A.N.T.H.A.I. (Associazione Nazionale Tutela Handicappati ed Invalidi), Corso Vittorio Emanuele 154, 00186 Roma, tel. 011-39-06-6821-9168, fax 011-39-06-6889-2684, is in downtown Rome and provides general information and assistance. They are open 9 am - 1 pm and 2-8 pm, Monday-Friday.
Accessible Italy organizes English-language tours throughout the country. Here are a few general comments we gleaned from their web site:
The city of Venice is notoriously inaccessible, but they do offer three itineraries for the disabled. For information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Disabili.com - In Italian, but there is probably someone there who can correspond in English, and they have a Forum too.
The Italian railways net is well equipped to help people with disability. More than 150 Italian railway stations have a reception service for disabled travelers. This service must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. There are seats reserved for travelers with disabilities on each Italian train but these seats are not accessible if you can't move from your wheelchair to the seat. There are fully accessible special compartments in first class special wagons. These compartments have space for 2 wheelchairs and 2 ablebodied companions. These compartments are equipped with an accessible toilet too. The assistance with portable lifts is provided by the railways staff at no extra cost.
Ferries & Cruises
Tirrenia's ferries have 1 or 2 accessible cabins on their scheduled daily lines to Sardinia. Grandi Navi Veloci has 2 ferries with 2 special accessible cabins each. The new Costa Line ships as Costa Classica and Costa Romantica have special accessible cabins, 6 on each ship.
Gran Paradiso National Park now offers a 1-km trail for the blind and for wheelchairs. Please click here for information.
We have been pretty unsuccessful in finding general information for the disabled traveler in Italy, so we would be very, very grateful if any of our readers wish to contribute comments about their experiences by contacting us. Here are some helpful tips from our client Julian W.:
Yes I did enjoy my trip to Italy immensely, both Florence and Rome, though I preferred Florence. I was pretty pleased to discover that the roads were relatively easy to traverse on a wheelchair and though strenuous to some extent, we did manage to walk to everywhere we wanted to go.
The furthest we went to was the Galleria Academia and the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens, though that last one proved somewhat inaccessible. The Duomo was also simply awesome although there was no lift up to the top of the dome. While i am not entirely sure it is feasible, I noticed that both the Colosseum and the Vatican dome have lifts, though only the base of the Vatican dome is accessible. Everywhere else though was incredibly wheelchair friendly, especially the Uffizi, Academia and the Pitti Museum. We also loved all the stalls at the various piazzas. Especially nice was the piazza Mercato Nuovo, where there were tonnes of stuff available. much of which is very reasonably priced. We also managed a day trip to Pisa, using our Eurail pass. I didnt find much info about regional trains on your website and you might want to consider putting some stuff up given that it's really a hassle-free (with one exception that I will explain later) way to get between cities. Trenitalia is really an exceptional company and the staff are really warm and patient and there are excellent facilities for the disabled, though the train staff have to be informed beforehand.
Rome was a little harder to walk through given the undulating terrain. fortunately, we discovered that the buses were wheelchair-friendly and used it to get to the Vatican. The bus though doesnt stop at a very convenient location and some walking is required from the stop to get into the Vatican. St. Peters Square is a little difficult to wheel through as the cobbled surface makes for a rather bumpy ride. Once inside the Vvatican though, it's pretty smooth. Getting to the Sistine Chapel though wasn't that easy as we had to walk around 1 km around the Vatican Museum to get to the entrance. This wasn't particularly enjoyable but was worth it nonetheless. The Colosseum was also really awesome, though the ground surface proved rather difficult. There is a lift that can be taken to the top of the Colosseum so that was pretty nice.
Overall, the entire trip was going perfectly until we tried to visit Pompeii. I had found out that we needed to get to Naples and then take the Circumvezuviana (not sure I'm spelling it right) to Pompeii. The first part was fine but when we got to Naples, the staff, in stark contrast to those at both Rome and Florence, were remarkably unhelpful, in particular the station chief. to cut a long story short, we were not able to visit Pompeii and wasted 4 hours travelling to and from Naples. I am in fact going to write to the Italian Embassy in Singapore to complain about the station manager in question and will cc it to you if you like. As a result, we ended up with a wasted a last day which somewhat soured an otherwise wonderful trip.
I hope all this has been helpful. If you need any more information about how wheelchair friendly the place was, just feel free to toss questions my way. I noticed that you guys havent really addressed this issue on your website. Thank you very much for all the help and for the great deal of very helpful information on the website. Will definitely be going back to Florence sometime and will definitely be using you guys again.
PS (for your readers):
There is no easy way to get accurate information. Essentially either you phone the tourism authority or the termini maybe and get the schedule. I used the former but I'm sure the latter would have the information as well. The problem is that sometimes the authorities do not have the updated versions and at least in London I kept getting conflicting information. Apparently in London the various bus companies give the authorities updates about the routes and some fellas on the phone do not have the latest version or something, so you need to be careful there. In both London and Rome I planned most of my trips around the place from my hotel room and got the info about the bus routes via the phone so it's way possible. Good luck though!!"
Local train from Civitivecchia to Rome is accessible for wheelchairs. It even has a lift into train. Only problem, the staff appear to refuse to use it or help. However we relied on the kindness of strangers to help lift manually into and out of train, which is fractionally too high to achieve on your own unless you have very large wheels.
Further good news is the open-top tourist bus is accessible with space downstairs for chair and TV screen of camera view from topdeck. (Unfortunately this did not work on any of the buses we tried.) Cost of combined ticket train and bus 22 euros. Ticket collector said person in chair should not have paid and we should get refund from ticket office. Unfortunately ticket office closed when we got back to Civitivecchia.
From Naples ferries to Capri and Sorrento are accessible and funicular to Ana Capri has stairlift for the final flight to the top with very helpful staff.
I have avoided Pompeii with a wheelchair because Roman chariots created the most incredibly deep ruts which would be virtually impassable.
Hope these comments are helpful.
The following Italian cities have published guides entitled Guide di Accessibilità (Accessibility Guides for hotels, pensions, museums, etc.)