Disabled Access Review of Florence
By John Sage
Florence Disabled Access – Florence is a great city for disabled tourists to visit. The city has numerous things to see and do and is not nearly as spread out and hilly as Rome. Florence wheelchair accessible accommodation is cheaper than in Rome and Venice, and several of the attractions are free to disabled tourists. From Florence, you can easily take a day trip by train to nearby cities in Tuscany such as Pisa and Siena.
Disabled Access in Florence – Best Aspects
Small city size with lots to see – Most of the tourist attractions in Florence are concentrated in the center of the city within walking/rolling distance of each other. In most cases, disabled travelers will not have to find accessible transportation to get around town. Nearly the entire city center is filled with Renaissance architecture so even moving between attractions is time well spent.
Free admission at the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia – The two most popular museums in Florence, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia (which houses Michelangelo’s David) provide free admission to a disabled guest and one companion. When you make your reservation be sure to mention that you are disabled.
Wheelchair access at Florence Accademia and Uffizi Gallery – Disabled tourists should enter the Accademia by going up the ramp at the exit. At the Uffizi Gallery, disabled tourists will need to have someone pick up their tickets on the west side of the courtyard (there are steps to get to it) and wait for them by using the ramp on the northeast corner of the courtyard, closest end to the Palazzo Vecchio (shown in the image on the right).
Flat city center – The city center of Florence doesn’t have any hills. By the city center, I am referring to the area between the Accademia in the north, the Ponte Vecchio in the south, the Santa Maria Novella train station in the west, and the Santa Croce church in the east.
Several wheelchair accessible hotel options – Inside the city center there are several wheelchair accessible hotels that you can choose from. They range from affordable to luxurious, and are within walking/rolling distance of all the major tourist attractions.
Outdoor accessible shopping – The outdoor leather market is located on the street that runs to the north of the Medici Chapels. The booths are easy to visit in a wheelchair (shown in the picture on the right). To find it, just look for the red dome of the Medici Chapels that looks like a smaller version of the Duomo’s dome.
Free statue viewing – The loggia on Piazza della Signoria square (in front of the Palazzo Vecchio) has numerous statues that you can visit for free including the Rape of the Sabine Women, an equestrian statue of Cosimo I, and a copy of Michelangelo’s David. It’s located between the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo cathedral.
Disabled Access in Florence – Most Challenging Aspects
Cobblestones and paving stones – Most parts of the Florence city center have small cobblestones or large paving stones which can be challenging for wheelchair users and other disabled tourists. The video below some of the more uneven large paving stones found in the city center. Some areas near the Accademia and near the train station have paved streets and sidewalks.
Hills on the south side – On the south side of the Arno river, you’ll find the Pitti Palace, the great views from the Piazzale Michelangelo, and some big hills. This area is the most challenging are for Florence wheelchair access. The picture on the right shows one of the hilly streets in this area.
Almost no buses in city center – No bus routes connect the Duomo, Accademia, Ponte Vecchio, and Uffizi Gallery. Fortunately they aren’t located too far apart but disabled tourists will still need to walk/roll several blocks over cobblestones to get between them.
Florence bus accessibility – Where the buses do travel, wheelchair users may encounter some difficulties using them. The wheelchair ramps do not always work, and cars and motorcycles may prevent the buses from pulling all the way to the curb leaving you a one and half foot (0.5 meter) step to get down to the street.
No elevator to the Duomo dome or the campanile bell tower – Both offer great views but require going up many flights up stairs. For an accessible place to catch a great view of Florence, head to the Piazzale Michelangelo.
No Campo de Fiori – It’s very convenient for disabled tourists to have a large square lined with numerous outdoor restaurants with accessible seating to choose from. Unfortunately, Florence has nothing like Rome’s Campo de Fiori square. Accessible restaurants (like the one shown on the right) are found in various parts of the city.
Crowded museums need reservations – The Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia are small museums that are enormously popular with Florence tourists. You need to make a reservation beforehand so you don’t have to wait in the line.
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