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Doug Krizner: The U.S. dollar has been in steep decline against the euro, but it hasn’t kept Americans from flooding Europe for summer vacations. European entrepreneurs may be benefiting, but waves of tourists have created problems. Here’s Megan Williams from the frontlines of the tourist crowds in Rome.
Megan Williams: For tour guides, the Eternal City lately has become the Infernal City.
Boiling summer temperatures have always been part of the job, but now Rome’s official guides are grappling with hellish new problems.
Olivia Ercoli: Way too many people in spaces which are completely unable to deal with that kind of mass crowds.
Historic guide Olivia Ercoli stands sweating in front of Rome’s most famous museum and its most infamous line-up: the one that leads into the Vatican galleries and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
Ercoli says tourist line-ups have gotten longer all over the city. At the Vatican museums alone, about 4 million people squeeze through the doors each year.
Now new rules now dictate that small groups and individuals can get in only once the big pre-booked agency tours are through, at about 10 a.m. Those big tours get their early-morning access by laying out about $10,000 for advance tickets, something small-group guides simply can’t afford.
Ercoli says that’s made the usual last-minute tourist requests to pop into a few prime sites next to impossible.
Olivia Ercoli: You have to book ahead or be prepared to stand in line or to simple bribe one of the guards at the entrance.
Franco Lattughi: It’s a jungle there.
Franco Lattughi has been guiding visitors through Rome for the past 40 years. Lattughi does say there is a semi-legitimate way for the smaller groups and individuals to skip the long waits. That’s to agree to shell out some extra dough to the agencies with pre-booked tickets.
Franco Lattughi: The agencies try to get clients from the people who are lined up asking them if they want to buy a ticket if they want to buy a ticket without doing the line. They cost about 30 euros for the group entrance.
That’s about $23 on top of the $17 entrance fee, a high price to pay, even for a ticket to some heavenly art.
In Rome, I’m Megan Williams for Marketplace.
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