Italy’s first free-entry Sunday attracts record attendance

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Italian museums registered a high number of visitors in the first Sunday of 2018, confirming a record upward trend in 2017, Italy’s Culture Ministry announced on Monday.

Over 123,000 people visited museums, archaeological and historical sites across the country on Jan. 7, which was the first free-entry Sunday of the new year, official data showed.

Since July 2014, Italy’s state-owned museums and heritage places offer free admission to all visitors every first Sunday of each month.

Visitors exceeded the record number of 50 million visitors in all of 2017, bringing some 193.6 million euros (231.8 million U.S. dollars) to state coffers, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini said.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Italian museums also increased by 7.8 percent in number, and 7 percent in terms of spending last year.

“The 2017 will be recalled as a record year for one of our economy’s most crucial sectors, which is our duty to support in its growth,” Franceschini said.

The minister also stressed the “key role” played by Italy’s southern regions within such national trend in 2017. “The Campania region (surrounding Naples) is firmly in the second place in the national ranking, for example,” Franceschini said.

“One driving factor has been the regeneration of Pompeii, but a positive performance also marked the management of the Royal Palace of Caserta, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, and (museums of) Capodimonte and Paestum,” he added.

Overall, Italian museums and heritage sites have witnessed an upward trend in latest years, from 38.42 million visitors in 2013 to 43.28 million in 2015 and 45.38 million in 2016, according to official statistics.

The most visited places in 2017 were Rome’s Colosseum with over 7 million visitors (10 percent annual increase), Pompeii’s Archaeological Park with 3.38 million visitors (7.6 percent increase) and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence with 2.2 millions (10.4 percent).

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