The Italian Museum Economy

Tuesday 7th December, 2021 - Bruce Sterling

*Obviously business is improving.

As tourists return to Florence and Rome, ticket touts are also making a comeback. Now, the Uffizi Galleries’ director Eike Schmidt, who has waged war on touts since taking office in 2015, hopes to deliver a final blow. “We are already working on introducing named tickets,” Schmidt reveals to The Art Newspaper. The system will be operative in “months rather than years”, he adds.

According to Schmidt, named tickets could “be the next big step” in battling the touts. But the experience of other museums suggests that the solution is no silver bullet.

Touts buy tickets from museums and sell them on at inflated prices, often as part of packages featuring additional services, such as museum tours. Some sell tickets on the ground and allow tourists to jump long queues, while others operate through websites designed to trick buyers into believing they are official ticketing channels.

Standard adult tickets, priced at €16 (including booking fee) at both the Uffizi and Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, are typically resold for as much as four times the price. Touts’ annual earnings from Uffizi visitors are probably in “the single-digit millions”, Schmidt estimates. Their activity leads to the exploitation of tourists, while damaging both museums’ and Italy’s reputation, he adds.

Following pandemic closures, touts are now returning to Italy’s streets, according to widespread reports.