(Rome) In front of the Pantheon, in the heart of Rome, more than a hundred tourists wait to take their ticket, because from this Monday, the entrance to the most visited site in Italy has become paying.

Each tourist will now have to pay 5 euros ($7.25) to visit this religious temple, a symbol of ancient Rome.

Excluded from the rule are minors, those accompanying school groups and the inhabitants of the Eternal City for whom free admission is maintained.

There is also a discount for Europeans under 25.

On the forecourt, the tourists interviewed by AFP accept this new price without flinching.

“Five euros is very reasonable,” said Tim Witte, an American engineer stomping under the blazing sun in front of the monument more than two thousand years old.

Same story, for Drew Yandioo, an 18-year-old Australian student.

“We can’t wait to see this, so we’re just going to pay”, explains the young woman while admitting that she would have visited the Pantheon on Sunday when it was still accessible without paying a penny.

Camille Piallat, a 30-year-old French engineer, says he was also resigned: “We already knew because when we took our tickets, it was still free and we received an email telling us that at From the 3rd [July], it was going to pay off”.

“It won’t stop many people from coming to visit it, and then it brings in money,” he notes.

Proceeds from entry to the monument will be shared between the Ministry of Culture (70%) and the Diocese of Rome (30%). The proceeds will be mainly devoted to the maintenance and restoration of the building.

Until now, admission to almost all churches in Rome was free, including St. Peter’s Basilica, located within the Vatican walls.

But the Minister of Culture of the ultra-conservative government that came to power at the end of 2022 defends the end of free Italian museums or historical sites for tourists, especially foreigners.

“For an American family that spends 10-20,000 euros to come to Italy, paying 20 euros ($29) for a museum ticket is within reach,” argued Gennaro Sangiuliano when the Uffizi Museum in Florence first announced of the year to raise its prices in order to cushion the rise in its heating and electricity bills.

The Pantheon, erected in the 1st century BC, was damaged by several fires and completely rebuilt under Hadrian in the early 2nd century.

Topped by the largest dome of antiquity (43 meters in diameter), it was converted into a church in the 7th century by Pope Boniface IV. It houses the remains of several Italian kings and the painter Raphael (1483-1520).

The pantheon is the most visited monument in Italy with 9 million visitors a year, according to the Ministry of Culture, ahead of the Colosseum and the Uffizi.