Covid-19: Vatican Museums crowds spark criticism

Tour guides and visitors complain of over-crowding at the Vatican Museums.

The Vatican Museums, which reopened on 1 February after three months of closure due to covid-19 restrictions, face criticism due to alleged over-crowded conditions on Saturday 13 February.

The complaints, reported by Italian newspaper La Repubblica, come from tour guides and visitors to the Vatican Museums, who documented their "hellish" experience with photographs and reviews condemning the alleged disorganisation that led to the build-up of crowds.

The situation in the morning of 13 February was "manageable," wrote guide Vincenzo Spina on social media, however by the afternoon there were scenes of "chaos" and "carnage" in several areas of the museums, particularly in the Raphael Rooms.

Spina said the museum custodians were trying to regulate the flow of crowds but at a certain point lost control of the situation and visitors could neither go forward or back, reports La Repubblica.

"It felt like a subway platform at rush hour, with families trying to turn back, other visitors yelling 'they kidnapped us,'" said Spina, who added that the guards allegedly responded to claims of over-crowding by inviting visitors to take their complaints "to the upper floors."

There were poor reviews too on TripAdvisor. "An experience not to be repeated" - wrote Raffaella - "Unfortunately with much regret, I must underline the absolute lack of respect for the safety rules relating to covid."

She was echoed by Marta P who complained of "huge gatherings, very bad organisation" and "lots of groups with guides who were stuck in the halls, with dozens of people without distancing."

There has reportedly been no statement from the Vatican Museums regarding the claims, or clarification about whether the crowds occurred only in certain areas at certain times.

The phenomenon of over-crowding was also reported to Wanted in Rome by tour guides last June, shortly after the museums reopened following a three-month closure in the wake of Italy's coronavirus lockdown.

Unlike museums in Italy's covid-19 'yellow zones', which are currently only allowed to open from Monday to Friday, the Vatican Museums are open Monday to Saturday, from 08.30 to 18.30, with last admission at 16.30.

Reservations are required and can be made directly from the Vatican Museums website. Photo La Repubblica.