Wheelchair Accessible Travel in Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Pompeii 2014
Howard L. Chabner and Michele E. DeSha ©
Howard L. Chabner and Michele E. DeSha 2014
Click to download Navigating Naples 2014 PDF version
This article is based on our trips to Naples in May 2014 with our friend Chris McCloud, June 2012 with our friend Jason Shuffler, and September 2006. It supersedes our previous article about Naples, Navigating Naples -2006.When describing a museum, churchor other site, we indicate the year of our most recent visit. On this trip we also went to Rome and Florence; our articles about wheelchair access there are on the same websites as this one (they are based on previous visits and haven’t been updated for 2014).
This article is dedicated to Salvatore Leonardo,Sara Ianuario,Chris McCloudand Jason Shuffler, with many thanks. Salvatore and Sarashowed us true Neapolitan hospitality, warmth, kindness and generosity; they exemplify the vitality and resilience that are so much a part of the Neapolitan character.
We traveled on our own, not with a group. In planning our trip we used the Internet and other information sources but not a travel agent.
Although we’ve tried to be as accurate as possible, it’s essential to confirm all information, especially access details, directly with hotels, museums, transportation providers and other facilities. As in all research, primary sources are much better than secondary ones. Things change. It’s critical to re-confirm information shortly before acting on it.
About Us. Because one’s capabilities, limitations and equipment affect the access achievable and his point of reference informs his perceptions, we’ll tell you about ourselves. We are fortunate to live in San Francisco, where wheelchair access to buildings, monuments, streets and sidewalks is generally excellent. Howard has muscular dystrophy, uses a power wheelchair and cannot stand or walk. Michele is able-bodied. On all our previous trips to Italy (in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009) Howard used his traveling wheelchair, a QuickieP110power chair that, at around 100 pounds (45 kg), is lightweight for ap ower chair. With a tubular frame similar to a manual wheelchair, it could be tilted and lifted up one or two stairs. On this trip, however, he used his everyday wheelchair, a Permobil with a seat elevator, reclining back, elevating footrest and tilt-in-space. The Permobil is much more comfortable and more rugged, but there are some disadvantages. It weighs around 325 pounds (148 kg) and, unlike the Quickie, cannot be tilted and lifted, although it can climb a curb or step around 3 inches (7 to 8 cm) high. This presented obstacles we hadn’t encountered on previous trips at some restaurants, stores and churches. The Permobil is 26 inches (66 cm) wide and, with the footrest in the shortened position, 48 inches (1.22 meters) long. Howard is 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall and, when seated in his wheelchair, 57 inches (1.45 meters) high. All other dimensions in this article are approximate; we didn’t have a tape measure.
A Call for Advocacy. Researching your trip, the trip itself and the time after you return present great opportunities to educate and advocate for access. If we learn that something isn’t accessible and could feasibly be made accessible, or that something is mostly accessible but could be improved, Howard often sends an immediate email with detailed recommendations. On our trip we provide feedback in real time. After we return Howard writesletters advocating better access, including appeals to government officials. We aren’t merely critical - we try to acknowledge and appreciate good access, and we also recognize the logistical and architectural difficulties and limitations in making old buildings and ancient sites accessible. Our communications have usually been well received and our efforts have helped spur improvements.
Howard has written to the mayors of Rome and Paris about access barriers, including the need for more curb ramps, and to the CEOs of the Rome and Paris airports. When writing to government officials, we usually send copies to local disability organizations. Sometimes a complaint or recommendation from us, as foreign tourists, can lend additional credibility and cumulative weight to similar advocacy by local individuals and disability organizations. Ironically, it may be easier for officials to ignore or delay action on a complaint by a local than one by a foreign tourist.
We urge you to use your trip as an opportunity to help move the ball forward on disability access - you will already have the information and the impressions will be fresh in your mind, so writing an effective letter won’t take much extra time.
Good News about Smoking. We continue to be delighted by the complete lack of smoking in restaurants and cafes in Italy. An Italian law became effective in 2005 that bans smoking in restaurants, bars and cafes nationwide, except in specially ventilated smoking rooms. (We’ve never seen a restaurant or cafe with a smoking room.) The penalties for patrons are strict, and those for proprietors even stricter. In our experience the law is taken quite seriously. Smoking is permitted at outdoor tables, but this has rarely been a problem: it seems that smokers have become more considerate even when smoking outdoors. Also, if you eat outside in a crowded, bustling city such as Naples, vehicle exhaust is unavoidable, so you can’t expect perfectly clean air anyway. And a collateral benefit of the smoking ban is that fewer people use cell phones in restaurants in Italy than in the US- many go outside to have a cigarette and use their phone.
Phone Numbers. The country code for international calls to Italy is +39 (from the US, 011-39).The area code for Naples is 081. Not all phone numbers in Italy have the same number of digits, so it’s important to double check. Unlike in some other European countries, you must dial 0 before the area code whether calling within Italy or from abroad; the 0 is not dropped when calling from abroad. For example, to call Naples from the US, dial 011-39-081-xxx-xxxx and, from within Italy, 081-xxx-xxxx.
Floor Numbers. We use the Italian designation for floor numbers in buildings. What Americans call the “first floor”is the “ground floor” in Italy, and the floor immediately above it, which Americans refer to as the “second floor,” is the “first floor” in Italy. In Italian elevators, the ground floor is “0”, rather than “1” as in the US.
Websites. Most Italian websites that we link tohave webpages in English that are easy to find; usually there is a logo for English (often indicated by the British flag) on the homepage.
Table of Contents. After this introduction, the sections of this article are:
2. Naples - Background, Terrain and General Access
4. Electricity; Wheelchair Repair; Personal Care; Medical Needs
5. Transportation in Naples
6. Intercity Trains in Italy - Trenitalia
8. Museums, Churches, Monuments and Other Sites
9. Restaurants and Stores
10. Amalfi Coast
12. Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum
13. Walking Tours - Context Travel
14. The Great Courses Lectures
16. Italian Disability and Medical Organizations
Appendices. A hotel access questionnaire is Appendix A. You are welcome to adapt it for your own use. A metric conversion guide is Appendix B. A dictionary ofaccess terms in Italian, including a pronunciation guide, vby Cornelia Danielson of Barrier Free Travel, is Appendix C.
Legal Stuff. This article and the appendices may not be reproduced or used for profit without our written permission, but readers are welcome to reproduce or use them for any other purpose.
Naples is complex -even on return trips, it took us a few days to get acclimated. Naples slopes uphill away from the sea, somewhat gradually at first and then more steeply. Even many of the gradually sloped areas have cross slopes. There are also some steep, high freestanding hills. The streets in the ancient Greco-Roman areas and other parts of the historic center, where many of the museums, monuments, churches, piazzas and palazzos are located, are narrow and crowded. Pedestrian density is extremely high. Many sidewalks and streets are bumpy, even those outside the historic center.
Some words about crime and grime may be helpful. Naples has long had a reputation for crime, well deserved by most accounts. (These are mostly crimes against property or targeted violence against enemies, not random violence.) The situation is considered to have improved significantly in the past decade or so.On our first trip, in 2006, we didn’t know what to expect, and were glad to see a serious, concerted effort to prevent crime. On all of our trips, police and carabinieriwere visible throughout the city. People strolled day and night. We experienced no crime or attempts, and felt safe everywhere; however, we avoided the area near the central train station at night and wouldn’t have felt comfortable there at that time.We did have to guard our luggage carefully while waiting in the train station, but in which train station anywhere would that not be true?
There were refreshing sea breezes, the air was clear, and the city didn’t feel polluted. The streets were fairly clean and we didn’t see garbage piling up on any of our visits (beyond the full garbage cans one sees in many cities). There is a garbage crisis in the Naples area, but unfortunately it’s the result of many years of illegal dumping of toxic waste by the Camorra, and from what we’ve heard and seen, does not affect the center of the city. That’s not to say it isn’t horrific, a travesty and a major problem, merely that it shouldn’t deter you from visiting Naples.
Naples has many historic castles, palazzos, churches, museums and ordinary buildings; many of them have not been recently restored or cleaned. But many have been and a great deal of work is underway on others. The job is vast and resources are limited, but on each trip we’ve seen major progress. A new underground Metro line is under construction, and major street and sidewalk projects are ongoing on via Toledo and elsewhere. Civic pride and positive energy are palpable.
If you want a spotlessly clean, perfectly orderly place with the soul of a shopping mall, Naples isn’t for you. But if you have a strong sense of history, enjoy discovering unexpected gems, can appreciate a beautiful façade underneath some dust, and admire a people who are outgoing, warm and exuberant, and a culture that celebrates life, art, food and music, visit Naples! A person’s reaction to New Orleans may be a good litmus test: if you consider New Orleans too gritty, chaotic, and disorderly, you may be unlikely to appreciate Naples. But if you are charmed, intrigued, fascinating and energized by New Orleans, you may well feel the same about Naples.
However, because of its intensity, complexity, physical layout and density, we don’t recommend Naples for your first trip to Italy, whether you are able-bodied or use a wheelchair. Naples is fascinating, rewarding and worthwhile, and if you’ve been to Italy before and are accustomed to Italian tempo, logistics, improvisational problem-solving, urban density, customs, hours of operation and the like, we enthusiastically recommend visiting Naples.
Terrain and Paths of Travel. Although of course there are still many wheelchair access barriers in Italy, we continue to be heartened by the increasing awareness of access and the needs and rights of disabled people. People sincerely want to help, and though they may not always know exactly how, they are eager to learn. Good access planning is evident in new construction and major renovations.
These observations are true of Naples, but Naples is more crowded and has a more difficult terrain and fewer financial resources available to eliminate barriers than the other major cities we’ve visited in Italy. Yet we saw great progress from 2006 to 2012 and from 2012 to 2014. One broad indicator is the number of people with mobility disabilities. In 2006 we saw fewer people in wheelchairs in Naples than in Rome and Florence, but in Naples in 2014 and 2012 we saw many people in manual wheelchairs, some in scooters and some in power wheelchairs. In fact, in 2014 and 2012 we saw significantly more people in wheelchairs and scooters in Naples than in Rome, and almost all were locals or at least Italians. The power mobility device of choice seems to be a four-wheeled scooter, which makes sense because of the hilly and often uneven terrain in Naples.
Many small and medium-size streets lack sidewalks. Cars, motorcycles and pedestrians share the same space. The good thing about these streets is that there is no curb, hence no need for curb ramps.
As in Rome, some sidewalks and streets are paved in black “Saint Peter’s stone,” so named because it has a point, like the dome of Saint Peter’s, on the side facing down into the earth. More common in Naples, however, as both sidewalk pavement and street pavement, are large rectangular stones that are pockmarked and bumpy to roll over in a wheelchair. You will also find these rectangular stones in Florence.
Dense and crowded as Rome is, Naples is even denser and more crowded. The piazzas are smaller and there are fewer of them. Intense as Rome is, Naples is even more so.
Traffic is heavy. Drivers, motorcyclists and pedestrians are proficient, alert and experienced. Drivers are aggressive in an impersonal way, but very skilled, alert and aware of pedestrians; they are not angry or deliberately inconsiderate. They aren’t shy about using horns, typically to alert pedestrians and other drivers to “look out - I’m coming through.” They can be quirky. We remember the alert driver in 2006 who came to a screeching halt on a busy street just after Howard had crossed, slowly rolled down her manually operated window and, unconcerned about the traffic piling up behind her, pointed out that he’d dropped the folded umbrella that had hung off the back of his wheelchair. There are many motorcycles, often with two or three people riding, and often without helmets. Neapolitan pedestrians are unfazed by close proximity to cars, unafraid of them and, it seems, sometimes even unaware of them. Many of the streets are one-way, making crossing manageable.
Parking is tight and vehicles often block curb ramps. Construction sites that block sidewalks don’t provide an alternate path of travel, as they are required to do in the US. Even in streets with sidewalks, one must sometimes roll in the street because of blocked curb ramps, blocked sidewalks and construction obstacles.
Some intersections lack curb ramps, and many curb ramps are steeper than in the US. When we say that a place is accessible by a ramp or a sloped street, we mean it is physically accessible. That does not necessarily mean it is accessible independently or would qualify as accessible under American standards.
Throughout Naples we saw more curb ramps on each trip. One of the main streets, Via Toledo, now has curb ramps at most intersections. There are many curb ramps in the pedestrian area of Vomero. Generally the curb ramps in Naples are steep and have steep flared sides; both the ramp and the sides are far steeper than permitted in the US. Also, they typically are made of the same black stone as the sidewalk; there is no contrasting color, so one must be careful. Still, noticeable and important progress has been made - flawed as they are, these curb ramps are usable. Howard was able to access them by tilting his chair, and they would be usable by people in manual wheelchairs, although many would require assistance. Naples has madenoticeablymore progress in adding curb ramps since 2006 than Rome.
We also saw a lot more pedestrian-only zones than in 2006, including along the waterfront on via Partenope near the large hotels, and on via Toledo. Howard asked one of the volunteer monitors in the waterfront pedestrian area whether it was closed to vehicles only on weekends and was told that it is a pedestrian zone 24 x 7 through November. (This pedestrian zone is the only area we saw in Naples where bicycling is common, and even there, bicycle volume was moderate. Cyclists behaved well and were respectful of pedestrians.) Vomero has a large pedestrian zone in the main shopping area.
Restaurants and Stores. Restaurants and stores typically have a threshold step from 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm) high, and few have portable ramps. This was rarely a problem for Howard in 2006 because he used a lightweight (100 pounds/45 kg) power chair with a tubular frame similar to that of a manual chair. It was not difficult for Michele to tip and lift the chair up one step or occasionally even two. Michele is quite proficient at this and employees were always eager to help, although often they did not quite know how. It was amusing for Michele to watch as strong, macho men tried to use brawn instead of finesse and then were amazed - and slightly embarrassed - when she showed them how easy it was to do. (Michele is 5’4” tall.).
That was not possible in 2014 because Howard used his Permobil, so the entrance step presented much more of a problem. The Permobil can go up a step of approximately 3 inches (7 to 8 cm), but the entrance step at many restaurants and stores is higher. The entrance step would present problems for travelers in wheelchairs that cannot be lifted. Compared to Rome, Florence and other cities we’ve been to in Italy, many restaurants in Naples have a higher step at the entrance.
Some cafés and restaurants in Naples have outdoor tables, and we ate several meals outside. However, outdoor seating in Naples isn’t as ubiquitous as in Rome, so there were several restaurants we had wanted to try but couldn’t because they have high entrance steps and no outdoor seating areas. Also, some of the outdoor seating areas are on low platforms, semi-enclosed and up a small entrance step. In some neighborhoods, finding a restaurant with an accessible entrance or an outdoor seating area took some planning and searching, whereas in Rome it was easier. Nevertheless, we didn’t lack places to go, and eating outdoors is one of the joys and delights about being in Naples in warm, sunny weather. The entrance steps would be much more of an obstacle in other seasons, when sitting outdoors is not an option. For travelers in wheelchairs and scooters who have a choice of when to travel, being able to avoid the entrance barriers in restaurants and cafés is another reason for visiting Naples when the weather is good.
