Tourists in Rome visiting the Pantheon will soon be charged a five euro entry fee under an agreement signed Thursday by Italian culture ministry and church officials.
Built in the first century BC, the impressive domed temple is Italy's most popular cultural site and attracts millions of visitors every year. It was transformed into a Catholic church in 609AD, renamed the Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs, and Mass is regularly celebrated there.
Proceeds from the new entry fee will be split, with the culture ministry receiving 70 per cent to help cover maintenance and cleaning costs and the remainder going to the Rome diocese.
Why is the Pantheon going to charge an entry fee?
Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said the move was a matter of “good sense.” The introduction of an entrance fee comes five years after a previous government shelved plans to start charging visitors two euros.
Under the new plan, visitors under 25 years of age will be charged a reduced rate of two euros. Entrance will be free to Rome residents, minors, people attending Mass and personnel of the basilica, among others.
No date was given for the introduction of the fee, as officials work out technical details. Currently, entrance is free and reservations are required on weekends and public holidays.
What tourist attractions in Rome are still free?
If you're planning a Roman holiday and looking to do it on a budget, fear not as there's still plenty to do for free.
The city is filled with beautiful streets to explore and outdoor photo opportunities like the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
If churches are your thing, the wonderful thing about Rome is that there are free ones to visit on almost every street. Even the most simple building on the outside can leave you speechless from the incredible artworks inside.
Some particular highlights include the Basilica of Saint Praxedes, Santa Maria Maggiore and the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.
There is also, of course, the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica which boasts the world's tallest dome at a whopping 136.5 metres. If you are planning on visiting though, make sure you book in advance to avoid the queues of up to four hours!
If you want to see some Roman history, though the Roman Forum isn't free to enter, much of it can be seen from Via dei Fori Imperiali. Alternatively, plan your trip careful as the Forum, Colosseum and Palatine Hill are usually free to enter on the first Sunday of each month.
Plus every year on 21 April, in celebration of Rome's birthday, many fee-paying museums and monuments are free to enter for the day.