Disabled access in Rome: a travel guide for wheelchair users
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Disabled access in Rome: a travel guide for wheelchair users
Rome’s disabled access for wheelchair users is not perfect and though there are challenges, a visit to the Italian capital with limited mobility is worth all the effort to experience this spectacular historic city.
My accessible guide to Rome, with a focus on wheelchair users, covers accessibility in accommodation, attractions and restaurants to help you plan your wheelchair accessible holiday to Rome.
Getting around Rome in a wheelchair
Ancient Rome has an abundance of cobbled streets, so disabled travelers in wheelchairs should prepare for a bumpy ride with beautiful sights everywhere you look, vibrant culture, and magnificent food.
Rome tours for disabled visitors are available, as well as wheelchair hire in Rome.
Rome wheelchair accessible hotel
As with many European cities, the hotel rooms in Rome are typically on the small side. Disabled access hotels in Rome with wheelchair-accessible rooms will be relatively larger, and for those who require more space, accessible self-catering options are available.
On the recommendation of another wheelchair user, I stayed at the Mercure Roma Centro Colosseo hotel, just a few hundred yards from the Colosseum. The hotel has a ramped entrance for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility, a lift to all floors, wheelchair accessible rooms with double beds and wheel-in showers, and a rooftop pool and bar, what more could you want! The views from the rooftop are simply stunning, and it’s a fantastic place to unwind with a glass of wine after a long day sightseeing.
Disabled access in Rome – wheelchair accessible places to visit
As the city of Rome grew over the centuries, the major tourist attractions are quite spread out. Wheelchair accessible taxis and tour buses are available, but if you’re using a powerchair, or a manual chair and a strong pusher, it is possible to get around under your own steam. I’d recommend a map, a guide book, and a sense of adventure – Rome is a beautiful place to get lost in!
Is the Colosseum wheelchair accessible?
The Colosseum is one of the greatest remnants of Ancient Rome. The size and detail of the monument combined with a little imagination will leave you in awe. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Colosseum’s disabled access would be difficult for wheelchair users – but thankfully it has been completely modernized and has a smooth flat surface throughout, as well as a lift and wheelchair-accessible toilets.
Disabled visitors (+ 1 companion) from within the EU are entitled to free entry. Proof of entitlement is requested – my Blue Badge for disabled parking was accepted. To skip the queue, disabled visitors can use the Colosseum’s official website to book a free entry ticket (€ 2,00 reservation fee) and collect at the entrance. The Colosseum ticket also covers the Palatino and the Roman Forum.
Roman Forum wheelchair access
The Roman Forum was once the center of Roman life, and it’s amazing to see these buildings still standing (in one form or another) after so many years, it almost feels like you’ve gone back in time. For me, the Forum was the most difficult part of Rome to access in a wheelchair. There is a lift to take you down from street level, but the ground is so uneven that wheelchair users may struggle.
The Pantheon – wheelchair accessible ancient monument in Rome
The Pantheon is said to be the best-preserved of Rome’s ancient monuments, and its dome is record-breaking. It’s an amazing feeling to be inside a temple (now used as a church) which was built almost two thousand years ago. What happens when it rains? Look out for the drain holes in the marble floor. The Pantheon is wheelchair accessible, and entry is free.
Disabled access in Rome’s squares – Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is the showcase of central Rome. A beautiful square with street artists, ornate fountains and pavement cafes, makes it a perfect place the sit, watch the world go by, and enjoy a gelato. Piazza Navona has a curb to get into the middle of the square, with a slight step up.
Campo de’ Fiori – disabled access Rome market
The colorful, loud, daily market at Campo de’ Fiori is a part of Roman life. Smells of spices, herbs and cheese fill the air, and vendors encourage visitors to try their produce. In the evening the square is transformed into a place to socialize, with lovely music, restaurants, and a mix of locals and tourists. The square is level, with no curbs. The ground is a cobbled surface, which is relatively smooth and pleasant for wheelchair users compared to some areas of Ancient Rome.
Disabled access at the oldest church in Rome
Santa Maria in Trastevere is a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, said to be the oldest in Rome. It ‘feels’ much more like a church than St. Peter’s Basilica – many tourists stumble across it by mistake, a respectful silence is observed, candles are lit and few photographs taken. There are beautiful golden mosaics and ornate walls and ceilings. Santa Maria in Trastevere is wheelchair accessible, and entry is free.
Disabled access in Rome: Vatican’s Museums
Visiting the Vatican Museums is an unforgettable experience. Here is one of the world’s greatest art collections in such a beautiful setting. Don’t try to cover it all in one go – legend has it that viewing every exhibit could take 12 years! Be prepared for crowds which can make the experience stressful, but definitely worth it.
Disabled access at the Vatican Museums allows wheelchair users and disabled tourists in Rome to go backwards along parts of the tour route and through roped off areas to avoid stairs. Disabled visitors (+ 1 companion) are entitled to skip the queues and gain free entry. Proof of entitlement is requested – my Blue Badge for disabled parking was accepted. Wheelchairs are available to hire from reception.
Is the Sistine Chapel wheelchair accessible?
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous works of art on the planet and is beautiful, awe-inspiring, and everything you would expect. However, though adaptations for disabled access at the Sistine Chapel have been made, the wheelchair-accessible route to the Sistine Chapel goes against the flow of people, and the sheer numbers of people packed into one space make it an uncomfortable experience. Despite all of this, the Sistine Chapel is a must-see for everyone visiting Rome. Vatican Museum staff will escort disabled visitors + 1 companion to the Sistine Chapel, as the wheelchair-accessible route is roped off.
Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica as a wheelchair user
St. Peter’s Basilica is Italy’s largest church and a symbol of Rome. Its sheer size and beauty are incredible, and it’s filled with history. As you’d expect, the crowds are large, but a respectful quiet is (mostly) observed and it’s possible to find peaceful corners to take in the opulent interior. There are accessible toilet facilities. Admission to the church is free for all, and disabled visitors are entitled to skip the queues. The wheelchair accessible entrance is in St. Peter’s Square, to the right of the Basilica’s facade. This entrance has a lift that takes you from Square level to Portico level.
Disabled access in Rome – wheelchair accessible restaurants in Rome
Romans live to eat, and to find the best traditional cuisine it’s worth getting off the beaten track, mixing with the locals, and diving into huge plates of pizza and pasta!
Don’t waste money on expensive hotel breakfasts – find a local pavement café and have ‘cornetti’ (croissants) and cappuccino for around 5 Euros.
Restaurants with disabled access In Rome – Isidor
Isidor is a gem – a hidden, authentic feeling Italian family restaurant within a few steps of the Colosseum. Here you’ll find polite and helpful service, rustic, tasty food and reasonable prices. The house wine is excellent value. Try the pasta tasting menu, selected by the chef.
Restaurants with disabled access in Rome – Pizzeria Ai Marmi
The neighbourhood of Trastevere is famed for good food, and this Pizzeria is well worth crossing the Tiber for. Arrive early to beat the round the block queues and dine street side on paper-thin, Roman-style pizzas alongside the locals. The best, and the most reasonable meal I had whilst in Rome! Don’t expect fancy tablecloths or silver service at Pizzeria Ai Marmi – this place is about fast-paced buzz, letting the food be the star of the show.
Carrie-Ann Lightley is one of the UK’s leading accessible travel bloggers, a freelance travel writer, and she also works in marketing for national disability organisation AccessAble.