Museums, Monuments, Churches and Antiquities. We urge you to try to tour all major museums, monuments, palazzos, churches, parks and antiquities that interest you - they are likely to be at least partially accessible and you will see something interesting and beautiful on the way.
Elevators and Lifts. What follows is a description of our experience with elevators and lifts in Italy in general. The elevators we used in Naples were mostly in museums, and tended to be large. More detail is provided in Section 8 - Museums, Churches, Monuments and Other Sites, below. In contrast with our experience of true elevators, on our trips to Naples we had fewer occasions to use lifts than in other cities.
In American parlance an “elevator” is a vertical access device with a fully enclosed carriage and, usually, automatic doors; and a “lift” is a smaller vertical access device that is typically open at the top, does not have full height sides, can accommodate only one person, and may not be usable independently. Lifts are typically installed outdoors or when space is limited. Types of lifts are “platform lifts,” which travel straight up and down, and “stair lifts,”which travel diagonally along a stairway.I n British parlance the word “lift”denotes both true elevators and these types of lifts. We use the American terminology because it is more precise. It’s important to know whether a vertical mobility device is a true elevator, which is typically larger, capable of carrying more weight, easier to use, usable independently and less prone to breaking down, or merely a lift.
Many of the platform lifts and stair lifts in Italy (even many of the newer ones) are typically narrower, shorter and have a lower weight capacity than in the US, sometimes as low as 330 pounds (150 kilograms). (The typical capacity in the US for lifts in public accommodations is 750 pounds or, less commonly, 500.) Howard’s Quickie power wheelchair, which he used in our trips to Italy in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009, barely fit many of them - perhaps by 2 inches (5 cm) in width (one inch/2.5 cm on each side). That wheelchair is standard size; people with wider chairs or with scooters would have difficulty fitting on some of the lifts. A heavy wheelchair such as a Permobil is too heavy for some of these lifts, and too long.
Unlike in the US, many Italian lifts are able to operate with the moveable safety edges (mini-ramps) at the front and back in the lowered, open position (roughly parallel to the platform and the floor), as distinguished from the raised, ramped position (at perhaps a 45 degree angle to the platform and the floor). On previous trips Howard’s Quickie wheelchair footrests often protruded past the front edge, and the rear tires rested on the lowered rear edge. This was a bit scary because there was no room to spare and no raised edges to help secure the wheelchair in place. It is essential to align one’s chair precisely and make sure the brakes are secured.
A brilliant exception to the small, low weight capacity lifts is a custom-built lift that was installed in the Medici Chapels in Florence in 2014. From the entrance level of San Lorenzo Museum (behind the Basilica of San Lorenzo) there is a new elevator up to a floor with direct access to the Chapel of the Princes, and from that level a custom-built telescoping lift gives access to the other chapel, Michelangelo’s New Sacristy/Medici Chapel. It travels vertically and then a telescoping platform slides forward to cover the horizontal gap between the top and bottom stairs. Howard’s Permobil fit easily lengthwise and widthwise, and the lift easily handled the weight. The platform is shaped to perfectly match the somewhat irregular space it traverses. These access improvements were due in large part to the advocacy of Cornelia Danielson, an American friend of ours who lives in Florence and is an architectural historian, access expert, the author of The Accessible Guide to Florence, and a Context Travel docent (see Section13 - Walking Tours - Context Travel, below).
ATMs. Michele used several ATMs, all of which were too high for a wheelchair.
Solo Wheelchair Travelers. Navigating Naples in a wheelchair is difficult, even compared to Rome, which certainly is not easy. We try to indicate in our articles whether it would be possible for a person in wheelchair to travel alone and, if so, how difficult. Traveling solo seemed possible to us in some places. But, realistically, even for a wheelchair user with a strong upper body, it doesn’t seem possible to travel to Naples without an able-bodied companion.
Rome sets the standard for Italy. Public bathrooms in Rome typically are large, well-designed and clean, with high quality plumbing, often including bidets or handheld hoses in addition to the sink. The main exception is bathrooms in restaurants, which usually are small. Many bathrooms have high quality tile, often of marble or another stone. Many are staffed by an attendant who cleans them frequently.
The preceding is somewhat true of Naples, but the bathrooms typically aren’t as large or well-appointed as in Rome, and it’s more difficult to find accessible ones. Fortunately, the major museums in Naples do have well-designed accessible bathrooms. Because museums are free for disabled people, if you need to use the bathroom and are near a museum, you can do so even if you don’t want to see the exhibits.
Most of the train stations we’ve been to in large cities in Italy have large, clean, accessible bathrooms. In those government buildings, hotels and major stores in Italy that do have accessible bathrooms, the employees, guards and government workers have been quite willing to let Howard use the bathroom even though he wasn’t a customer. Besides exemplifying the overall kindness and empathy that are so common in Italy, we believe this also shows that Italians recognize the critical importance of being able to use the bathroom.
In Naples, as elsewhere in Italy, wheelchair accessible bathrooms often comprise a single user, unisex, lockable room with sufficient space for a companion, rather than an accessible stall in multi-stall men’s and women’s bathrooms. Sometimes one must ask for a key; this minor inconvenience is well worthwhile because it ensures the bathroom is clean and isn’t likely to be occupied by an able-bodied person who could be using the regular bathroom.
Most accessible bathrooms in Naples, as elsewhere in Italy, have large toilets that are higher than the standard accessible high toilet in the US. Typically the toilet is long and has a tank, which means that if there is enough space next to the toilet for a wheelchair, which there usually is, the wheelchair will be well aligned with the toilet. (Occasionally we have seen square bathrooms where the sink and toilet are caddy corner from each other and there isn’t quite enough space for a wheelchair to get past the sink and next to the toilet.) Often there is a cutout at the front of the toilet bowl designed to enable one to use the handheld hose. Typically there is a flip-up grab bar on the side of the toilet away from the wall, in addition to a fixed grab bar on the wall side. An emergency alarm with a pull cord is always within reach; this seems to be required by code in Italy. The sinks are large and the faucet handles long. Even some bathrooms that are not fully accessible are large enough for a wheelchair.
One design flaw is that many of the locks for the accessible bathrooms and stalls we’ve seen in Italy (and inaccessible ones as well) are small locks that require twisting; we’ve seen fairly few levers or sliding handles. Operating this type of lock requires fine motor skills, so, if your hand strength or dexterity is limited, be careful not to lock yourself in the bathroom. This style of lock is not permitted in the US.
The attention to water, bathrooms and plumbing in Italy is a legacy of ancient Rome, whose hydraulic engineering set the standard for the developed world until well into the 20th century, where public baths were a major civic, cultural and social institution, and where abundant fresh water was available to everyone daily. (Just how much water is the subject of lively and longstanding scholarly debate. The issue will probably never be resolved definitively but there is a consensus that supplying all one million Roman residents with sufficient high-quality water - albeit only through public fountains and baths in the case of the poor and middle classes - is one of the great achievements of ancient Rome.)
Electricity and Charging your Wheelchair
The standard plug in Italy has three prongs in a straight line (one is the ground) and is different from the plug used in most other European countries. Although you can buy a plug adapter in Italy, they are available at any travel store and you’ll save time if you buy a few at home before your trip.
We strongly recommend gel cell batteries, which are non-spillable, safer and more acceptable to airlines than wet batteries. Air travel is difficult enough for passengers who use power wheelchairs; wet batteries are a hassle for everyone.
Italy uses 230 volt AC power at 50 hz frequency. (France, Spain, Israel and many other countries also do.) If you use apower wheelchair, you’ll need a wheelchair battery charger with a setting for 220/240 volts. It eliminates the need for a separate voltage converter or transformer, which are heavy and expensive. A surprisingly small, lightweight and inexpensive charger with dual settings (110 and 220 volts) is available from MK Battery. Alternatively, you can buy a European charger with 220/240 only.www.mkbattery.com. Also try Lester Electrical. www.lesterelectrical.com.
Unlike Italy’s 50 hz, the frequency in the US is 60hz, or 60 cycles per second. The difference in frequency could have an impact on your battery charger’s performance if it’s not rated for both frequencies. The symptoms would be overheating and possibly noise. (Thanks to David Caplan for this explanation.) The only time Howard had problems with his charger in Italy was in 2003, when it sometimes overheated and tripped the circuit breaker in our hotel room. He was using a charger with 110/220 settings, but we don’t know what frequency it was rated for. We were never able to figure out the problem and ended up buying a European charger, which worked fine. So it may be that some dual voltage chargers aren’t set for quite the right frequency, whereas European-only 220/240 chargers are.
If you use a power wheelchair or a scooter, we urge you to contact your dealer or themanufacturer before the trip and ask for a referral for a dealer/repair shop. In 2005 Howard needed to purchase a new charger in Rome because his charger was stolen at the train station.In 2009 he needed minor wheelchair repairs in Bologna. Both times he called the Italian branch of Sunrise Medical/Quickie for referrals to wheelchair dealers, and they immediately provided excellent referrals.
Permobil Italy.Disabili Abili.
Via Paisiello, 17/a. 50041 Calenzano (near Florence). Although they are near
Florence, they can arrange for repairs to Permobils anywhere in Italy.
Betina Genovesi is the contact. Phone: +39-055-360-562.
Sunrise Medical/Quickie Italy. www.sunrisemedical.it. firstname.lastname@example.org. Main phone: +39-052-357-3111. Fax: +39-052-357-0060. Jonathan Pezzali, the manager, is very helpful and speaks English well; his direct phone is +39-0523-573-146. Jonathan.Pezzali@SunriseMedical.it. Roberto Mandelli, technician; direct phone +39-0523-573-130.
Wheelchair dealers in Naples. These two companies were referred by Sunrise Medical. We don’t have experience with them.
Rizzoli Napoli Off. Ortopediche. This company has locations throughout Italy and, among other things, manufactures prostheses.Via Pansini, 5. Nuovo Policlinico. Edificio 12. 80131 Napoli. Phone: +39-081-746-2858. www.rizzoliortopedia.com
Cirap 2000. This company is located in Secondigliano, far from the center of the city. Corso Secondigliano, 189. 80100 Napoli. Phone: +39-081-431-589.
In Rome in 2009 Howard hired a personal care assistant. It worked out very well; he was dependable, skilled, strong, gentlemanly and friendly. The price was reasonable. Although he didn’t speak English and we don’t speak much Italian, communication was easy, and as a bonus, we learned a few more words of Italian. (He spoke several languages, was a quick learner, and learned more English from us than we learned Italian from him.) We hired him through the following agency, whichh as offices in Naples, Rome, Bologna, Florence and throughout Italy:
PrivatAssistenza. www.privatassistenza.it. Contact Rosa Anna Giordano. Abbà Amico S.C.S. a R.L.; Via Carlo Poerio, 18; Naples. Phone: +39- 081-240-0088. email@example.com
The United States Embassy in Rome provides referrals to English speaking doctors and dentists. Howard needed emergency dental work in Rome in 2003 and was referred to a superb dentist. http://italy.usembassy.gov/
5. TRANSPORTATION IN NAPLES
Azienda Napoletana Mobilita (ANM) is the main public transportation agency in Naples. www.anm.it. Phone: +39-081-763-2177 or, from Italy only, 800-63-95-25.
ANM access information (in Italian only). Go to area clienti/servizi per disabili:
The official Naples tourism website has a section about transportation access; it’s only in Italian. http://www.turismoaccessibile.org/categorie/trasporti-/
We flew into Naples International Airport (Capodichino) in 2014 and 2006. A small airport, it’s only a few miles from the center of the city. Both times we had good experiences –much better, in fact, than at some larger airports in Europe. The assistance personnel who helped Howard exit the plane were strong and skilled. A large bus-like vehicle came directly to the plane and the entire vehicle rose to the level of the plane door. Howard was transferred to an aisle chair, brought a short distance into the vehicle and transferred directly into his own wheelchair, which was waiting in the vehicle. When we reached the terminal the employees deployed a ramp and Howard exited easily. Sometimes the access situation at airports is better for arrivals than departures. We’ve never flown out of this one, so don’t know how it would be to depart from it.
www.gesac.it. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: +39-081-789-6259.
Alibus is a shuttle operated by ANM from the international airport to the central train station and the port. Accessible transportation is stated to be available, but must be reserved in advance. See the ANM contact information, above. We did not take the shuttle.
We didn’t research or try the public buses in 2012 or 2014, so we don’t have current information about them. The access section of the ANM website, above, lists the accessible bus lines.
The double-decker, open-top “hop-on, hop-off” sightseeing buses are accessible. We didn’t take a ride but the buses we saw had the blue access symbol and appeared to have ramps. The website has the blue access symbol and says “wheelchair welcome.”
City Sightseeing Napoli. Phone: +39-081-551-7279.
Naples has an extensive funicular system, much of which is accessible. Disabled passengers and one companion ride for free. We took Funiculare Centrale from viaToledo to Vomero in 2012 and 2014. The station on via Toledo, Stazione Augusteo, is to the left as you are going up via Toledo, on the West side of the street, across from Galleria Umberto I, not far from the beginning of via Toledo. It’s the first and lowest station on this line. Piazza Fuga in Vomero is the last and highest station. At Augusteo station one must get an employee’s attention and he will open the gate to the boarding platform. There is a gradually sloped ramp leading from the station to the lowest boarding platform, from which one can enter the lowest section of the funicular car. The platform is fairly small but not tiny, and it is level. If the driver lines up the car correctly, the platform is almost even with the funicular car vertically, but there is a horizontal gap of around 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm). Howard was able to enter by going fast, thanks to his front-wheel-drive, but it was a bit scary the first time. One also has to make sure that the passengers already in the car move aside to make way for the fast-moving wheelchair. This is Naples, so fellow passengers were alert, friendly and helpful. Passengers in manual wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs with small front wheels (those with rear wheel drive or mid-wheel drive) would need assistance. To exit at Augusteo station, exit the same side of the car as you entered. One time when we returned a Neapolitan man in a large four-wheel scooter zoomed into the car, as if he did this often. There was just enough space on the boarding platform for him and Howard to pass each other.
