Visit More Than 1,100 Usually Off-Limits Sites in Italy This Weekend

Mar 19, 2019

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Missed Italy’s Museum Week this month? You’re in luck. More than 1,100 sites all over the country will be free and open to the public on March 23 and 24.

The 26th annual edition of Giornate FAI di Primavera (FAI Spring Days) is a project of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), an organization founded in 1975 that preserves and protects historic landmarks, gardens, parks, villas and castles throughout Italy. According to Condé Nast Traveler, only 30 of the sites participating in FAI Spring Days are actually owned by FAI, while more than 1,000 are privately owned buildings normally off-limits to the public.

The gardens of Villa del Balbianello will be free and open to the public this weekend. Photo courtesy of FAI.
The gardens of Villa del Balbianello will be free and open to the public this weekend. Photo courtesy of FAI.

FAI runs some of the country’s most incredible sites, including Villa Necchi Campiglio — the midcentury home in Milan where director Luca Guadagnino filmed “I Am Love” — and the historic Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como, where scenes from “James Bond: Casino Royale” were filmed.

Both will be open this weekend, but reservations are required at Villa Necchi Campiglio and only the gardens of Villa del Balbianello will be free to the public. Access to the interiors will be restricted to FAI members, but you can sign up on the spot.

A membership costs €39 (about $44) for adults and is valid for one year. In addition to granting access to FAI’s 36 sites in Italy, a membership also includes access to sites run by the National Trust of England and Wales, the National Trust for Jersey, the National Trust for Scotland and the National Trust for Australia. Members also get discounts at 1,500 cultural sites across Italy, including Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan is a must-visit site for architecture and design lovers. Photo courtesy of FAI.
Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan is a must-visit site for architecture and design lovers. Photo courtesy of FAI.

Many sites participating in FAI Spring Days are asking for suggested donations of around €5 (nearly $6), which will go toward maintenance and preservation.

Normally, sites like Villa Necchi Campiglio have limited hours and might require visitors to go on a guided tour, rather than wandering around freely, as you would in a museum.

For FAI Spring Days, some 40,000 volunteers will be on hand to help answer questions and 100 foreign guides will offer tours in English, Hindi, Arabic and other languages.

If you can’t hop on a last-minute flight this weekend, consider planning a trip to Italy this fall for FAI Autumn Days. The dates have not yet been announced, but will likely be in either September or October.

Featured photo of Villa del Balbianello courtesy of FAI.

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