VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – If you've ever dreamed of being in the Sistine Chapel without feeling like you're craning your neck on a crowded open-top tourist bus, now is your chance.
Vatican museums were reopened to the public on Monday after being closed for almost three months because of the coronavirus blockade.
Museums, which are home to some of the greatest Renaissance masterpieces in the world, as well as ancient Roman and Egyptian artifacts, can now only be visited through online reservations in order to control the number of people present at the same time.
Visitors have their temperatures checked by remote thermal scanners and must wear masks.
Still, this was a minor inconvenience in exchange for being one of 25 people at once on Monday in the Sistine Chapel, with its famous ceiling and panel of the Last Judgment painted by Michelangelo in the 16th century.
"Vatican museums are generally inaccessible because of the huge crowd of tourists, mainly foreigners," said Marisa, a Roman who declined to give her last name.
"We took advantage of the fact that there are not many tourists to see the beauty that exists here and it was very exciting," she said.
Museums received about 7 million visitors last year and are the Holy See's most trusted source of income, previously generating $ 100 million annually.
Slideshow (13 Images)
That number is unlikely to be seen again for some time because of the pandemic's effect on the travel and hospitality industries.
During the closing, art lovers could visit museums via virtual tours online, but most would agree that there is nothing like the real thing.
"Of course, a digital tour is important, but a real visit to real works of art can never be replaced by a virtual tour of our heritage," said Barbara Jatta, director of Museums.
Written by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mike Collett-White
Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust principles.