The ride takes 8 to10 minutes. At the Piazza Fugo/Vomero station, the horizontal gap is a bit narrower upon exiting than at Augusteo, and there is no vertical gap. However, when you enter at the station, you enter from the other side, and upon our return there was a 2 inch (5 cm) vertical gap and a 4 inch (10 cm) horizontal gap; Howard was able to enter, but it was a bit tricky. Manual wheelchair users, and those in electric wheelchairs with small front wheels, would need assistance. The existence and size of the vertical gap may depend on how well the driver aligns the car when stopping. In contrast, the horizontal gap at any particular station is a function of the system itself and, therefore, is unchanging (unless there are cars of different vintage and design in the system, but we were not there enough times to ascertain this). At the Piazza Fugo/Vomero station there is a large elevator from the boarding level up to the station level; the elevator worked fine. There is a gradual ramp from the station to the piazza outside.
There are two stations between Augusteo and Piazza Fuga/Vomero; we didn’t exit there. At one of them we could see from the car that there is wheelchair access to the boarding platform via a diagonal stair lift.
In doing our research we were told that the Chiaia funicular line is accessible, and the Mergellina and Montesanto lines are not. We were also told that ANM will arrange free, on-demand accessible taxi service from Consortaxi at the stops on the inaccessible lines. We didn’t try the Chiaia line or the taxi service.
Metro (Subway) and Metro Art Stations (2014)
Line 1 and Line 6 are stated to be accessible (all stations, but you should confirm this), and Line 2 is not. We’ve never taken the Metro but in 2014 we visited Toledo Metro Station, on Line 1, at via Toledo near via Armando Diaz. This extraordinary station appeared to be brand new; we later learned it’s a couple of years old. It’s the cleanest subway station we’ve ever seen anywhere, and the most beautiful, cheerful and well lit. The floors and walls have a variety of rich, high quality stones, and there’s a large, contemporary, stone mosaic wall mural inspired by ancient mosaics, depicting Neapolitan figures and maps of different parts of Naples. There’s a detailed and fascinating description, in Italian and English and with photos, of the archaeological discoveries made when the site was excavated. Way finding at the station is excellent; everything is intuitively located.
There is one elevator from the street to the concourse, and two from the concourse to the platform levels. At the concourse there is a wide, accessible gate. The elevators are medium size; Howard was able to fit easily along with two or three able-bodied people. The elevators were spotlessly clean, and with absolutely no unpleasant odors. The elevators are well integrated within the concourse area, not stuck in a dark corner.
The tracks in each direction are at different levels; they are stacked rather than side-by-side. The two elevators from the concourse level serve both track levels. The walls, floors and ceilings of the track levels are all blue. We waited for the first train and observed a 4 to 5 inch (10 to 13 cm) vertical gap between platform and train, and a 4 inch (10 cm) horizontal gap. We didn’t take the train, not so much because of the gap but because we ran out of time. It would’ve been difficult to get on the train in Howard’s Permobil; assistance would have been required. Manual wheelchair users and people in electric wheelchairs that are not front-wheel-drive would require a good deal of assistance. This train looked quite old; other trains may be newer and may have smaller gaps.
Toledo station is one of the Metro Art Stations. World-class artists and architects - Italian, American and others - were commissioned to design these stations and decorate their walls, floors and fixtures. The materials are high quality. The idea is that these stations form an underground contemporary art museum. The designs range from abstract to thematic, such as artworks at Dante station that relate to the writings of Dante. Some of the art stations are part of plans to redevelop the surrounding areas. One could spend the better part of a day exploring these stations.
Accessible Van Service
Aloschi Bros. provides ground transportation, cruises on the Bay of Naples and other travel services in Naples and Rome. In 2006 we hired them for a ride from the Naples airport to our hotel and a day trip to the Amalfi Coast. The drivers were on time and courteous. The driver for the Amalfi coast was very skilled on the difficult terrain, driving slowly on the twists and turns to make sure the ride was as smooth as possible. The vans were clean and large, with heavy-duty lifts. Howard was able to see well out the large windows. The service was expensive, in part because, as with many accessible transportation services we’ve found in Italy, the vehicles are large enough to transport more than one person in a wheelchair and several able-bodied passengers, so in effect you are paying for unused capacity. Unfortunately one sits much higher than in the lowered floor accessible minivan common in the U.S., so the ride isn’t as smooth no matter how skilled the driver. In planning our 2012 trip we inquired about a ride. Aloschi still provides accessible transportation (at least as of 2012), but we ended up getting a ride from a friend and not needing their services.
Aloschi Bros. Phone +39-081-764-8240. Fax +39-081-764-8816. www.aloschibros.com. email@example.com. Our contact was Antonella Aloschi. firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. INTERCITY TRAINS IN ITALY - TRENITALIA
Train travel in Italy for passengers in wheelchairs has been steadily improving. Italy has an extensive nationwide system of intercity trains serving major cities, medium-size ones and even small towns. The coverage is far more extensive than in the United States. The equipment ranges from sleek, modern, high-speed Eurostar and Frecciarossa coaches to clunky, antiquated, slow trains serving regional routes. Making the system accessible to passengers who use wheelchairs is certainly a complex challenge considering how extensive the system is; how long it had been in place before widespread awareness of the need for wheelchair access; and the complexity, variety and age of the trains, stations and other infrastructure, especially the fact that the platforms are low while the trains and their doorways are high.
In 2014 we took the Frecciarossa from Naples to Florence, and from Florence to Rome. From Naples to Florence took just under three hours, and from Florence to Rome an hour and a half. Speeds reached close to 150 mph, and the ride was scenic, enjoyable and impressively smooth.
We also took trains in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2012. Our train travel has been of two types: day trips without luggage, where the purpose is sightseeing and the consequences of a glitch are relatively minor; and trips with luggage to get from one city where we stayed to another. We’ve certainly had more stressful situations and frustrating moments then we wished, but despite them, taking the train is a fast, economical, reliable, pleasant and often scenic way to travel from city to city. Navigating the train system in a wheelchair takes planning, patience and flexibility, but things keep improving and Trenitalia has demonstrated that it is sincerely committed to wheelchair access.
Wheelchair passengers must reserve an accessible space on the train at least 24 hours in advance, which can be done by email, phone or in person at the “Sala Blu” (Blue Room) (marked with the blue wheelchair logo) at the departure station. (The Blue Rooms are operated by RFI, a contractor, not by Trenitalia directly.) You must check in at the Blue Room at least 30 minutes before departure, tickets in hand. An employee will accompany you from there to the tracks. Always check in at the Blue Room; don’t just show up at the tracks and assume someone will be there to help.
It’s important to be aware that reserving a space on a particular train isn’t the same as purchasing a ticket. When you check in at the Blue Room, you must have tickets in hand, so, unless you’ve already purchased them, you need to arrive at the station more than 30 minutes before departure in order to wait in line at the ticket counter and purchase your tickets. Usually passengers in wheelchairs are able to go to the front of the line, but don’t count on it. Sometimes in smaller cities we’ve been able to purchase tickets at the Blue Room and didn’t need to go to the ticket counter, and other times a Blue Room employee accompanied us to the ticket counter and helped us buy tickets. In 2014, for the first time ever, we were able to purchase tickets (for the Naples to Florence trip only) online.
If your plans are solid and you are able to reserve a space and purchase tickets in advance, that’s the best way to go. There is no penalty for canceling a space reservation. However, we don’t know about ticket refund or exchange policies.
In 2014 the reservation and ticket purchase process was the smoothest ever. Well in advance of our trip, we emailed the Naples Blue Room to reserve a space from Naples to Florence, and the Florence Blue Room to reserve a space from Florence to Rome. We were able to do this because we had our hotel reservations in each city and our plans were definite. The Naples Blue Room advised us first to go on the Trenitalia website and set up an account, which Howard did. The account program is called CartaFRECCIA, and it’s easy to sign up in English. For certain fields, such as address and telephone number in Italy, Howard made something up. You will receive a “personal code,” which is an account number.
After setting up the account, Howard emailed the Naples Blue Room and told them his personal code. They emailed him back to confirm the seat reservation, and instructed him to go on the Trenitalia website, where he logged on and found that the seats had been reserved under his account, and he was then able to purchase and print the tickets. This was set up in English, and quite easy to do. So when we arrived in the Naples Blue Room on the travel date, we had our printed tickets and didn’t have to buy them. On the train you will need to have your tickets available to show the conductor.
Interestingly, the Florence Blue Room was unaware of this procedure. They confirmed the seat reservation by email, but told us it was impossible to purchase tickets in advance. So we purchased them at the Florence train station on the travel date. Howard was taken to the front of the line. We didn’t get the advance purchase discount, but we were charged second class fare for first class seats. (If you’ve reserved a wheelchair space but haven’t purchased tickets in advance, as in this case, the space will be held for you and not assigned to anyone else. If you change your plans, it’s important to cancel your reservation so the space can be made available to another wheelchair user.)
Seat reservations are required for passengers in wheelchairs because not all trains have spaces for wheelchairs (over 350 trains do, according to the Trenitalia website), and those that do have only a few, because only certain cars have wheelchair spaces. The trains with no wheelchair spaces are mainly the slower regional and local ones. On trains where the only accessible carsare in first class, which seems to be the case with the Frecciarossa and Eurostar trains, wheelchair passengers are charged second class fare. Seating for one companion is available next to the wheelchair space; when reserving a wheelchair space, you can also reserve a companion seat. The discount for the wheelchair passenger is also available for the companion.
To sum up, there are two types of discounts. First, there is a discount for passengers in wheelchairs (and their companions) when the only accessible car is in first class. (We don’t know the extent of disability required in order to be eligible for this discount; for example, whether someone using crutches would be eligible.) Second, there is a discount available to anyone who purchases tickets in advance. In 2014 we were able to get both discounts for the Naples to Florence trip, which amounted to a huge savings, but only the wheelchair discount for the Florence to Rome trip, which was still a significant savings.
If you are traveling with a third person, he or she isn’t eligible for a companion discount, understandably. So immediately after we received our seat reservations for Howard’s and Michele’s seats, we went on the Trenitalia website, reserved a seat in the same car for Chris and purchased his ticket, which was expensive because it was a first class seat at regular price.
Italian travel agencies sell train tickets, so theoretically you can reserve a space and purchase tickets at a travel agency anywhere in Italy, but we’ve tried this in the past and the travel agencies didn’t know how to handle accessible seating. It’s best to avoid travel agencies for train reservations.
From our research it appears that all or almost all of the fast trains between major cities have accessible spaces. But many of the trains serving smaller cities and towns are not accessible - for some places, only a subset of the trains is accessible. This is a major drawback; it means that passengers in wheelchairs have only a limited choice of train times available to them. In 2009 we took day trips from Bologna to Ravenna, Ferrara and Parma, and when departing Bologna had to choose between leaving at 9 AM or close to noon. There were departures between those times, but those trains were not equipped with wheelchair spaces. These limitations also preclude flexibility and spontaneity, making it impossible to change plans at the last minute (other than canceling a trip).
In other places the train station itself isn’t accessible, so none of the trains is available to passengers in wheelchairs. We’d heard that a day trip to Orvieto from Rome is worthwhile and enjoyable, but Trenitalia told us that the Orvieto station is not accessible. Similarly, only the central train station in Pisa is accessible, not the one close to Piazza dei Miracoli, where the Duomo, Leaning Tower and Camposanto are located. From Google maps it appears to be a 30 minute walk from the accessible train station to Piazza dei Miracoli, and we didn’t know the terrain, curb ramp situation and other access details, so we decided to forgo a day trip from Florence to Pisa.
In Rome, Naples and some of the other large cities, the main train station (e.g. Roma Termini and Napoli Centrale) is a terminus and all of the tracks can be reached directly from the station lobby without an elevator. But in some of the smaller cities there is a passageway under the tracks; depending on one’s train, it can be necessary to go through the passageway to reach the particular tracks. In these stations there are elevators from the main part of the station down to the passageway and throughout the passageway to each set of tracks. In our experience the elevators have never been out of service. Depending on the station and the time, some elevators are open to the public and others are operated only by Trenitalia employees. But because wheelchair passengers must check in at the Blue Room and be accompanied to the track by an employee, the elevator will be operated by an employee regardless of what time it is.
Wheelchair passengers are boarded from the platform to the train by a mechanical lift. Another reason reservations are required is so Trenitalia can ensure availability of the lift and employees to operate it. In large cities where the station is a terminus, getting on and off the train isn’t rushed, but in small ones the train stops for only two or three minutes and the process is quite harried. Be sure to organize and watch your luggage.
The lift is on wheels and the employee moves it along the platform, aligning it with the door to the train. There is a folding ramp at each end of the lift. According to the Trenitalia website, wheelchairs up to the following dimensions and loaded weight can be accommodated: 27½ inches (70 cm) wide, 47.2 inches (120 cm) long, and 440 pounds (200 kg) loaded weight. (These are the dimensions of the ISO 7193 standard.) But some of the lifts we encountered from 2003 through 2009 were narrower and shorter than the stated dimensions. Often there was almost no room to spare on the sides or lengthwise, and Howard’s footrests had to be shortened to the shortest position. We took several trips from Bologna in 2009 and lifts of different sizes were used, which created some difficult situations.
In 2012 we were concerned that Howard’s Permobil wouldn’t fit; it’s slightly longer than the maximum prescribed length and, including Howard’s weight, heavier than the maximum weight (we won’t say by how much!). But in the event, weight was not a problem. When we departed from Rome the lift was adequate size, but when we returned to Rome there was a different lift and Howard’s wheelchair just barely fit with no room to spare on the sides. Both times in Naples the lift was brand-new and wider, and there was plenty of room.
In 2014 there was plenty of room for Howard’s Permobil on all of the lifts - in Naples, Florence and Rome. Weight was never a problem; the lift motor did not seem to be straining. Our strong impression is that the older, smaller lifts are being replaced with larger ones throughout the system.
Although many years ago we had heard that passengers in electric wheelchairs are required to transfer to a train seat or a manual wheelchair on the train, Howard has never been asked to do this, always remaining in his wheelchair. First class is very spacious; second class, which we’ve taken on some trips to smaller cities, while not quite as large, had ample room for his wheelchair. In both classes there is always a medium size accessible bathroom near the wheelchair space.
In conclusion, procedures vary from one station to another and even from one employee to another. This is Italy, after all, so actual practice isn’t necessarily the same as official policy. It is essential to check everything carefully. Be patient and allow plenty of time. While there is sometimes disorganization and inconsistency, the fortunate bottom line is that Trenitalia is committed to wheelchair access, the Trenitalia employees are doing their best, everything works out in the end, and things are continually improving on the major routes and in the major stations. The main drawbacks are that the stations in many of the smaller cities and towns are inaccessible, and for the smaller cities and towns that do have accessible stations, only some of the trains are accessible. These conditions are likely to improve only very slowly.
www.trenitalia.com. Trenitalia has an English-language website with detailed information for passengers with disabilities; click next to the wheelchair logo at the bottom of the homepage. From there one can find contact information for disability services for stations throughout Italy. We should mention that, over the course of planning many trips over many years, we’ve always received prompt email replies in English from Trenitalia and the Blue Rooms, typically within 24 hours.
