by bit.

Buses catching fire – In 2022 three buses caught fire within 10 days, with one of them being a school bus. What’s more between 2016 and 2021, 250 buses caught fire either through an act of crime or because the bus was too old. The phenomenon, locally dubbed as ‘flambus’, has fortunately not yet caused any grave injuries or deaths. Rome’s Councillor for Mobility Eugenio Patané also recently announced the city would have 1000 new electric buses in operation by 2026. 

In the meantime, however, be cautious when getting on an old bus in Rome.

The wreck of a bus in Rome after being destroyed by an accidental fire. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Three metro lines – The capital only has three lines to its name: Metro A, Metro B, and Metro C. Considering Rome is one of the most important cities in Europe, it would benefit from at least one more line, especially when comparing its network to the underground systems of London or Paris. Furthermore, the capital currently only has two transfer stations: Termini and San Giovanni.

READ ALSO: Five interesting facts you didn’t know about Rome

Work is currently being done to make the metro system more extensive, but it is not without its hurdles. Metro C for example has been in construction since 2007 and is not yet finished. It is a joke amongst locals that it never will be. A somewhat fascinating reason for this is because workers stumble upon artefacts from ancient times, some of which are on display in various metro C stations such as San Giovanni. 

As a result of all of this, Roman residents prefer to live close to where they work or work close to where they live. It’s an important piece of advice anyone would give you before moving here as the slow, sparse transport might just cost you your job.

On the plus side a monthly pass is only €35.

Streets lined with litter

It’s no secret that if you walk outside the beautiful historic centre, Rome is exceptionally littered. The bins in the residential areas are more often than not overflowing with garbage and in the summer the smell can be off-putting.

A big part of this is because Rome does not have the capacity to process the waste it produces and as a result, starting from mid-April of last year, the city transports 900 tonnes of rubbish to Amsterdam every week for them to dispose of in a deal the city struck with Amsterdam Waste and Energy Company (AEB).

Wild boar, Rome

A wild boar in Rome in September 2021. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Whilst this certainly provides help in controlling Rome’s waste issue, it has led to wild boar being spotted perusing through litter and pretty sizeable seagulls. 

Extremely dangerous driving

In a recent study conducted by the private university LUMSA, Rome has three road accidents every hour. In 2023 there were 11,900 accidents on the roads with 126 deaths. 36 of those deaths were pedestrians.

Do not rely on traffic lights or road crossings when going from street to street. Always make sure you use your common sense and look both ways. 

Competition and value for money with rentals

Firstly, it must be pointed out that Rome does not have the most expensive rent prices in Italy. That award goes to Milan, with Rome coming in fifth place after Florence, Bologna, and Venice. However, like everywhere else in the world, rental prices are on the up. Rome’s rent has gone up by 8.8 percent on average between January 2023 and January of this year.

Moreover, what you get for your money doesn’t tend to be the best (unless you pay loads). It’s not unusual for there to be listings of rentals without kitchens and distastefully decorated.

READ ALSO: What are the best Rome neighbourhoods for international residents?

There’s also fierce competition among renters, so make sure you are available for viewings if you see your dream apartment. On top of this, Rome also has quite a lot of rental scams. Make sure you don’t fall for any of those.

Saturated with tourists

Now this sounds like it should be an advantage, and money-wise for the city it is. Last year the Trevi Fountain alone accumulated a record-breaking €1.6 million according to Catholic charity Caritas. By the same token, 49.2 million tourists flocked to the city last year, which is more than any other place in the country. 

With this advantage also come disadvantages, like in any other capital. Imagine you’re trying to get to work and you are blocked by hordes of tourists grouping together, or imagine you’re speaking to a friend and someone stops and asks for a photo. 

The city is geared towards tourism and ticket sellers for attractions such as the Colosseum frequently stop you to try and sell a ticket. They usually wear a red bib. 

All in all then, Rome has quite a few disadvantages. However, these should not outweigh its advantages, of which there are many. On the plus side, if you do find yourself moving here and wanting to escape after a few months, its award-winning airport Fiumicino is only 30 minutes away. 

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