Top 10 Experiences for Disabled Visitors to Italy
By John Sage
Although visiting Italy with a disability presents numerous challenges, it also provides numerous opportunities to enjoy excellent accessible experiences. Depending on which cities you choose to visit, you’ll have different experiences to choose from. Some of your options are described below. Be sure to research accessibility before your trip so you can minimize disappointment and frustration on your vacation.
1. Visit accessible churches in Italy – Nearly all disabled visitors to Italy will visit a few churches during their trip. Church accessible varies widely in Italy. While all churches worth visiting were built before there were accessibility standards, some churches have made modifications to make them accessible and others have not. Churches with installed ramps include the Santa Croce and the Duomo in Florence as well as St. Peter in Chains, San Ignazio, San Luigi, Santa Maria Maggiore, and St. Peter’s Basilica (shown in the image on the right) in Rome. Churches with at least 1 step include the St. Mark’s Basilica and the Frari Church in Venice; the San Clemente and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva churches in Rome; and the Medici Chapels in Florence. The Santa Maria Novella church in Florence and the Santa Maria degli Angeli (aka Baths of Diocletian) in Rome have level access at the entrance.
2. Spend time in Renaissance art museums – There’s no better country to view Renaissance art than Italy. Excellent art museums exist in most of the popular tourist destinations and include the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia, Palazzo Vecchio, and Pitti Palace in Florence; the Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums in Rome; and the Correr Museum and Accademia in Venice. Disabled access varies from ramped access at the main entrance (example photo from Florence’s Accademia shown below on the left) to special staff assistance required to open an accessible entrance (example photo from Venice’s Correr Museum shown below on the right).
3. Visit an accessible winery – Many wineries in Tuscany and Umbria, among other places, are wheelchair accessible and an essential part of any accessible Italy visit for many people. Before you decide on which wineries and vineyards to visit, be sure to contact the staff to ensure that the building and grounds meet your specific accessibility needs.
4. Take accessible walking tours – Our opinion, and the opinion of almost all of our clients, is that walking / rolling tours are some of the most enjoyable activities to do when taking an accessible visit to Italy. The type of tour that you’ll need to take will vary depending on the city. In some cases, you’ll be able to join a group tour because the route is wheelchair friendly. In other cases, you’ll need to hire a private tour guide if you want an accessible tour. In almost all cases, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.
5. Dine on a beautiful piazza – Some of the best ambience for accessible restaurants in Italy is actually not inside a restaurant, rather at outdoor seating overlooking a piazza. The people-watching and the architecture bathed in golden sunlight as the sunset makes for a memorable evening. Piazzas such as Campo de Fiori (shown in the image on the right) and Piazza Novona in Rome as well as St. Mark’s Square in Venice are some of the most well-known.
6. Buy a souvenir on the Ponte Vecchio – Rather than just buy a souvenir, buy a souvenir that comes with a story and will always remind you of a specific moment. There might not be a better place for a souvenir than the jewelry shops that line the wheelchair accessible Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
7. Do some high fashion shopping – Many disabled visitors to Italy consider shopping to be a priority on their trip. There are numerous accessible Italy shopping options including Via del Corso in Rome, numerous fashion stores throughout Milan, and the outdoor leather market in Florence (shown in the image on the right).
8. Watch a sunset over a city – Florence provides one of the best opportunities to disabled people to view a sunset over an Italian city. Take a taxi or bus to Piazzale Michelangelo to get a great view over the city.
9. Watch a sunset over a lagoon – Venice provides beautiful views of sun light dancing on the water at sunset. The best place for disabled visitors in Venice Italy to view sunsets is the Fondamenta Zattere al Spirito Santa promenade near the Zattere vaporetto dock.
10. Cruise down the Grand Canal – Handicapped tourists can travel down the Grand Canal in Venice by using the accessible Venice vaporetto or a wheelchair accessible taxi in Venice. On your way, you’ll pass under 4 bridges including the famous Rialto bridge.