Trenitalia national helpline for disabled passengers (from within Italy only): Phone: 199-30-30-60. General passenger information (from within Italy only): 199-892-021.
Webpage in English for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). Also, from the English homepage, there is a tab with the wheelchair logo and “Assistance to PRM”.
For lodging, as for real estate, the three most important factors are location, location and location (assuming good wheelchair access). Strolling through a vibrant, beautiful, interesting neighborhood is one of the most enjoyable things about traveling. It’s exciting to stay in the heart of the city, where one can go by the same building, monument or piazza ten times and discover something new and fascinating each time. Strolling at night is romantic and exhilarating; staying at a central location makes it easier to stay out late. A central location is also more conducive to an afternoon nap because it’s easy to go out again afterwards.
Because accessible public transportation is often difficult to find, unreliable and subject to change, staying in a central location is critical unless you are able to transfer easily to an ordinary taxi. Being within rolling distance of museums, antiquities, monuments, churches, restaurants and shopping saves time, energy, uncertainty, frustration and expense.
In keeping with the Italian talent for water and bathing, all wheelchair accessible hotel rooms we’ve seen in Italy, except one,have roll-in showers, unlike in the US and some other countries where only a minority of “accessible” guest rooms do. (It is telling that in French a roll-in shower is known as a “douche a l’Italienne” - an Italian shower.)
Hotel rates in Italy typically include breakfast and value added tax (VAT), making it easy to budget your trip. The only thing not included is local lodging tax, usuallytwo or three € per person per day.
When inquiring about access, we use the questionnaire attached as Appendix A and ask the hotel to email photos of the accessible room, especially the bathroom. When it comes to wheelchair access, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
On all three trips we stayed in Chiaia, an upscale residential area developed in the late 19th century. There are terrific neighborhood restaurants, wine bars, cafés, stylish boutiques and other stores. There’s a lot of nightlife, with young Neapolitans overflowing from the bars into the small streets. The neighborhood is lively, but while crowded and noisy compared to many cities, it’s quieter and less dense than Spaccanapoli, the historic center of Naples. The terrain is moderately sloped by Naples standards. The streets and sidewalks are bumpy, with uneven stones - welcome to Naples! Chiaia is near the waterfront. In the other direction, it’s an easy stroll on via Chiaia, a pedestrian zone with smooth pavement, to via Toledo, the bustling main street leading uphill towardthe archaeological museum and Spaccanapoli, the historic center.
At both hotels (Palazzo Alabardieri in 2014 and 2012; Majestic in 2006) the service was among the best of any hotels we’ve ever stayed in. The staff in both places has a kindness, hospitality, enthusiasm, vitality and warmth that we have learned are part of the Neapolitan character. Though the staff was gracious to all guests, in both hotels they seemed especially solicitous of us, wanting to be sure there were no access barriers and doing everything they could to make us comfortable.
The rates at both hotels were remarkably reasonable. Lodging and food in Naples are a bargain compared to Rome and many other places.
Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri (2014 and 2012)
Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri. Four star. Via Alabardieri, 38. Phone: +39-081-415-278. www.palazzoalabardieri.it.
Palazzo Alabardieri is one of the most charming, well located and accessible hotels we’ve ever stayed in. It’s a few doors from Piazza dei Martiri, an easy to find landmark with unique stores and cafés, and close to pedestrian zones. It’s a 10 minute walk East of Hotel Majestic, where we stayed in 2006 - a bit less residential but closer to the historic center. Beware - the stone pavement on this block of via Alabardieri is especially uneven and bumpy.
There’s a short gradual ramp at the entrance, and an electric door. From outside the building is unassuming, and upon entering one is delighted by the elegance of the lobby, an oval-shaped room overlooked by a walkway on the second floor. The stone floor detail, rich wooden table, yellow ceiling, and light fixture are all concentric ovals. The decor and furniture are unmistakably Neapolitan, elegant but not stuffy, with just the right amount of Baroque influence and a touch of Liberty style. There is a cozy bar off the lobby, and several well-furnished meeting rooms, most of which are down two or three stairs.
The breakfast room is down two or three stairs. In 2012 the staff set out a steep, wide wooden ramp for Howard, but we decided to forgo this in 2014, and Howard had breakfast in our room. Breakfast was delicious, especially the coffee. (The coffee everywhere in Naples is superb.) Neapolitans are late birds, so breakfast is served till 10:30.
In 2014 we stayed in Room 811, on the ground floor. The bedroom is medium size and well lit with lamps everywhere, although without much natural light. There is one window, overlooking a small courtyard, and the curtain needs to be closed most of the time. There isn’t a view, so the only drawback of having the curtain closed is the lack of natural light. The bed is comfortable - firm, but not too firm. All doorways in the bedroom and bathroom are at least 32 inches wide. Like all hotel rooms we’ve seen in Italy, there is a slot near the door to insert the room key card; with the card in, the electricity is turned on; when one leaves the room and removes the card, all the electricity is turned off. This is convenient and energy-saving.
Room 811 has two bathrooms - one accessible and one regular; it was a small luxury for Michele to have her own bathroom. The regular one is fairly large; the accessible one, medium-size, with plenty of turning radius for an electric wheelchair. The regular bathroom is tiled in marble; the accessible one, travertine. The regular bathroom is a bit more elegant.
The accessible bathroom has a large, high toilet with built-in water jets; the water temperature and force are adjustable. A long horizontal grab bar and a vertical one are mounted on the wall to the left of the toilet (to the left as you face the toilet), and a flip-up horizontal grab bar is on the right side of the toilet (it’s attached to the rear wall). There’s plenty of transfer space on the right side. There is a medium-size roll-in shower, moderately sloped toward the drain, with horizontal and vertical grab bars. A small, removable shower seat hangs from one of the grab bars. The water was forceful and as hot as desired. There are emergency pull cords near the toilet and the shower. The sink is easily accessible, although there is no counter or ledge to put toiletries. The faucet has a long handle. There is a grab bar on the wall near the sink. The mirror is large, with excellent visibility from a wheelchair. The blow dryer is too high to reach.
The regular bathroom has a bidet, a huge mirror, a large bathtub and plenty of counter space for toiletries.
In 2012 we stayed in the other accessible room, number 814, also on the ground floor. The bedroom in Room 811 is a bit larger. Room 814 also has only one window, but the orientation is different and there is more natural light. There are two bathrooms, one accessible and one regular, which are similar to their counterparts in 811 but smaller. The accessible bathroom in 814 is adequate size but noticeably smaller than 811. Its access features are essentially the same as in 811 but the orientation of the toilet is reversed - the fixed grab bars are on the right side as you face the toilet, and the movable one is on the left. In 2012 we didn’t know that the hotel has two accessible rooms. Room 814 is excellent but, having stayed in both of them, we prefer Room 811. Both rooms are quiet.
Hotel Majestic (2006)
Hotel Majestic. Four star. Largo Vasto a Chiaia, 68. Phone:+39-081-416-500. www.majestic.it.
The Majestic is in a modernized, immaculately maintained building with warm wood tones and gorgeous marble slabs in greens, grays and beiges. Though it faced the street, our room was very quiet with the window closed.
The main entrance has electric sliding doors and is up a two to three-inch threshold; the threshold was easy in Howard’s electric wheelchair but some manual wheelchair users would need assistance. There is a door without any threshold a few feet away, however, and the bellman was always eager to open it for us. There is a medium size accessible bathroom near the lobby, with a large, high toilet; side transfer space, grab bars, a large sink and an emergency alarm cord.
The regular elevator doorways are too narrow for a wheelchair, so guests in wheelchairs will need to use the service elevator. This wasn’t awkward or a hassle because the cleaning ladies made sure to keep it clean, kept the nearby corridor free of obstacles, and smiled warmly as they made way for us. Howard’s Quickie electric wheelchair was able to fit into the doorway of the service elevator with around two inches to spare on each side, and the elevator is easily wide enough for one able-bodied person along with the person in a wheelchair. However, Howard’s wheelchair just barely fit lengthwise with the footrests in their shortened position. The footrests can be removed in order to shorten the wheelchair; this was not necessary, but it almost was. We didn’t measure the elevator but, in researching our 2012 trip, were told the elevator dimensions are 49.2 inches (125 cm) by 47.2 inches (120 cm), and the doorway is 33.4 inches (85 cm) wide. When inquiring, be sure to ask for precise measurements - don’t rely on this information. We don’t know whether a Permobil would fit; it would be a close call, one way or the other.
The inviting breakfast room is up two stairs but is easily accessed via a ramped walkway near the kitchen. The waiters at breakfast were always attentive, anticipating our arrival and setting a comfortable table for us.
We stayed in Room 101. The bedroom is medium size, but so well designed, cheerful and well lit that it seems larger. We were told the room is 215 square feet (20 square meters) excluding the bathroom; this seems accurate. There is comfortable king size bed, not two single beds pushed together as is often the case in Italy. The air conditioning and air circulation were excellent, not dry or stuffy. The ceiling is high and there is a large window with bright sunlight and a view of the school across the street. Some rooms on higher floors have sea views and are priced accordingly, but none are accessible. (We’ve noticed that accessible hotel rooms in Italy tend to be on the lower floors, probably to make evacuation easier in an emergency.) There is abundant detailing in warm, elegant wood. The switch for the electric window shade, most light switches and most electric outlets (there are many) are accessible, and all the lights can be turned off by an accessible single switch at either side of the bed. There is a built-in closet with accessible drawers but inaccessible hangers. The guest room doorway is approximately 36 inches wide and has a magnet to hold it open. The door doesn’t have a lever handle; there is a push button at the top, so it doesn’t require twisting.
The bathroom is luxurious, spacious, well lit and has terrific amenities. Slabs of creamy white carrera marble with silver veins line the walls, accented by edge details of gorgeous orange marble, also used for the floor tiles. The bathroom doorway is at least 32 inches wide. There is a large, high toilet with plenty of adjacent transfer space. There is a bidet (handy for doing laundry); a large, well-designed sink; a huge, accessible mirror; a heated towel rack and a fan. The towel rack, light switches and hair dryer are accessible. There is plenty of accessible shelf space for toiletries. A phone is next to the toilet, and emergency alarm cords are next to the toilet and in the shower. There is a large roll-in shower with a handheld shower nozzle and plenty of water pressure. The shower floor has anti-skid strips and is gently sloped so the water drains well.
However, there are no grab bars near the toilet or in the shower, and no built-in shower bench. Howard wrote to the hotel asking them to install grab bars.
In researching our 2012 trip we were told that Room 101 still doesn’t have grab bars but the hotel has another accessible room, Room 109, which is larger and has a roll-in shower and a grab bar near the toilet. The hotel wasn’t able to send photos. We don’t know whether this room was accessible in 2006 or was subsequently renovated.
We haven’t visited any of these hotels; all information was provided in response to our inquiries. All of them have roll-in showers. Because much of the information is several years old, we aren’t including dimensions. It’s imperative that you inquire with the hotels, especially about elevator dimensions.
Historic Center and Nearby
Caravaggio Hotel. Four star. Piazza Cardinale Sisto Riario Sforza, 157. Phone: +39-081-211-0066. www.caravaggiohotel.it.
The accessible room is on the ground floor.
La Ciliegina Lifestyle Hotel. Four star.Via Paolo Emilio Embriani, 30. Phone: +39- 081-19-71-88-00. www.cilieginahotel.com
La Ciliegina opened in 2010.
Albergo Palazzo Decumani. Four star.Piazzetta Giustino Fortunato, 8. Phone: +39- 081-420-1379. www.palazzodecumani.com
There are two bathrooms in the accessible guest room - one accessible and one regular. However, the lobby, bar and breakfast room are not accessible - they are up three stairs from street level. There is an elevator from street level directly to the floor where the accessible room is located. The elevator also stops at the reception level, but not the lobby, and there is nowhere at the reception level for guests to spend time.
Palazzo Turchini. Four star. Via Medina, 21/22. Phone: +39-081-551-0606. www.palazzoturchini.it
The entrance is level with the street. The accessible room is a single room and quite small.
Hotel Piazza Bellini. Three star.Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, 101. Phone: +39-081-451-732.www.hotelpiazzabellini.com
The entrance is level with the street. The photos show a 2-inch high ledge around the roll-in shower.
See the description of Castel St. Elmo(Section 8 - Museums, Churches, Monuments and Other Sites, below) for more information about Vomero. Some of the streets in this neighborhood have stairs.But even using the streets without stairs, because of steepness and distance (not far as the crow flies, but the streets are long and winding) it would be essentially impossible to roll in a wheelchair from this area to the historic center and the waterfront. The Funiculare Centrale line is accessible, but one would be relying on the elevator at the Vomero station, and it would be a hassle to be completely dependent on the funicular. Staying here might be feasible, however, for slow walkers and for manual wheelchair users who are able to transfer to an ordinary taxi.
Grand Hotel Parkers. Five star. Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 135. Phone +39-081-76-12-474. www.grandhotelparkers.com.
There is a “little” step at the main entrance. The view restaurant is accessible by elevator but the roof terrace is not. The accessible guest room has no sea view (disappointing in a hotel renowned for its glorious panoramic views) but is huge.
Hotel San Francesco al Monte. Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 328. Phone:+39-081-42-39-412 or +39- 081-42-39-111. www.hotelsanfrancesco.it.
This hotelis in a 16th century former convent with panoramic views and magnificent art. There are no stairs from the hotel entrance to the elevator. The accessible room has a sea view. The roof terrace, breakfast room and restaurant might not be accessible; the information we received was unclear.
There are several luxury hotels clustered on via Partenope, along the magnificent waterfront. The area is great for strolling day and night, and is flat. This location isn’t central, however; it’s further from the historic center than is Chiaia.
Hotel Royal Continental. Four star. Via Partenope, 38 and 44. Phone +39-081-76-44-614. www.royalcontinental.it.
There are some stairs at the main entrance. There is a side entrance without stairs, but one must ask the front desk staff to open it. There are several accessible rooms, all of which are interior rooms without sea views.
Grand Hotel Santa Lucia. Five star.Via Partenope, 46. Phone +39-081-76-40-666. www.santalucia.thi.it.
The hotel entrance has a ramp 47 inches (120 cm) wide. There are no stairs to get to the elevator.
8. MUSEUMS, CHURCHES, MONUMENTS AND OTHER SITES
Disabled visitors and one companion are admitted free to all government-owned museums in Italy and most others. It’s still necessary to get a ticket at the ticket counter, although employees were sometimes willing to let us in without a ticket. The tickets make good souvenirs - they have rich, interesting images and graphics - another reason why it’s advisable to get tickets.
The date of our most recent visit is indicated for each place.
Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) (2014)
If you can visit only one museum in Naples, this is it. Extraordinary artifacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other antiquities sites - mosaics, frescoes, sculptures (including the Farnese collection of colossal Roman marble statues), glass and coins - are on display. Access is excellent. We got there by strolling up via Toledo. The curb ramp at the intersection of via Toledo and Piazza Museo Nazionale in front of the museum is rutted and has a steep cross slope, but Howard was able to navigate it. Many people in manual wheelchairs would need some help. There is a gate at the parking lot near the entrance; get the guard’s attention and he will open it. The building is on a hill but the site is flat. There are no stairs at the entrance. A huge elevator serves all floors. There are no changes in level among the galleries on each floor. Don’t miss the Secret Cabinet, the collection of strange, erotic and pornographic objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum; you must be 14 or older.
In 2014 some of the galleries were closed, not for renovation or installation of exhibits but because the museum was short staffed, probably due to budget cuts. The closures rotate frequently, so if your heart is set on visiting a particular gallery, confirm in advance that it will be open.
There is a large accessible bathroom on the ground floor, with a large, high toilet; plenty of side transfer space, a large sink and an emergency alarm cord. The door is a heavy sliding door, so most wheelchair users will require assistance. The bathroom is locked; you must ask an employee for the key. It’s a minor inconvenience to find an employee but this is outweighed by the fact that, like many locked accessible bathrooms in Italy, this one is very clean.
Capodimonte Museum and Park (2012)
This great museum and spacious park are at the top of Naples. We got a ride there, which took quite a while (perhaps 45 minutes from Piazza dei Martiri); it would be difficult to get there by bus. Wheelchair accessible parking is available on the site. The paths in the park are paved in smooth black St. Peter's stone and are mostly gently sloped. Access at the museum is excellent. There is a level entrance. There is a medium-size elevator; it was easily large enough for Howard, Michele and two other people. There are small changes in level (around 3 inches/7 to 8 cm) between some of the galleries, all of which are ramped.
There is an accessible bathroom in the courtyard. There is a 3 to 4 inch (7 to 10 cm) step, and a permanent ramp. There is an attendant. The bathroom is a typical Italian accessible bathroom. This one is medium-size. There is no toilet seat, but neither are there toilet seats in the regular bathrooms.
Castel St. Elmo (2012)
The castle is located up in Vomero, which has more trees and less traffic than many other parts of Naples, and boasts spectacular views and a large pedestrian shopping zone. When we were there in 2012 there was a gentle breeze and the air felt fresh, a welcome relief from the midday heat below. But in 2014, when the weather was moderate down below, it was windy and chilly in Vomero.
From the Piazza Fugo/Vomero station of the Funiculare Centrale (see Section 5 - Transportationin Naples, above) for more information on how to get there) to Castel St. Elmo there is a series of moderately sloped winding streets. Most corners have curb ramps, but Howard traveled in the street much of the way because some of the designated sidewalk areas have significant cross slopes. From the station to the castle was an easy 10 to 15 minute stroll. There is a more direct route, but it’s up a long flight of stairs.
At the entrance to the castle there is a steep driveway. Howard had to tilt and recline his wheelchair far back; manual wheelchair users would need assistance, as would power chair users whose chairs don’t tilt and recline. Accessible parking is available. There are two elevators: one serves the ground level and top level; the other serves the ground, middle and top levels. Both are moderately large; Howard, Michele and two other people fit in each of them. It’s a long ride to the top. From the ground level of the castle to the elevator there is a gradual slope and no stairs.
At the top level there is a 3 inch (7 to 8 cm) stair from the elevator landing to the huge open area inside the parapet walls. The open area is flat and paved in fairly smooth bricks. There is a walkway around the walls, which is accessible only by a very steep ramp. Fortunately, there is no cross slope on the ramp. Howard was able to go up the ramp at full speed, and was able to go down only by tilting his wheelchair back the maximum amount to compensate for the steep slope. Manual wheelchair users, and people in electric wheelchairs without high-speed motors and tilt capability, would need much assistance. One is rewarded for the effort by extraordinary, panoramic views of the city, the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. Some of the openings in the crenellated walls are fairly high; Howard elevated his wheelchair to see through them. Some people in manual wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs without an elevating feature would be able to see through the openings; others wouldn’t. Even for those who cannot, it is fascinating and exhilarating to be so high up and explore this old Spanish castle, and there are other viewing spots at wheelchair height.
At one side of the open area at the top level there is a viewing room, easily accessible by a gradually sloped metal ramp with railings, and from which there are jaw-dropping views of Vesuvius. An accessible bathroom is nearby, which is smallish for Italy but adequate. There is no toilet seat, but neither are there toilet seats in the regular bathrooms. At the top level there is also a contemporary art museum, accessible by a small, dedicated elevator.
At the middle level one can see various parts of the castle. There are some moderately sloped ramps leading to towers and turrets. There are also auditoriums and meeting rooms, which we did not enter. If you are running short of time, skip the middle level; there is much more to see at the top level.
Certosa e Museo di San Martino
The San Martino Museum, housed in a former charterhouse (monastery), is in Vomero, not far from Castel St. Elmo. In planning our trip we inquired about access several times but received no response. Unfortunately we did not have time to go there and check it out.
The street, via Duomo, is on a fairly steep hill. From the street to the entrance porch there is a wide, moderately sloped metal ramp with handrails. From the entrance porch there are two stairs, each of which is 7 inches (18 cm) in height. The guard brought a portable wooden ramp, but the ramp is 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) too high, resulting in an odd disparity in level, and Howard needed major assistance exiting. The Chapel of San Gennaro is up one stair 10 inches (25 cm) in height from the nave, and there is no ramp. However, one can see much of the chapel from the nave, and in the nave there is an informative, high-quality real-time video display of the chapel.
Galleria Umberto I (2012)
There are no stairs at the entrance on via Toledo.
We enjoyed a romantic stroll along the lively waterfront from Chiaia to Mergellina. The scenic waterfront here has cafes and restaurants and is bustling with fisherman and their boats. The sidewalk is mostly flat, smooth and continuous, without major access barriers.
Metro Art Stations (2014)
Many of the Metro stations in Naples have compelling, noteworthy art and architecture. See Section 5 - Transportation in Naples, above.
Monte di Pieta (2012)
There are several stairs from the courtyard up to the entrance, and no ramp. The sculptures by Pietro Bernini (father and teacher of Gian Lorenzo) are in niches on the outside of the building and can easily be seen from the courtyard.
Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) (2006)
There are no stairs at the entrance, but the surfaces in the nearby street, in Piazza Plebiscito and in the palace’s ground floor courtyard are paved in very uneven cobblestones and the ride is quite bumpy. All of the galleries are on the first floor (up one floor from the ground floor), which is accessed by a small elevator. Howard fit only by removing his wheelchair footrests and backing into the elevator; there was no space to spare. It would be difficult or impossible to fit in the elevator with a large electric wheelchair, such as a Permobil, or a scooter. The bathroom is not accessible.
In response to our inquiry in 2014, museum staff told us there is a “pedana,” (a platform lift or diagonal stair lift) to go up four stairs at the entrance, but the weight capacity may be too low for a large electric wheelchair. Inside the museum there is an elevator from one floor to another. The garden is completely accessible. Due to time constraints we didn’t make it there.
Pio Monte della Misericordia (Caravaggio's Seven Acts of Mercy) (2012)
At the entrance to the main church there is one stair 6 inches (15 cm) in height, but according to the guard they will be getting a ramp. But even with a ramp, there wouldn’t be an accessible way to get from the main church to the chapel where Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy is displayed. Besides being entered from the church, the chapel has its own separate entrance from the street. There are two or three stairs from the street up to the chapel entrance, and a steep wooden ramp. Howard was able to use the ramp with a great deal of assistance from the guard; manual and electric wheelchair users would need much assistance. It is also possible to see the painting from the street.
San Carlo Opera House (Teatro San Carlo) (2006)
Opera, ballet and other concerts are still performed at Italy’s oldest opera house, founded in 1737 and the great rival to Milan’s La Scala. Guided tours around 20 minutes long are given. There are at least five stairs at the main entrance. There is an accessible entrance, but wheelchair users wanting to take a tour must provide a few days’ advance notice. We didn’t reserve in advance, so weren’t able to take the tour. Accessible concert seating is available, although probably not at the last minute. We did not attend a concert.
There is an extensive website in English where you can order
concert tickets and learn the illustrious history of Teatro San Carlo.
San Domenico Maggiore (2006)
There is one high stair at the entrance. It was not difficult for Michele and one other person to lift Howard in his lightweight electric wheelchair, but it would not be possible in a heavy electric wheelchair such as a Permobil. Conditions may have changed since 2006.
Sansevero Chapel (2014)
Do not miss the Sansevero Chapel. In a city of the unusual, this chapel is truly unusual. Like many buildings and works of art in Naples, it’s not as well-known as those in Rome, Florence, Siena and elsewhere. This mysterious, ornate, intimately sized Baroque chapel is the product of a brilliant and eccentric mind, Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero.The Veiled Christ - Giuseppe Sanmartino’s masterpiece of white/grey marble - and other exquisite sculptures are displayed on the ground floor. Sanmartino’s work rivals those of Michelangelo and Bernini in its virtuosity, immediacy and ability to move the viewer. Leave time, though, to see the other artworks and read about their meaning and origins.
There is one high stair at the entrance, and the employees set out a short, steep portable wooden ramp. Howard needed assistance from the employees in both directions and, when exiting, used the tilt feature of his Permobil to compensate for the steepness of the ramp. Manual wheelchair users, and people in electric wheelchairs without a tilt feature, would need assistance in both directions. The Chapel should get a longer ramp - although the street outside the entrance isn’t very wide, it’s wide enough for a longer ramp. The skeletons (“anatomical machines”) are down a flight of stairs but can be seen well from a viewing gallery one step up from the ground floor; the employees moved the ramp and used it to give Howard access to the gallery. The employees were friendly, gracious and justifiably proud of where they work. They were delighted at the delight of the visitors.
Santa Chiara (2014)
The street from the outside portal of the church to the entrance to the majolica cloister and museum is moderately sloped, with a moderate cross slope. Some slow walkers and manual wheelchair users would need a bit of assistance; electric wheelchair users would not. The pavement is composed of large, uneven, bumpy stones. The entrance is level; there is no stair. The walkway around the perimeter of the cloister is flat and paved with smooth stones. The interior paths of the cloister are up one stair 30 cm (12 inches) in height from the walkway. The cloister can be seen and enjoyed from the perimeter, and a visit is well worthwhile even if one cannot ascend to the interior. There is a moderately sloped ramp from the cloister perimeter walkway up to the museum; there is a 5 cm (2 inch) lip at the bottom of the ramp, which should not pose an obstacle for most people with mobility limitations.
In 2014 and 2012 we didn’t go into the church itself, but we did in 2006. The church is up one small stair and one high stair; in 2006 it was not difficult for Michele and one other person to lift Howard in his lightweight electric wheelchair, but it would not be possible in a scooter or a heavy electric wheelchair such as a Permobil. Conditions may have changed since 2006. Manual wheelchair users could access the church with moderate assistance.
At the Santa Chiara cloister there is a medium size accessible restroom, not far from the ticket booth. One must ask the employee for a key. This is the only accessible restroom we’ve found in Spaccanapoli, so Howard returned to it when in the area even if we didn’t want to visit the church.
Via San Gregorio Armeno (2014)
This street of artisans with traditional Neapolitan Christmas displays, nativity scenes, toys and puppets is moderately hilly and paved in bumpy cobblestones. Most of the shops are up one stair and are inaccessible for people in electric wheelchairs, but the shops have wide open fronts, the merchants are welcoming, the displays spill out onto the street, and one can see them and be waited on from the street.
Villa Floridiana (2014)
This museum and park are in Vomero, in the opposite direction from the Funiculare Centrale stationas Castel St. Elmo. The streets leading to the park entrance are relatively flat. Most of the pathways in the park are moderately sloped. The section of the path closest to the park entrance has gravel; it wasn’t difficult for Howard to traverse but many manual wheelchair users and slow walkers would need assistance. Thereafter the paths are paved in a smooth material, but their condition has deteriorated in some areas. The area in front of the museum is paved in large, extremely uneven stones. There appear to be two or three stairs at the museum entrance. When we were there the museum was closed. The park and museum building seemed rundown and in need of maintenance. Still, many Neapolitans - human and feline - were enjoying a leisurely afternoon at this spot.
9. RESTAURANTS and STORES
Compared to Rome, Florence, and other cities we’ve been to in Italy, many restaurants in Naples have a higher step at the entrance, and were impossible for Howard to access in his Permobil. Several restaurants that had been recommended or looked appealing were inaccessible. Some restaurants have outdoor tables, but this is less ubiquitous than in Rome. So restaurant choices in Naples for people in electric wheelchairs or scooters are more limited. Still, it was wonderful to eat outdoors when we could, another reason to visit Naples when the weather is good, if you have a choice of when to travel. In short, it’s more difficult, and takes more planning and searching, to find accessible restaurants in Naples than in some other cities, but there are plenty, and the food in Naples is a real treat.
The culinary highlight was the incredibly fresh, moist and flavorful fish and seafood, which tasted like it was caught just minutes before being served. We feasted on marinated anchovies (alici), baked seafood linguini (linguini alla cartoccio), linguine with clams (linguini alla vongole) or with tomatoes, clams and mussels (linguini alla scoglio), swordfish (pesce spada), Mediterranean sea bass (spigola) (much closer to striped bass than to Chilean sea bass), gilthead bream (orata) (which may or may not be the same as tilapia/St. Peter’s fish), and giant calamari. The fish is prepared simply, either grilled or baked, sometimes baked in acqua pazza, a simple fish stock with garlic and parsley, and often served with fresh bright fire-engine-red large cherry tomatoes bursting with sweet flavor. (Among other foods, Naples is justly famous for its tomatoes, which benefit from the volcanic soil.) Pezzogna is a delicious small fish with white flesh, in the red sea bream family, that we ate fried and grilled. Paranza refers to several types of small white fish, which are typically fried. The fried fish was always lightly fried, never greasy.
Ravioli Caprese (ravioli filled with ricotta and buffalo mozzarella in a light tomato sauce) was scrumptious. Neapolitan pasta we liked includescialatelli (long, flat noodles, almost square in cross-section) and paccheri (large diameter tubes, similar to rigatoni but bigger); both are chewy and go perfectly with fish, seafood and tomatoes. Fresh local bitter greens spigarello and friarielli (the latter may be the same or similar to what’s known in the US as broccoli rabe and elsewhere in Italy as rapini), sautéed in olive oil, lemon and garlic, sometimes with chili flakes added, were the ideal side dish.
