As I was leaving Santa Maria delle Grazie having taken in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, it struck me how much of a leveller the internet has been to enable people to see things they otherwise might not have been able to.
To get to see the mural you have to book in advance (the signs out today showed that it was fully booked until November!). Prior to the real take off of the Internet you would have had to have phoned up the booking line to book tickets. This requires two important things
1 – the ability to make (or pay for) a long international call, or make a call whilst in Italy
2 – a firm grasp of the Italian language to make the booking in (making sure you don’t get dates and times muddled up)
Alternatively, you could have booked a guide, or paid one of the tour companies through the nose (€50 I saw being advertised in a lot of places) to get you in on an organised tour.
Now, you can go online in advance, in a choice of languages, and book your ticket in advance for a time and date that you stipulate, not a tour company.
It’s the same with the Hypogeum in Malta, again booked on line in advance (though there the language barrier as an English speaker wouldn’t have existed)
Access to the sites has to be limited to prevent damage (The Last Supper only allows around 850 people a day in, in groups no larger than 25, thought that’s positively heaving compared to The Hypogeum’s maximum of 80 per day), and the internet allows the sites protectors to balance the needs to protect the site with the needs to get the tourists money to pay for its upkeep.
It might only be a small way, but the internet is helping to preserve these sites, and create a level playing field for access.