Roman Holiday
by Gyl Stacey © 2003

What it was all about:

The Coliseum 
The Pantheon & Forum
The crowds around the Trevi Fountain
Eating gelata on the Spanish Steps
Italian food, especially ‘Le Due Sorrelle’ - best Italian food ever – find it on a side street near the Spanish Steps
St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel
Small side street cafes and squares with fountains and lots of life 
A wheelchair challenge!

And now for the details:

The summer heat wave in Europe didn’t let up during our 5 day visit to Rome, Italy. During peak hours for sight seeing, temperatures soared to above 40 Celcius, making pushing around and already un-wheelchair friendly city difficult and temper fraying. Litre after litre of water seemed to evaporate and the fact that there were very few accessible toilets in the city became less of an issue.

The proximity to most European cities from the UK makes it a very attractive idea to have weekends away without too much planning and time away from work. However the challenges in terms of access and effort should be considered. Don’t get me wrong, we had a fantastic time but I wouldn’t venture to Rome on my own. It’s a busy city with lots of traffic, cobbled streets, high kerbs and mostly inaccessible shops– it’s also got lots of outdoor restaurants, marvellous weather and wonderful things to see and do.

On our arrival at Rome airport, it was a quick and efficient transfer from the plane to the terminal building. However, disaster struck when we discovered our baggage had gone missing. Note to self for future trips– always keep the essentials in hand baggage! We didn’t take time to find out what, if any, choices we had in terms of transport to take us to the hotel but just took a taxi costing us around 50 euros. We stayed at the Hotel Domus Mariae (see photo), on the outskirts of town. It’s a historic building set in very nice grounds – it’s classed as 4 star but I found the amenities quite basic, and the hotel was undergoing restoration at time of our visit. However, access was fine to all parts of the building and the bathroom had a roll-in shower with a small seat attached to the wall (how do people balance on those things ?!). With hindsight, I’d prefer to have found a hotel in the heart of the city as the hotel wasn’t within pushing distance of the major attractions, and each visit meant a taxi ride in and back again.

Hotel Domus Mariae

It’s fortunate that a lot of what you’ll want to see is outdoors. The Trevi Fountain will be thronging with tourists all eager to throw a coin in the fountain, people will be sitting on the Spanish Steps enjoying a gelata. Piazza Novona will be buzzing with activity as will be Campo del Fiori with its flower and food markets. The food is second to none and worth a visit on its own for this. If it’s the Roman history you’re interested in, go and see the Pantheon, St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel – all have wheelchair access. Get someone to push you up Capitol Hill and push back through the gardens at the back – believe me the view is worth it. 

Overall, the effort was definitely worth it. Rome is a wonderfully exciting, if not exhausting, city well worth seeing at least once in a lifetime.

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