The pizza is also delectable and Neapolitans’ pride in it is justified. Neapolitans eat pizza as a snack, an appetizer and a main course. (We don’t know about breakfast.) They are so crazy about pizza that some upscale restaurants and those that specialize in seafood also have pizza ovens, and many include the word “pizzeria” in their names.
Every coffee we had in Naples was delicious, whether at our hotel, a café or a restaurant. The coffee was medium bodied, rounded, well roasted, rich yet not overpowering. Our favorite regional wines were Aglianico and Taurasi - deep red, full bodied, with a nice balance between fruit and earth. Taurasi is made from the Aglianico grape; it has the prestigious DOCG designation and must be aged at least three years, including in wooden barrels.
Service was casual, relaxed, knowledgeable and proud, and if we ate somewhere more than once, the waiter welcomed us like old friends.
For informed, impassioned and opinionated restaurant reviews and recommendations, and fascinating information about the history and lore of Neapolitan food (and Roman and other cuisines), visit Parla Food, a blog written by our friend Katie Parla. www.parlafood.com.
The restaurants are listed by location.
Manfredi (2014 and 2012). Via S. Teresa a Chiaia, 33 (Chiaia). Phone: +39-081-411-647. www.pizzeriamanfredi.com.This neighborhood favorite is a 10 minute stroll from Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri. The inside area is definitely not accessible (it’s down a very high stair, and the corridor is too narrow for a wheelchair anyway), so we ate outside. The outside dining area is sloped, which was challenging for Howard. This place gets crowded with neighborhood residents, with many people waiting on the street near the tables, catching up with friends, walking their dogs and hanging out until a table is ready. Yet we did not feel rushed. For travelers in wheelchairs it’s a good idea either to call in advance and explain that you need an outside table, or to come early. Manfredi serves fresh, delicious fish and seafood, fish/seafood pasta, and good pizza. The food is simple and traditional. On all of our visits, most patrons were Neapolitan; there were few tourists.
Nativus (formerly la Barrique) (2014, 2012 and 2006). Piazzetta Ascensione, 9 (Chiaia). Phone: +39-081-032-0201.www.nativus.it. This warm, cozy restaurant and enoteca (wine bar) in Chiaia, a few minutes’ walk past Manfredi, is an exception to the fish and seafood theme. Serving dinner only, it features steak, veal, lamb, cheese, and some classic Roman pastas such as cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and black pepper). With a huge, reasonably priced wine list emphasizing southern Italian wines, including many by the glass, Nativus is a great place to learn about the regional wines. Service was gracious and friendly. There is a 2-inch (5cm) threshold at the entrance.
In 2012 and 2006 this place was called la Barrique (a barrique is a wine barrel), and we had a wonderful dinner there each time. In 2014 we strolled into the same place, not realizing it had changed name and ownership. The interior hadn’t changed one bit. Nativus’s menu is similar to that of la Barrique - serving meat and no fish or seafood or pizza, and with Roman and other Central Italian influence instead of Neapolitan. We were there in 2014 on a Saturday night and were literally the only patrons the entire night. At first we thought it was empty because we were early (8 PM is early for dinner in Naples), but no one else showed up. The food was delicious and fairly priced. The waiter, helper and chef kept giving us extras and eagerly awaiting our verdict, which was delightedly positive each time.
Umberto (2014). Via Alabardieri, 30 (Chiaia). Phone: +39-081-418-555. www.umberto.it. This restaurant is next door to Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri, and the hotel’s room service menu comes from the restaurant. Umberto has its origins in 1916. It serves traditional Neapolitan cuisine, and also offers some innovative and signature dishes. The decor is moderately upscale. The sidewalk is narrow and around 5 inches (13 cm) above street level, and from the sidewalk there is one stair around 5 inches (13 cm) high at the entrance. In 2014 Michele found two boards to use as a ramp, placing them side by side; the boards were long enough to easily bridge both vertical changes in level. The waiters held the boards and it was easy for Howard to enter and exit.
In 2014 we ate here twice. Everything was delicious, including saffron based seafood risotto, baked filet of sea bream, short pasta tubes with octopus and olives, and other pastas. The desserts were a treat. There is an extensive wine list.
In 2012 we were unable to access Umberto, so we ordered pizza, which they delivered to our hotel and we ate in the hotel bar. The pizza was terrific and inexpensive.
Howard is writing to the restaurant to ask them to get a portable ramp.
Pizzeria Decumani (2014). Via dei Tribunali, 58 (Spaccanapoli). Phone: +39-081-557-1309. Scrumptious traditional Neapolitan pizza, crust with just the right balance of chewiness and “crustiness,” and a wide choice of toppings. Inexpensive and informal, with fast and friendly service. At the entrance there is a built-in, gradual ramp made of black marble mosaic, so access is easy. The owner was proud of his ramp.
Scaturchio (2012 and 2006). Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, 19 (Spaccanapoli). Phone: +39-081-551-70-31. www.scaturchio.it. Thisfamous pastry shop in the old city, renowned for its sfogliatelle (flaky, shell-shaped Neopolitan pastry), is a must for locals and travelers alike. Don’t miss the terrific espresso and also the rhum babas. There is a 2-inch (5 cm) threshold at the entrance.
Osteria Donna Teresa (2012).Via Kerbaker, 58 (Vomero). Phone: +39-081-556-7070. We had a wonderful lunch at this tiny place owned by an elderly couple (the Nonna is the chef) and their daughter. This is a place for an inexpensive, quick meal, not for lingering. At least for lunch, there is no written menu, it’s fixed price only (and a bargain), and the choices are limited. For appetizers we had pasta i checchi (flat pasta with mashed chickpeas; unlike some other versions, this one was not a soup), tomato and potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing, and lentil soup; all were superb. For our main dishes we had veal polpette (meatballs) with tomato sauce, which was one of the best meatball dishes we’ve ever had, and fresh marinated anchovies.
The waitress and her parents couldn’t have been more welcoming.
The restaurant is up a step of around 4 inches (10 cm), and there is no ramp.
Howard was just able to make it with a running start. The father moved a table
out of the way to give him room to do this, and was greatly pleased that Howard
was able to get in. We got there early by Neapolitan lunch standards (around 1
PM) and it was not yet crowded, so the two tables closest to the opening weren’t
occupied. It would be difficult for someone in a wheelchair, especially an
electric one, to get in if those tables were occupied; the customers would have
to move while the wheelchair user entered. Also, the restaurant is too narrow
for someone in a wheelchair to get from the entrance to one of the interior
tables, so customers in one of the front tables would need to move to a rear
table and yield the front table to the wheelchair user. We recommend either
getting there early, or calling and asking them to reserve a table at the
Limone limoncello store (2012).
Piazza San Gaetano, 72 (Spaccanapoli). Phone: +39-081-299-429.
www.limoncellodinapoli.it. This is a limoncello factory in the heart
of Spaccanapoli. At the side entrance there is a step around 4 inches (10 cm)
high; Howard was just able to get in with a running start. You can see vats of
limoncello being made, and you can open the lid and smell it. The smell is
overpowering; from it you wouldn’t imagine how fragrant and delicious the
finished product is. (Or if you already like limoncello, you’d never suspect
how strong it smells when it’s being made.) They are generous with their
tastings. We bought some limoncello to take home. They also make other fruit
liqueurs, such as melon. A section of the well-preserved Greek and Roman
subterranean antiquities in Spaccanapoli is underneath this store.
Bowinkel (2012). Piazza dei Martiri, 24 (Chiaia, near Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri). Phone: +39-081-764-4344. Renowned antiquarian store selling art objects, prints, photographs, watercolors and postcards of old Naples. We purchased some delicate, evocative miniature prints. The business was founded in 1895. The owner, Ernesto Bowinkel, has fascinating stories about the history of Naples as experienced by his family, originally from Germany. The building was bombed by the Allies in World War II. There is a step around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) high; it was easy for Howard to get in. Open Monday through Friday (closed during lunch hour), and Saturday mornings; closed in August.
Note that there is another Bowinkel store that sells similar merchandise. It’s a separate business owned by Ernesto’s brother Uberto and located on via Santa Lucia. We haven’t been there.
10. AMALFI COAST (2012 and 2006)
We took exhilarating day trips to the Amalfi coast, savoring the dramatic vistas, rocky cliffs, bright blue sea and clear, sunny sky. There are important cultural and historical sites, but we came mainly for the scenery, which is every bit as beautiful as its reputation. It was a visual feast. The area is famous for its lemons - try a tart, refreshing lemon granita (shaved ice) or limoncello (liqueur).
In 2006 the drive along the Amalfi coast from Naples to Ravello took a bit less than two hours. The twists and turns were part of the fun, as a glorious new panorama unfolded with each turn. The road is winding but less steep than many parts of the California coast. Unlike the California coast, though, buildings come up very close to the roadway, and people do, too. This isn’t pristine nature: it’s nature touched by human endeavor and vitality.
In 2012 we took an inland route from Naples to Ravello, which took around an hour. The terrain was craggy, with steeply terraced hillside vineyards, and the road had many switchbacks. The scenery was beautiful, though less dramatic than the coastal drive. On the way back we drove the coast.
In 2012 we got accessible transportation from local friends. In 2006 we hired an accessible van with a driver. We strongly discourage driving yourself even if it were possible to rent an accessible van without a driver. This road is not for amateurs: you’d be stressing yourself (and pedestrians and other drivers), adding to congestionand missing the views. See Section 5 - Transportation in Naples, above, for information about hiring a van and driver.
Ravello is perched high on a cliff but the streets around the town center are fairly flat. The Duomo is up many stairs and isn’t wheelchair accessible. We found a good restaurant in the town center with an accessible view terrace. Most of the gardens of Villa Cimbrone (www.villacimbrone.it) are up a flight of stairs and inaccessible, but the area near the entrance is accessible and has good views. The fabulous views throughout Ravello were well worth the trip.
Amalfi has a long accessible pier jutting far into the sea, with stunning views in all directions. Strolling on it and resting in the sun gave us a serene feeling of being connected to the sea. The parking area near the highway and the sea is flat, and leads to a main street that remains flat for quite a while and then slopes upwards. The Duomo (the Cathedral of St. Andrew) is up many stairs and isn’t wheelchair accessible from the piazza below. It may be possible to access the Duomo by proceeding along the main street as it winds its way up. Dating from the 1200’s, the Duomo is a fascinating combination of Romanesque, Arabic-Sicilian and Baroque architecture, with important art and relics. Allow time for the able-bodied people in your group to visit.
Vietri is known for its ceramics. We were there only in 2012. It’s very touristy, not nearly as interesting architecturally as Ravello or Amalfi, and was our least favorite place on the trip. We were there on a Sunday, when most stores were closed, and didn’t shop for ceramics, so it may be a worthwhile stop if you are intent on buying ceramics.
11. CAPRI (2014 and 2006)
Intimate size; clear blue sky and shimmering blue water wherever you turn - sometimes the sky and water seem to melt into each other; fragrant flowers, plants, and trees; the scent of lemon; fresh air; craggy hills studded with bright white stucco buildings - it’s easy to see why so many people over so many centuries (two millennia, actually) have fallen in love with Capri. We spent a serene, delightful afternoon there in 2006, and again in 2014. Though it certainly wasn’t empty, there were fewer tourists than we’d expected, many of them Neapolitans there for the day. Everyone was in a good mood.
Capri tourism information: email@example.com
Transportation to Capri
We took the ferry from Molo Beverello (Beverello Pier), the main ferry pier in Naples, located downhill from the Palazzo Reale. (This appears to be the only departure point for Capri from Naples; we were told there are no boats to Capri from Mergellina.) The ferry terminal is an easy 10 to 15 minute stroll from the intersection of Via Toledo and Via Chiaia. Part of the route is an easily accessible, flat, smooth elevated walkway alongside a huge construction site. Note that Molo Beverello is closer than Molo Angioino, the much larger pier with ships bound for Sicily, North Africa and elsewhere, but not Capri.
There are two main types of ferries - “fast” ferries, which accommodate cars on the lower deck and take one hour each way, and hydrofoils, which take 45 minutes. (There are also a few regular ferries, which take 80 minutes, are very large and have cheap fares.) In planning our 2014 trip we spent too much time inquiring about departure/return times and accessibility, and received complex, contradictory and confusing information. What we learned when we were there is that there are frequent departures and returns, most of the ferries are accessible, they can carry a large number of passengers, and none were sold out. (We were there on a weekday.) It’s best just to show up when you want to and buy tickets for the next ferry that the ticket agent says is accessible, rather than trying to find out access information in advance, which would be subject to change anyway. There is a small discount for disabled people, which doesn’t seem to be consistently applied. Several companies operate the ferries, so for maximum flexibility, it’s best not to buy a roundtrip ticket; that way you can return on the next accessible ferry that suits your schedule. But when you arrive in Capri, be sure to note the departure times for the last few return trips to Naples.
In 2014 we took a “fast” car ferry to Capri. The gangway ramp is somewhat steep, which was easy in Howard’s Permobil, but manual wheelchair users would need assistance. The ramp is wide and has handrails on both sides, so slow walkers should be able to handle it, with assistance if needed. One enters on the lowest deck, the garage level. There are stairs to the passenger deck above, and an elevator that appears to be large. The crew explained that the elevator was broken and encouraged us to take the next ferry, but we had gotten a late start and didn’t want to wait any longer, so they let us aboard.
We remained on the car deck, which could have felt claustrophobic because there are almost no windows, but it’s huge and there were few cars, so it didn’t. As things turned out the friendly crew members brought us espresso and allowed us into a restricted area near the rear. From there a door led to a small open service deck, which Michele and Chris were allowed to enter. They hung out there from time to time, enjoying the sea breeze, the clear blue sky, the view of Naples as it receded,the hum of the engines, the nautical equipment, and the occasional pleasant water spray from the boat’s wake. There is a high threshold at the bottom of the door, so Howard remained just inside, the crew keeping the door open so he could see as much as possible.
The broken elevator, and the crew’s kindness and willingness to improvise, were a blessing. In 2006 we had taken a similar large ferry, which had a diagonal stair lift (not a full elevator as in this ferry) to bring passengers in wheelchairs up the long flight of stairs to the passenger deck. The lift was short - Howard’s footrests protruded over the front edge - and narrow, with only an inch to spare on either side. It was old, creaky, slow and precarious. It would not have been able to accommodate a Permobil. Because the lift was slow and vehicle exhaust rose into the stairwell, Howard inhaled a lot of exhaust. The windows on the passenger deck didn’t open and there was no open deck, so the passenger deck smelled of exhaust. Our experience in 2014 was much better. Our hunch is that some of the large ferries still have diagonal stair lifts, and others, like the one we were on, true elevators.
