Wheelchair Accessible Florence, Siena, Orvieto,
Amalfi Coast,
Rome, Positano, Pompeii, Italy 2007

by John & Krista Steedman © 2007 

John and Krista Steedman share their recent adventure in Italy. They traveled through Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast and took side trips to Siena, Orvieto, and Pompeii.


Krista Steedman at Pompeii, Italy

Krista Steedman tackles Pompeii
in her TerraTrek wheelchair.

We went from Florence to the Amalfi Coast, then back to Rome.  We rented a Fiat wagon (with a manual transmission), and we did a couple side trips to Siena, Orvieto, and Pompeii.  On the Amalfi Coast, we stayed in a little town called Positano overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.


 A few days of touring Florence then resting in a small town, then touring Rome worked well. Overall, the combination of historical sites, art, architecture, and the people we had a chance to meet made for a great trip. The food is indescribable but everything is better from the espresso, pastry, tomatoes, pizza, gelato, …even the orange juice tasted better!  We traveled from 9/18 – 10/3 and had sunny skies every day except one.


Krista has a right-sided motor function loss.  She is able to slowly walk a few steps which helped us out in a few difficult locations.  Otherwise we used our own push wheelchair.


Here are a few links we found helpful:


We booked tickets for the Uffizi (Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," da Vinci's "Annunciation," Rembrandt, and about half the other paintings from Western Culture 101) and Accademia (Michelangelo's "David" and some unfinished works) via www.weekendafirenze.com


Rick Steves has a good "Plan Your Time" recommendation on his site: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/italy/florence3.htm


In Florence we stayed at this small centrally located hotel: http://www.2piazzasignoria.com/inglese/camera_perseo.php

Staff was great with restaurant recommendations and carrying our luggage about 100 yards from where the taxi dropped us off.  We had a very good meal at Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo (including a bottle of Cabreo Il Borgo 2003) and enjoyed a good walk through Oltrarno as well.  This, however, was a second-story room with no lift.


In Orvieto, we stayed at http://www.hotelpiccolomini.it/  and had a wonderful meal at a trattoria about 100 yards away (Trattoria Al Pozzo Etrusco D'Aronne). They have a couple of first-floor rooms that were reasonably accessible.


In Positano: http://viatraveldesign.com/ENJOY/property/335/  It was very easy to book this house and connect with Paolo, who was the keeper of the keys. Renting this house was only possible because Krista has the ability to walk a few steps very slowly, and the hotel next door allowed us to use their lift to get down the hill from street level. We very much enjoyed our stay in Positano but would not recommend it for anyone who has a challenge with steps.


In Rome: http://www.viscontipalace.com/ This hotel is very accessible and OK overall, but we would recommend something more centrally located instead.

For the Borghese Gallery ( http://www.galleriaborghese.it/default-en.htm) reserve tickets in advance via http://www.ticketeria.it/quick_reserve-eng.html#/ Tickets need to be purchased at the basement level but wheelchairs enter at the rear of the building at the designated time. The small lift to the second floor cannot accommodate wheelchairs, however, the sculpture on the first floor is worth the trip.

Driving the Amalfi Coast is not a great idea, there is sometimes six inches of clearance between you and a large tour bus. The Autostrada from Florence to Rome is an easy ride, just stay to the right unless passing. The AutoGrill rest stops along the way had accessible restrooms that worked reasonably well.  Driving in towns became more competitive…my bad driving was indistinguishable from their accepted norm.  We returned the car in Rome and relied on taxis there.  I used the Rome subway once, and it had very good signage that got you pointed to the right train.  I was not looking too hard but did not see signs that indicated that  lifts were readlily available, therefore, we stuck to taxis

We rented a cell phone from http://www.travelcell.com/ This is the second time I've used this company and they have worked well.


A couple notes for travelers with wheelchairs:


If flying through Paris, leave at least two hours for your connection. Air France disembarked passengers to a bus on the tarmac. Passengers in a wheelchair needed to wait for an elevated bus, in this case, 45 minutes.  You exit and re-enter through security as well, which takes a little more time. It took two calls to Air France both outbound and return to confirm that they could support the Paris transfer and check the personal wheelchair.

In Italy, there are a lot of cobblestones. We brought a TerraTrek wheelchair (includes mountain bike rear wheels), which made the roads more manageable. However, while the back wheels pop off, the chair does not fold flat making it difficult to fit in some taxis. Fiat wagon taxis were typically available and worked best.  For Rome, Rick Steve's "Rome 2008" has good maps that include taxi queue locations. We covered Florence without taxis given our hotel was in the center of the sites we wanted to see.

Florence is fairly accessible. There are good pedestrian zones in Florence where the streets are closed to most (not all) traffic.  However the streets are narrow and when a car does come by, there is little room to pass.  Not all curbs have cutouts.  I reserved tickets to the Uffizi and Accademia via http://www.weekendafirenze.com/  however, we learned at the Uffizi one person in a wheelchair and the person that accompanies them are admitted at no charge.  


At the Uffizi, there are two steps up to the ticket booth, but there is a good lift to the second floor. However, bring a tour book or map with you since the lift nearest the ticket booth takes you to the end of the normal tour and you work your way backwards.

Rome. St Peters and Vatican Museum staff are very accommodating although you'll find your route to the elevators a little circuitous. Do not queue up outside; go directly to the front of the lines and the staff will help you through the doors. The chair lift down to the Sistine chapel is worth the trouble.


Orvieto and Siena. These are hill towns. Siena has a good pedestrian district but all cobblestone with some good inclines. With a little work we were able to tour Orvieto without too much difficulty…but the town included some of the narrowest roads we encountered.


Rome. Coloseum.  Skip the first floor (which currently has a few steps around the circumference, they appear exposed due to renovation) and take the elevator to the top, which is all one level.


Rome. Palatine Hill.  Not well marked but if entering near the Arch of Titus, stay to the left and the gravel/dirt/cobblestone paths will, eventually, lead you to the top level.


Positano is on the Amalfi Coast which means stairs everywhere. There is no route to the main beach that did not include stairs. However, we were able to wheel down pretty close and the staff at Blu Porters ( http://www.positanobluporter.it/default.htm#) were able to get us back up the hill with their narrow electric cart typically used for luggage.


Pompeii.  I do not think they had wheelchairs in 79AD. We entered via Porta di Stabia and after passing through the two small theatres, ran into very difficult inclined roads. Only the kindness of strangers made these 50 yards possible.  Once on Via Dell Abbondanza, sidewalks are passable.  However, the Romans were clever and have 12" high stepping stones allowing the Romans to cross roads without getting into the muck on the road.  Therefore, each intersection is a bit of on/off curb work, and the curbs are 12" high. The tour pamphlet recommends entering at Piazza Anfiteatro. We did not enter or exit that way and cannot say whether this is better. The large stones that make up the center of the road are very rough on the wheelchair passenger.  You'll encounter similar road surfaces in some parts of the Roman Forum, if you find those difficult, do not go to Pompeii.


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