Uffizi at 25 euros. Controversy over the extra 5 euros is useless if the real issue is not discussed

There is controversy over the 5 euro increase in admission fees to the Uffizi. But the controversy is pointless if the most important issue is not addressed: differentiating admission fees based on frequency, experience and type of visitor.

It has generated a predictable controversy the news of the Uffizi ticket increase from 20 to 25 euros in high season, although it will be worth mentioning that the low season rate (12 euros) has not been adjusted and that a ticket for early visitors has also been introduced, which will cost 19 euros and will be valid for those who enter the museum before 9 am. The protest spread especially on social networks, with the Uffizi even becoming trending topics on Twitter, targeted by hundreds of disgruntled comments, also fed by the inaccuracies of the regulars of indignant twittering.It was written, for example, that the ticket from March 1 will increase from 12 to 25 euros: misleading information, since the high season period will end in February and the 20-euro fare would have come into force anyway, which is why the increase is 5 euros and not 13. Someone also said that an average family will spend one hundred euros, which is true if the parents visit the museum with their children in their thirties (since under 26 the ticket cost is 2 euros), but it is assumed that at that age one should not yet burden the paternal finances.

Of course, it is not pleasant to spend an extra 5 euros to visit a vital museum. However, there are worse examples: I think, for example, that it is a disgrace that in Venice, if one is only interested in the Correr Museum, one still has to buy the 30 euro ticket that gives access to all the museums in St. Mark’s Square, without having any other choice. The Uffizi, in contrast to the museums in St. Mark’s Square, still allow visitors to choose to visit at times when the outlay is more sustainable, and allow them to limit their visit to just one museum in the complex without having to compulsorily purchase a cumulative ticket. Those who only want to visit the Pitti Palace will only purchase a ticket to the Pitti Palace. There is also a tendency to overlook the fact that the Uffizi also provides an annual pass that allows unlimited entry to all the museums in the complex, as well as the Archaeological Museum of Florence and the Museum of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure: it costs 70 euros a year, while for families (two adults and an unlimited number of children) the price is 100 euros. There is also an arrangement whereby admission to the National Archaeological Museum in Florence is free for those who have purchased a ticket to the Uffizi. In short, the 5 euro increase must be evaluated within a complex system. It is obvious that it would be better if residents were entitled to free admission, but surely the museum at least has asked itself some questions about the possibility that there is an audience that returns to see the museum several times during the year and does not feel like paying full price on every visit.

Uffizi, Sala di Leonardo
Uffizi, Leonardo Hall

Of course, the fact that there are more expensive situations, and where moreover the visiting experience is even worse than at the Uffizi, does not help to better metabolize the increase, also because it will be indiscriminate. “If something is worthwhile, has its own intrinsic, historical value, it must also be paid for a bit,” said Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, “after all, an average American family coming to Italy to take a trip invests $10-20,000 because between ticket and plane there is a cost, so paying 20 euros to visit a unique asset I think we can live with it.” The reasoning makes no bones if one takes into consideration the American tourist’s point of view and considers the Uffizi a must for foreign travelers, but I think we also need to think about the Italian visitor who does not have the same capacity of spending as the transoceanic tourist, and to the fact that the Uffizi is not just a tourist attraction, but is above all an instrument for the growth of the citizen, for the formation of his critical thinking, for the development (or affirmation) of his sense of belonging to a community, and so on.

Here then is where protest becomes instrumental, vain, useless, even harmful if it is driven by mere feelings of indignation or bitterness that responds to ideological reasons, and if the utmost effort is the comparison with the entrance fees of the great European museums. It means limiting oneself to adolescent skirmishes. It is true: the Louvre, the Prado, the Rijksmuseum, the Berlin State Museums, and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg all cost less than the Uffizi, and there was no need to adjust museum pricing to unspecified “European standards,” because the Uffizi’s cost was not below averages anyway. But what is the point of making these comparisons if the dissent is not accompanied by deeper reasoning? If other, and far more interesting, arguments are not considered, being indignant about the extra five euros makes little sense. Just as there is little point in reasoning about maximum systems, along the lines of “paying more because the price increase makes clear the inestimable value of the product,” to support the opposite argument.

Rather, let’s talk about concrete things: there are already several concessions (such as the one for the under-26s who pay only 2 euros), but is it so difficult to introduce new ones for residents, for frequent visitors, for the unemployed? Why is there no talk of diversifying the experience? If a Florentine working in an office until 5:30 in the afternoon wants to see only one work and plans to be at the Uffizi for half an hour before it closes, why is it not done as in some museums abroad where the last hour of opening is free for everyone, every day? Why do you have to pay full admission for the whole museum if you only want to visit the temporary exhibition? Why do too many museums still not provide subscription forms? Why isn’t it possible to buy a card that allows entry to multiple museums at an advantageous price and is valid all year round? Why are there no incentives for those who attend places of culture of a different nature (for example, discounts at the museum for those who go to the theater the night before)? Why is there no thought given to putting in place conditions to ensure fixed and perhaps discounted evening openings?

Adapting to European standards might also mean, as we have long written on these pages calling for a real revolution on museum tickets, looking to others as they realize that the public is not a monolith but there are different types of experience to affect. The Louvre, for example, is free for the unemployed or those on minimum social incomes. The Prado is also free for those who do not have a job: like the Louvre, all you have to do is bring an official certificate stating your status. What’s more, the Prado is free for everyone in the last two opening works(horario de gratuidad): Monday through Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m., and Sundays and holidays from 5 to 7 p.m. An extraordinarily clever idea for the local public, for whom the museum can also become a gathering place. The Berlin State Museums, on the other hand, provide Jahreskarte, or annual cards, which costs 25 euros for exhibitions only, 50 euros for museums without temporary exhibitions, and 100 euros for everything with the added benefit of preferential admission. In the Netherlands there is a “Netherlands Museum Pass” that gives access to more than 400 museums throughout the country. Even in Italy, however, there is no shortage of virtuous examples in this regard: in addition to the Uffizi, there are other museums with forms of passes, such as the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, just to name one, which issues an annual card at a cost of 25 euros to be able to enter the museum as many times as you want, and which with only three visits is already amortized.

It is right, then, to calibrate tickets with the American tourist’s spending capacity in mind, but it would also be useful to put the Florentine, Tuscan and Italian (since a visit to the Uffizi is an important moment in the formation of the Italian citizen) in a position to enter it, if not for free, at least at a symbolic price, or at any rate with the idea that a citizen might even visit a museum often.

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