But since you can’t count on the elevator being broken and the crew being so accommodating, if you have a choice of ferries and want to be on an open deck, take the hydrofoil. We did this returning from Capri to Naples in 2014 - not by deliberate planning, but because the next departure from Capri when we arrived at the terminal happened to be a hydrofoil, it was accessible, and we were curious. The hydrofoil was much smaller than the regular ferry, but still large enough to accommodate a couple hundred passengers. Along with many other passengers, we remained on the open part of the lower deck. There is a stairway to the upper deck, but there didn’t appear to be an elevator or a lift and, anyway, we preferred to remain in the open, savoring our last views of Capri. The gangway ramp is quite steep at one end, much steeper than the ramp on the regular ferry. Howard used the Permobil’s tilt feature. Chris and Michele held the back of Howard’s wheelchair for stability as he exited. Manual wheelchair users and slow walkers would need much assistance in both directions, but should be able to navigate the situation. On arriving at Naples we waited until most of the other passengers had exited, in order for the ramp to become nearly level with the dock.
We don’t know about bathroom access on the ferries.
Capri ferry schedule (but see our comment above):
These companies operate ferries between Naples and Capri:
Gescab NLG. Phone: +39-081-552-7209.
Gescab SNAV. Phone: +39-081-428-5555.
Capri transportation (all modes):http://www.capritourism.com/en/transport-rates
The ferry arrives at Marina Grande, the island’s main port. From there we took the funicular up to the town of Capri, its main town. The employees at the bottom and top stations were skilled and enthusiastic; our experiences in 2014 and 2006 were very positive. There is a gently sloped ramp with a railing leading to the boarding platform. There is a three-inch change in level, and a horizontal gap of a few inches, to enter the funicular at Marina Grande, so employee assistance may be required. Exiting at the town of Capri was a bit easier because the change in level is less. The five minute ride was great fun as the panoramas opened up before us.
Funicular in Capri -SIPPIC. Phone:081-837-0420.
At the top, in Capri, a large elevator with glass walls brings you up to a landing. The elevator appeared to be new in 2006, and was still in excellent condition in 2014. From the landing there is a long set of stairs and a diagonal stair lift up to the Piazzetta, the bustling, charming (though touristy) main piazza. The stated weight capacity is 190 kg (418 pounds), significantly less than the weight of Howard plus his Permobil. The employee initially was reluctant to let Howard use it, but there seemed to be no alternative, so he relented. The platform sagged, Chris held it as it climbed, and we heard creaky gear and motor sounds. Howard, Chris and the employee held their breath and crossed their fingers.
Only later did we learn that bus access is good and we could have taken one from Marina Grande to Capri and even all the way up to Anacapri. If the funicular employee at Marina Grande had been aware of this, or had thought to mention it, we would have taken the bus and avoided using the stair lift. This experience was a common one in Italy: the actual state of access, the facts on the ground, are much better than the information.
The Piazzetta and most of the streets with restaurants, stores, hotels and gardens are accessible. Some streets are flat and others slope, most moderately and a few quite steeply. Even the steepest were not difficult in Howard’s electric wheelchair; people in manual wheelchairs would need assistance. There are few streets with stairs - not because of a conscious effort to provide wheelchair access, but because it’s easy for hotels, stores and restaurants to move people and supplies in motorized carts on sloped streets. Many of the streets are pedestrian only. Beautiful vistas are everywhere you turn, and we felt serene, relaxed, happy and content despite the commercialism. The proprietress at a lemon granita stand sang beautifully and exuberantly, and genuinely for herself, not as a show for the tourists. Many hotels have lush gardens and terrace bars with views. One way to see great views is to enter hotels and look at their common areas or have a drink at their terrace bars.
The Gardens of Augustus are up stairs and, hence, inaccessible. Howard was able to go down the adjacent street all the way to the topmost part of via Krupp, the winding street leading down to the sea. The remainder of via Krupp was closed for repairs, so we don’t know whether there are stairs or very steep slopes as via Krupp approaches the sea; there probably are.
We didn’t have time to go to Villa Jovis (Tiberius’s villa), which is at the other end of the island.
There is a large accessible public bathroom adjacent to a parking lot near the main bus stand in town, not far from the Piazzetta. It’s down a steep driveway from the street.
Large open-top taxis are waiting near the bus stand, offering scenic rides. The passenger doors are large, so some manual wheelchair users may be able to transfer into them.
In 2014 we learned that all or most of the buses are accessible. The buses are small but have large, modern, sturdy wheelchair lifts at the rear, which handled Howard’s Permobil easily. We took the bus from Capri up to the town of Anacapri, which, although it has hotels, art galleries and shops, is a bit less touristy, and where many of the island’s residents live. On our return we took the bus from Anacapri all the way back down to Marina Grande. The drivers and our fellow passengers gladly found space for us on the jam-packed buses. The road is filled with switchbacks, hairpin turns, narrow passages with no shoulder, and at many points there’s no visible railing. The view is breathtaking and exhilarating. Bravo to the drivers, especially the one on the way down, who encountered a bus coming up and navigated within an inch of it without breaking a sweat. Nor did our fellow passengers, at least not the locals. This ride is not for the faint of heart. If you’re going to die in a bus accident, let it be on this one!
We had only a short time to spend in Anacapri. Much of the main street is accessible and relatively flat. Some of the side streets have stairs. We couldn’t find an accessible way to get to the Church of San Michele. The views, lush plants and natural beauty are magnificent, but the architecture isn’t and the vibe seemed dull compared to Capri town. However, our impression is based on a quick visit.
On both trips we only scratched the surface. There’s a lot more to see, much of it accessible. Both towns have many pedestrian zones, making them easy and carefree to explore.
Capri - Restaurant
Capri has many restaurants on terraces with spectacular views. Several had been recommended but, when we tried to go there, none was accessible - typically they are up or down a few stairs from the sidewalk. In 2006 we found la Capannina, close to the Piazzetta, and splurged on lunch there. In 2014 we located a few recommended restaurants but none was accessible. We remembered la Capannina, went there again, and were delighted that it was as good as we had remembered.
In 2014 we feasted on octopus salad, burrata,scialatelli (long, flat Neapolitan pasta, almost square in cross-section) with tomatoes and small white fish, baked Mediterranean sea bass, linguine with clams, and Neapolitan greens. In 2006 we enjoyed lightly sautéed fresh porcini mushrooms, ravioli caprese, baked swordfish with tomatoes and olives, and prawns with pureed chickpeas. The unusual dessert pastry involved fresh local mozzarella, with a perfect smooth texture and subtle flavors. Everything on both occasions was delectable and fresh. There is a superb wine list highlighting regional and local - very local - wines. Service on both occasions was attentive yet leisurely, warm, gracious and proud. Both times we came for a late lunch without a reservation and were seated immediately; reservations are essential for dinner and prime lunchtime. La Capannina may be hyped, but with good reason. Though expensive, it was a fair value for the quality, service and location.
In 2014 we ate in the main (upper) room, which has level access from the sidewalk. In 2006 we sat in the lovely garden terrace (sunny although without a view), which is entered through a narrow side street noticeably lower than the main street. There is a high stair, and the waiters lifted Howard’s wheelchair. This wouldn’t have been possible in 2014 because Howard was in his heavy Permobil. Both rooms are charming, but if you are able to access the lower terrace, we recommend it.
Ristorante La Capannina. Via Le Botteghe, 12 bis and 14. Phone: +39-081-837-0732. www.capannina-capri.com.
Capri - Hotel
Four star. Viale G.
Matteotti, 3. Phone: +39-081-837-0433.
In 2006 we looked at Hotel Luna, located just below the Gardens of Augustus. The views from the common areas and from the room we were shown are indescribably magnificent. One feels suspended - weightlessly but securely - between clear blue water and clear blue sky. The hotel has a secluded private garden. A moderately sloped pathway leads from the street to the entrance lobby, and another to the garden. The grounds are lushly landscaped and immaculately maintained.
We asked to see a guest room. There were no rooms with a fully accessible bathroom, but there was more than one room either at the same level as the lobby or accessed by a medium size elevator in which Howard fit easily. The bathrooms were large enough to be made accessible. Bear in mind that this visit was in 2006, so access may have improved.
Ischia and Procida
We have not researched access on these islands or transportation access to get there. An able-bodied friend who is an access expert has visited Ischia several times and reports that it is not very accessible, except that the town of Ischia Porto is mostly flat and has a long seaside promenade.
Getting to Pompeii
We went to Pompeii in 2012 and were fortunate to get accessible transportation from friends. The description of the train that follows is based on our 2006 trip to Naples, but we didn’t actually get to Pompeii that time.
The ride from Naples to Pompeii takes half an hour on the Circumvesuviana, a train operated by EAV (Ente Autonomo Volturno), a different entity from Trenitalia. The main station is Stazione Vesuviana, near Piazza Nolana, a few blocks from Napoli Centrale, the Naples central train station. There is also a Circumvesuviana station at Napoli Centrale, but we don’t know whether it’s accessible. At Stazione Vesuviana there is a large, modern elevator down to the platform; the elevator is through a locked gate, so you must ask an employee to open the gate. The trains are level with the platform, but there appeared to be a horizontal gap of around three inches. To get to the excavations in Pompeii, take the Circumvesuviana toward Poggiomarino and get off at Pompeii.
The Naples central train station and the Stazione Vesuviana Circumvesuviana station are in a seedy neighborhood. We ended up not going to Pompeii in 2006: it had rained most of the day, by the time we got to the station it was late afternoon, we realized that if we went to Pompeii we’d be returning at night, and we didn’t feel comfortable at the Circumvesuviana station in Naples at night. In 2014 the Naples central train station area seemed greatly cleaned up from previous trips, so it may be that thearea around Stazione Vesuviana Circumvesuviana has also improved.
Circumvesuviana www.eavcampania.itPhone: +39 081 19-80-50-00. Green toll-free phone (from within Italy only): 800-211-388.
In recent years there has been a major effort to make parts of the Pompeii archaeological site wheelchair accessible, resulting in an accessible route called Friendly Pompeii. Although only a fraction of the site is accessible, a visit is absolutely worthwhile. Allow two to three hours to see the accessible areas. Because of the heat and sun, a late afternoon visit is advisable; at that time the antiquities are beautifully illuminated by dazzling sunlight but it’s not overwhelmingly hot. Many of the surfaces are dirt, gravel and rock. They can become muddy after a rain, so if you have a choice, avoid going after it’s rained.
The excavations have three entrances; the entrance at Piazza Anfiteatro (amphitheater) is the most wheelchair accessible. (We were told that the entrance at Piazza Anfiteatro is a few minutes walking distance from the center of the new city of Pompeii and from the Circumvesuviana train station. We didn’t take the train, so we can’t verify this.)
The Friendly Pompei route begins at the amphitheater, which has a separate entrance from the rest of the site. There we started. The paths into the amphitheater are somewhat steep and bumpy, but not difficult for most electric wheelchairs and scooters. Manual wheelchair users would need assistance. The amphitheater seats aren’t open to the public; one visits the ground level, where gladiators and animals fought, and executions took place. The ground is flat and composed of hard dirt; it’s easy in a wheelchair.
After visiting the amphitheater we entered the main site via a nearby entrance. Inside that entrance is a medium size accessible restroom. A relatively smooth and flat brick and dirt pathway leads alongside the vineyards to one of the main streets. (The vineyards have been replanted with the same grape varietals as in the first century AD, when Pompeii and environs were major wine production centers. The story of how archaeologists discovered what those varietals were is fascinating; it involves plaster casting, similar to how the bodies of people killed in the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius were discovered.) The street isn’t steep, but its surface of dirt, gravel and rock is quite uneven. It was not difficult in Howard’s Permobil; manual wheelchair users would need assistance.
That street leads to another flat main street, with hard sidewalks on each side made mostly of concrete and stone, but in some places there are gaps filled with dirt that make for a bumpy ride. The sidewalks are wide enough for a wheelchair, and from the sidewalk one can enter a few buildings and see many others from the outside. The street is around a foot below the sidewalk and is made of huge, uneven stones with dirt between them. At several places there are heavy duty, wide, well-constructed metal ramps from the sidewalk down to the street, but Howard didn’t try them because the street is so uneven. Some of the ramps lead to entrances to large buildings that were closed for reconstruction when we were there.
Howard waited on the sidewalk in this area while Michele visited the Forum, which is far away, at the other end of ancient Pompeii. The Forum is flat and much of the surface is compacted dirt, but there isn’t an accessible path of travel to it from where Howard waited. It may be possible to visit the Forum in a wheelchair by coming from the other direction, but before attempting this, it’s critical to inquire in advance.
We were informed that the Domus of Giulio Polibio (House of Julius Polybius )is wheelchair accessible, but is open to wheelchair users on Saturdays and Sundays only, and a reservation is required. We did not make it there. Phone: +39-06-39-96-78-50.
We were informed that the Domus of Casti Amanti and the Terme Suburbane aren’t accessible.
The conditions of the entire site change frequently - after all, Pompeii has been excavated and reconstructed for well over 200 years, and the work is still ongoing - and wheelchair access conditions are also subject to change. The bottom line is that it is worthwhile to go there regardless of how much is open to visitors in wheelchairs at a given time, and it’s also advisable to inquire in advance about the state of access.
For information about the archaeological sites at Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabia and Oplontis:
Archaeological Superintendent of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia - Soprintendenza Speciale Beni Archeologici Pompei Ercolano Stabia
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Phone: +39-081-857-5341 or 081-857-5347 or 081-857-5111 or 081-857-5220.
The Circumvesuviana train goes to Herculaneum from Naples, which takes around 20 minutes. We’ve never made it to Herculaneum, but have heard that a wheelchair accessible route has been developed in the past several years.
Archaeological Museum in Naples
Magnificent artifacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other antiquities sites - mosaics, frescoes, sculptures, glass and coins - are on display at the Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) in Naples. It’s awe-inspiring to visit the sites and the museum.
Site of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples in Italy outside of Sicily, Paestum is further from Naples than are Pompeii and Herculaneum. It would be a long day trip with a vehicle and driver. We didn’t research accessibility of public transportation. Our hunch is that access on trains and buses would be impossible or difficult at best. We were informed that the museum at Paestum is accessible and some of the temple sites are partially accessible.
13. WALKING TOURS- CONTEXT TRAVEL
A good guide can enrich and enliven travel anywhere, and this is certainly true in Italy, with its complexity, multiplicity of physical and historical layers, vast temporal scale, extraordinary richness, and sometimes nearly overwhelming density. There is a lot to absorb. The walking tours we took with Context Travelin Naples, Rome and Florence have been among the highlights of our trips.
Context operates in-depth small group (six people maximum) and private walking tours (Context prefers the term “itineraries”) of three to four hours led by English-speaking docents who live in the city where they lead tours and have advanced degrees in art history, architecture, archaeology, history or languages. The docents aren’t conventional, full-time tour guides - they are specialists sharing their expertise and passion for their subjects while also practicing their professions when they aren’t giving tours. The tours are thematic.Context began in Rome and now operates in Naples, Florence, Venice, elsewhere in Europe, and in Asia and the United States.
