As some European countries reopen cultural institutions as part of their gradual emergence from lockdown, officials in Italy are coming up with inventive ways to keep visitors safe while they get their art fix.

Florence’s centuries-old cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the magnificent Duomo, is slated to reopen to the public soon after closing its doors on 10 March for lockdown. In anticipation of welcoming visitors once again, officials in the cathedral complex (a Unesco World Heritage site and one of Italy's most visited attractions) have stated they will provide wearable social distancing sensors to visitors to help them stay apart while browsing the museum's Renaissance art and architectural wonders.

The small sensor is a world first for a museum and will be provided to visitors upon arrival, free of charge. It's attached to a ribbon that can be worn around a person's neck and will beep, vibrate and flash when social distancing guidelines are breached i.e. when visitors get within a range of two metres (6.5 feet) of each other. The devices are anonymous and don’t track personal data and will be sanitised between use, the museum confirmed in a statement. As well as social distancing sensors, the Duomo requires that all visitors wear face masks. 

Hand sanitisers will be available throughout the museum, and to avoid contact and queues, visitors must purchase their tickets online and present them on their smartphones.

Read more: Italian museums are gearing up for a slow reopening this month

View of Florence, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio and Florence Duomo
Florence's Duomo is one of Italy's most visited attractions ©Rastislav Sedlak SK/Shutterstock

Meanwhile in Rome, as major museums begin welcoming visitors, mayor Virginia Raggi announced that online reservations and face masks are obligatory and visitors will have their temperatures checked before entering.

Italy imposed a strict lockdown in March to deal with one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks. But as restrictions on movement are gradually eased, streets that were once deserted are now showing signs of life. Bars, restaurants and shops reopened on 18 May with strict social distancing rules, as the country entered phase two of its exit plan.  

Keep up to date with Lonely Planet's latest travel-related COVID-19 news here.

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