I am Italian, I sell travel, and I have been through the streets of Italy with my wheelchair. I love everything about Italy! I love the culture, the food, the language and the people. The streets can present a challenge with a wheelchair, however, I still love visiting Italy.
In the inner cities of Italy, the charm of the “old City” is its architecture and cobble stone streets. The first rule of thumb when traveling with a wheelchair is to be sure the person pushing the chair is physically able to push that person on any surface. If the handler is not strong enough to push the wheelchair up small inclines or ramps, then it’s not likely they would be successful on the cobblestone streets of Italy.
Another thing to consider is the chair itself. Travelers like to travel with “travel chairs” or “companion chairs” which are light weight and more portable, however, the small wheels of those chairs will cause more unwanted problems as the wheels will get stuck in the terrain of the uneven surfaces. Use a standard wheelchair for your vacations and you will be much more comfortable getting your traveler around the city.
Having said that, not all streets are cobbled. There are smaller streets to access places of interest you can use until you get to the areas where the rolling may be a bit more difficult. Having a guide around the city is helpful as they know which streets are more wheelchair friendly and will help to get you to your walking destination on an easier path. Be prepared for hills and inclines. The city streets are not level and you will find hills and inclines no matter which city you travel to in Italy.
Getting around the city is sometimes challenging. The sidewalks are often broken and do not have curb cuts, which forces the traveler into the busy streets. Stay as close to the parked cars or sidewalk as possible. Italians that drive through the city streets are used to obstacles in their way, so they are a bit more cautious and usually give the pedestrian the right of way.
If you are staying at an inner city hotel, which is where we all want to be when we travel, be aware that the small streets may not be able to accommodate a large vehicle with a lift. If that’s the case, getting to your transportation can also be a challenge. I have walked as far as 2 or 3 blocks to get to our coach with my wheelchair group. Because coaches are only permitted in certain areas, and cannot fit down the small streets of the old city, we were forced to walk the chairs to where the coach was parked. It’s not always easy, but in the end, you will be delighted you took on the challenge.
As long as you are prepared both physically and mentally for your trip, I have no doubt that you will return saying that you love Italy too.