We took Arte Napoletana walks with Context docents Maria Laura Chiacchio in 2014 and 2006, and Fiorella Squillante in 2012. Maria Laura and Fiorella are multi-lingual Neapolitan natives with advanced degrees. They both combined the pride, lore and familiarity of a native with the learning of an academic expert. Their knowledge and insights were deep and broad, their enthusiasm for Naples energizing, and their pacing perfect. They were historically imaginative in evoking the past, generous with their time, and welcomed questions.
Over the years we’ve also taken many Context tours in Rome, Florence and Paris. Fascinating, in-depth and interactive, these walks, like those in Naples, have added a rich dimension to our knowledge and appreciation of these cities. The high quality of the docents, small size of the groups, large amount of time devoted to a particular thematic topic, and interactive nature of the tours make a Context walk a true learning experience, as well as enjoyable. What you see and learn are likely to leave a lasting impression.
Context views access as a challenge, a learning opportunity, and an endeavor consistent with its commitment to social responsibility and sustainability. Several times over the years the docents rearranged our tour to make it more accessible. In recent years Context has developed its Mobility Program, which aims to identify the degree of accessibility of its itineraries for wheelchair/scooter users and slow walkers, to design accessible itineraries, and to systematize the information. Howard is proud to be part of an advisory panel that helps Context with this program. On our 2014 and 2012 trips to Naples, Rome and Florence (and in Paris in 2013) we took several Context walks in order to survey and document their level of accessibility and recommend ways to improve it.
Context offers a large variety of itineraries with varying degrees of access. Given the age, terrain and site conditions in these cities, it is unavoidable and understandable that not all of the itineraries are accessible, some are only partially accessible and some are completely inaccessible, but Context is trying to do as much as is feasible. When signing up, provide detailed information about your mobility limitations and capabilities.
If you are in Florence, we highly recommend a tour with Context docent Cornelia Danielson, who is not only an architectural historian, but an access expert and tireless advocate for disability rights in Florence, Tuscany and beyond.
Katie Parla, formerly a docent for Context, gives private tours of southern Italy and Rome, and writes passionately and insightfully about Italian food, wine, art and antiquities. In 2009 she took us on a superb tour of Via Appia Antica (the Appian Way) in Rome. Her knowledge of southern Italy and Rome is impressive, her enthusiasm infectious. She’s aware of and conscientious about disability access. Her food blog is Parla Food.
14. THE GREAT COURSES LECTURES
The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company) produces lectures on a variety of subjects by award-winning college professors. We’ve enjoyed the following series, which are fascinating, well produced and have added immeasurably to our knowledge and appreciation of Italy.
Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City by Professor Steven Tuck
Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity’s Greatest Empire by Professor Steven Tuck
Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the PantheonbyProfessor Stephen Ressler
Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity byProfessor Stephen Ressler
Genius of Michelangelo by Professor William Wallace
Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance by Professor William Kloss
Italian Renaissance by Professor Kenneth Bartlett
History of Ancient Rome by Professor Garrett Fagan
Famous Romans by Professor Rufus Fears
Great Battles of the Ancient World by Professor Garrett Fagan
Tourist Information Call Center of Campania Region. www.italia.it. Phone: +39-06-39-96-78-51. From Italy only, 800-22-33-66.
Naples in 3 Days - A Guide to Neapolitan Art and Architecture. By Fiorella Squillante,our friend and Context docent. 2012. An indispensable guide to the main museums and churches, written with enthusiasm, artistic insight and historical context by a Neapolitan native. It would be difficult to see everything in this book in only three days. Creative Educational Press Ltd. ISBN: 978-0-9570796-0-1.Can be ordered online at www.naplesin3days.com or www.thecepress.com. Published in, and ships from, the UK.
Bay of Naples & Southern Italy(Cadogan Guide.) By Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls. 2007. A well-researched, insightful and thorough travel guide to Naples, Campania and the rest of southern Italy, with an emphasis on history, culture, art and archaeology. Published by Cadogan Guides. ISBN 1-86011-184-X. Unfortunately this book is out of print and Cadogan Guides appears to be out of business. However, copies are available online. Although the hotel, restaurant and logistical information may be out of date, the high quality of the historical and cultural information makes this book still worthwhile.
Naples ’44. By Norman Lewis. An empathetic, incisive, observant, dryly ironic diary by the British travel writer of his year in Naples as an intelligence officer after the Allied landing in Southern Italy and the liberation of Naples. Carroll & Graf Publishers (Avalon Publishing Group). ISBN - 10: 0-7867-1438-7. ISBN - 13: 978-0-7867-1438-4.
The Gulf of Naples - Archaeology and History of an Ancient Land. By Umberto Pappalardo. 2006. A beautifully photographed, well written guide to the archaeology and history of Naples, nearby towns including Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum, and the islands. Has just the right level of detail.Arsenale Editrice. ISBN 88-7743-316-7.
Hidden Naples and the Amalfi Coast .By Massimo Listri, with text by Cesare Cunaccia. 2002. With sumptuous photos and brief, impressionistic text focusing on customs, legends and lore, this coffee table book can be enjoyed before one’s trip, to whet one’s appetite, and after, as a souvenir. But “hidden” is a misnomer. Rizzoli Libri Illustrati. ISBN 0-8478-2482-9.
In the Shadow of Vesuvius - A Cultural History of Naples. By Jordan Lancaster. 2005. Although not especially well-written, this book is a useful introduction to the complex 2,500-plus year history of Naples. ISBN 1-85043-764-5.
About Access in Naples
www.TurismoAccessibile.it is part of the official tourism website of the city and province of Naples. It has an English language section including information about transportation, hotels, museums, etc. The information doesn’t seem to be kept current, but there are referrals to other information sources.
About Accessible Travel in General
Global Access News - Disabled Travel Network, founded and operated by Marti Gacioch, this site has terrific general information about traveling in a wheelchair, and articles (including ours) and links about travel to a variety of destinations. Marti also publishes a superb, free monthly e-zine with informative and useful tidbits and links to accessible hotels, apartments, transportation, museums and tour operators. To sign up, go to the website. www.globalaccessnews.com.
Mobility International USA (MIUSA) focuses primarily on exchange, work/study and community service programs for disabled students but can also provide useful accessible travel information. www.miusa.org.
Slow Travel is a website loaded with information about traveling more slowly than typical tourists. It isn’t specifically about wheelchair access, but it has some trip reportsabout wheelchair access to various destinations. www.slowtrav.com.
16. ITALIAN DISABILITY AND MEDICAL ORGANIZATIONS
The organizations listed below include disease-specific medical nonprofits, disability rights groups and independent living organizations. In addition to advocacy and medical research, some Italianmedical nonprofits provide services such as transportation, referrals to service providers, and other services that are often provided by independent living centers in the US. Many of these organizations have semi-autonomous local branches, some of which maintain their own websites. The local branches are more likely to provide assistance to disabled travelers than the national organizations. To find the websites of local branches, go to the parent organization website.
AISM - Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla www.aism.it
ANIEP - Associazione Nazionale per la Promozione e la Difesa dei Diritti Civili e Sociali degli Handicappati www.aniepnazionale.it
ANMIC - Associazione Nazionale Mutilati ed Invalidi Civili www.anmic.it
AP - Associazione Paraplegici di Roma e del Lazio – Onlus www.apromaelazio.it
AVI - Agenzia per la Vita Indipendente Independent living organization based in Rome. firstname.lastname@example.org
Cittadinanzattiva Onlus Disability rights organization focusing on barrier removal in Rome. www.cittadinanzattiva.it
CO.IN - Cooperative Integrate Onlus Roman disability rights organization that has some accessible tourism projects. email@example.com
FAIP - Federazione Associazioni Italiane Para-tetraplegici www.faiponline.it
UILDM - Unione Italiana Lotta alla Distrofia Muscolare
My [ ] and I will arrive in [ ] on [ ] and depart on [ ]. We will stay for [ ] nights.
I use an electric wheelchair that is [[ ] centimeters ([ ] inches)] wide. I am unable to walk at all. My [ ] is not disabled. We would like a non-smoking room with one large bed. We have the following questions about your hotel:
1. Do you have any specially equipped (adapted) wheelchair accessible guest rooms? If not, please disregard the other questions. Thank you and we would appreciate a recommendation of hotel in the area that does have specially equipped (adapted) wheelchair accessible guest rooms.
If you do have specially equipped (adapted) wheelchair accessible guest rooms, we have the following questions. Please answer even if you are fully booked for the requested time, because we are interested in your hotel for the future.
1. Is it necessary to go up or down any stairs in order to get from the street entrance to the guest room? Does the building have an elevator? If so, how wide is the elevator door and what are the interior dimensions of the elevator?
2. In the bathroom, is there space for a [ ] cm wide wheelchair on one side of the toilet? What is the width of the doorway into the bathroom? What is the height of the toilet? What is the size of the shower? Can a wheelchair roll into the shower? Are there grab bars near the toilet and shower?
3. Are all the doorways in the room at least 75 cm wide?
4. What is the size of the room? Does this include the bathroom?
5. Was the building renovated recently?
Also, could you email some photos of the bathroom and the bedroom.
Please quote a rate.
Thank you very much. We really appreciate any help you can provide.
Very Truly Yours
Metric Conversion Guide
One inch = 2.54 centimeters.
One centimeter = 0.3937 inches
One meter = 39.4 inches
One square meter = 10.76 square feet
One kilometer = 0.62 miles
One mile = 1.61 kilometers
One kilogram = 2.2 pounds
One hundred grams = just under ¼ pound (3 ½ ounces)
One pound = 0.454 kilograms (454 grams)
One liter = 0.264 gallons = 1.056 quarts
One gallon = 3.785 liters
English-To-Italian Dictionary Of Disability Access Words And Phrases
© Barrier Free Travel 2003, 2006, 2014
(Included by permission of, and with thanks to, Cornelia Danielson
of Barrier Free Travel)
“disabled” - DISABILE or HANDICAPPATO
“I am disabled” – SONO UNA PERSONA DISABILE
“wheelchair” - SEDIA A ROTELLE or CARROZZINA or CARROZZELLA
“I use a wheelchair” – SONO IN CARROZZINA
“I use an electric wheelchair” - USO UNA CARROZZINA ELETTRICA
“wheel” - RUOTA
“battery” – BATTERIA
“tire” – GOMMA
“tire tube” – CAMERA D’ARIA
“my wheelchair needs to be repaired” – LA MIA CARROZZINA HA BISOGNO DI ESSERE RIPARATA
“transfer board” - TAVOLETTA DI TRASFERIMENTO
“I am unable to walk” – NON CAMMINO
“ramp” –RAMPA or SCIVOLO or PEDANA
“is there a ramp?” - C’E’ UNA RAMPA?
there stairs?” CI SONO DELLE SCALE?
“how many steps are there?” - QUANTI GRADINI SONO?
“elevator” - ASCENSORE
“is there an elevator?” – C’E’ UN ASCENSORE?
necessary to climb any steps to get to the elevator?” – CI SONO DEI GRADINI PER
“what are the elevator’s dimensions?”- QUALI SONO LE DIMENSIONI DELL’ASCENSORE ?
“what is the width of the doorway?” – QUAL’ E’ LA LARGEZZA DELLA PORTA?
is the height of the bed?” - QUAL’E’ L’ALTEZZA DEL LETTO?
”up” - SU
“down” - GIU’
“roll-in shower” - DOCCIA A PAVIMENTO
“accessible bathroom” - BAGNO ACCESSIBILE or SERVIZIO IGENICO ACCESSIBILE
“grab bars” – MANIGLIONI or CORRIMANI (hand rails)
“is the bathroom wheelchair accessible?” – IL BAGNO E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
“does the bathroom have a roll-in shower?” – IL BAGNO E’ CON DOCCIA A PAVIMENTO?
“are there grab bars in the bathroom?” – CI SONO DEI MANIGLIONI NEL BAGNO?
“is the bus wheelchair accessible?” – L’AUTOBUS E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
“is the train wheelchair accessible?” – IL TRENO E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
“is the van/minivan wheelchair accessible?” – IL PULMINO E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
“does the van/minivan have a ramp?” – IL PULMINO HA UNA RAMPA?
“does the van/minivan have a lift?” – IL PULMINO HA UN SOLLEVATORE ?
“the elevator/ramp/lift is broken” – L’ASCENSORE/ LA RAMPA/ IL SOLLEVATORE E’ ROTTO (or “ROTTA” depending on the gender of the noun)
“how far is it from [ ] to [ ]?” - QUANTO DISTA DA [ ] A [ ] ?
“blind” – NON VEDENTE or CIECO
“I am blind” – SONO CIECO or SONO UN NON VEDENTE
“Braille” – same word is used, pronounced “brile” (with a long “i” and silent “e” like “bile”)
“guide dog” –CANE GUIDA
“deaf” – NON UDENTE or SORDO
“I am deaf” – SONO SORDO or SONO UN NON UDENTE
“hearing impaired” – IPOUDENTE
“I am hearing impaired” – SONO QUASI SORDO
“sign language” – LINGUAGGIO DEI SORDOMUTI
“sign language interpreter” – UN INTERPRETE DEL LINGUAGGIO DEI SORDOMUTI
letter (vowel and consonant) is pronounced in Italian. There is no silent “e”
for example as there is in English
A is always a short “a” (as in “adopt”)
E sounds like a long “a” (as in “ate”)
I sounds like a long “e” (as in “eat”)
O sounds like a long “o” (as in “oats”)
U sounds like “ou” (as in “you”)
C has a hard sound like “k” before “o” and “a” (carrozzina) BUT BEFORE
OTHER VOWELS it sounds like the “ch” in “chair” (doccia)
Editor's note: Don't miss the following access reports by Howard & Michele Chabner. Just click on the title.
Europe 2007: Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Rental
Paris Passerelles - Wheelchair Accessible Travel In Paris
Paris Appendices: Hotel Wheelchair Access Questionnaire, Metric Conversion & Hotel Wheelchair Access Survey Results)
Paris Passerelles Supplement 2005
Burgundy, Perigord (Dordogne) and Paris 2007
Paris, Burgundy, Provence & Languedoc-Roussillon 2010
Paris Hotel Wheelchair Access Survey 2010
Italy: Rome, Florence, Vicenza & Naples 2003-2006
Vicenza, Florence & Rome
2006 Navigating Naples 2006
Wheelchair Accessible Travel in Bologna, Ferrara, Parma & Ravenna 2009
Rolling in Rome 2012
Cordoba & Seville
Toledo, Madrid, Segovia
Additional Information & Appendices A, B & C
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