By Courtney Mares
Proof of coronavirus vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is now required for tourists who wish to visit the Duomo in Florence, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and many of Italy’s most famous Catholic cathedrals.
Italy implemented earlier this month a digital COVID-19 vaccination certificate called the “Green Pass” that is required for all indoor dining, gyms, museums, theaters, concert venues, and tourist attractions.
The Italian Green Pass is valid if a person can submit proof of vaccination, recovery from a prior case of COVID-19, or a negative swab test result from the past 48 hours.
Among the locations requiring the pass are many historic Catholic churches which charge tourists ticket fares to view the inside of the church.
These churches typically have additional special entrances through which those seeking the sacraments can enter a side chapel for free and without a pass.
For example, Catholics visiting Venice who would like to attend Mass or confession can enter for free through a side door to directly access a roped-off chapel. But if they want to walk freely inside the basilica and venerate the relics of Saint Mark in the Pala D’Oro, they need to pay 7 euros ($8) per person.
The clear exception to this is Rome, where St. Peter’s Basilica and all the other major basilicas do not charge entrance fees or require tickets and therefore do not require a vaccine pass. Assisi is another Italian city where pilgrims and tourists alike can access its Basilica of St. Francis for free.
Among the hundreds of churches in Rome, only the Pantheon requires the Green Pass for tourists. And the Pantheon, which was transformed into the Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyres in the 7th century, does not require the pass for entrance to its Masses.
Outside of Rome, more Italian churches are opting for the green pass for tourist visits.
The pass is required to see the 6th century Byzantine mosaics found in churches of Ravenna, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in the refectory of Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie, and the inside of the cathedral of Siena.
In Florence the green pass is required to tour the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, commonly referred to as the Duomo, and the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Other churches requiring the pass for tourist visits include the Milan cathedral, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and the Pisa cathedral and baptistery.
Face masks are required inside Catholic churches in Italy at all times.
The Vatican Museums and tours of the pope’s summer palace in Castel Gandolfo also require the green pass for entrance.
Papal events, such as Pope Francis’ weekly general audience on Wednesday and Angelus prayer on Sunday do not require the pass.
Mountain Butorac, a Catholic pilgrimage guide in Rome, told CNA that he has had to make some adjustments to his tour itineraries in Italy to accommodate the new testing requirement.
“I’ve already had a few groups and a few day pilgrimages since the Green Pass requirements,” Butorac said.
“Many of my travelers have been vaccinated, but for those who are not, I’m grateful Italy is allowing only a negative test to travel, visit museums, and eat in restaurants.”