The disabled cruiser visiting Rome will discover that Rome is not particularly disabled friendly, but is doable. Disabled travelers will encounter several challenges in Rome including uneven ground in the Roman ruins, cobblestones on the streets, and few accessible transportation options. Although Rome disabled access is not as good as other European cities, accessibility at Roman tourist attractions, restaurants, and hotels is sufficient to ensure that accessible holidays are possible for people with all types of disabilities.
A few of the difficult conditions the Disabled Cruiser will encounter in Rome are cobblestones dating back hundreds of years and some of the ruins date back thousands of years, and they haven’t withstood the effect of time too well. The uneven ground and enormous uneven paving stones near the Roman Forum, Coliseum, and Apian Way present challenges to wheelchair users. The central part of Rome where the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps are found have rough cobblestones which makes getting around Rome in a wheelchair not only hard on the wheelchair, but also hard on your back riding.
Rome is built on seven hills. Some of the hills are quite steep, and the streets and sidewalks going up them can present problems for manual wheelchair users and other disabled tourists visiting Rome. In other places, you may be traveling along a sidewalk to be met by a flight of stairs to continue to the next street. Central Rome which houses the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, and the Campo de Fiori was originally a swamp that was drained by the Romans. The neighborhood follows a medieval street plan with narrow streets that wind and aren’t laid out systematically. In this part of Rome, it can be difficult to navigate from attraction to attraction as there are virtually no sidewalks and you’ll need to share the cobblestone streets with the cars.
As the city of Rome grew over the centuries, new buildings were built in different parts of the city. Consequently, the major tourist attractions are spread out in different directions. With the Vatican located across the Tiber River to the west, the Pantheon located in the middle of the city, the Vatican is across the Tiber River to the west, and the Coliseum and Baths of Diocletian further to the east, you have to travel 2.5 miles to visit these sites. Unlike other Italy accessible cities, in Rome wheelchair tourists will need accessible transportation to move between the various parts of the city. Unfortunately, there are few accessible public transportation options in Rome. There are only 3 metro lines with only a few accessible metro stations. Additionally, only a few accessible bus lines exist.
But, all is not bad for the Disabled Cruiser visiting Rome, just challenging. At the Roman Forum wheelchair users can now bypass the steep ramp to get up to street level with the installation of an outdoor elevator. Disabled access to the Rome Colosseum is provided by a step-free main entrance, a flat smooth interior, and an elevator to the upper level. You won’t be able to circumnavigate the lower level in a wheelchair because of the steps, some parts of the interior have steps, and there are cobblestones outside the entrance. Another good idea is to start high and roll down; hilly streets connect many of the tourist attractions in Rome. Have a taxi drop you off at one of the museums or churches located on a hill. You’ll spend the rest of your day with Rome wheelchair travel rolling downhill from accessible tourist attraction to accessible tourist attraction.
Rome is the capital of Italy in southern Europe. The city is located in the central western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber within the Lazio region of Italy.
Most of the major historic attractions, shopping areas and piazzas are centrally located and easy to get to on foot.
In Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel, are all together just across the Tiber River from central Rome. Visitors to St Peter’s need to clear a security line, which can be found to the right of the main entrance. Note: The Dress Code is strictly enforced at St Peter’s Basilica, no shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. This applies to both men and women.
The Colosseum is a shell of an ancient stadium. The Pantheon dates back to 27 B.C. and is considered the ancient world’s most complete monument.
Near the Colosseum is the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, an extravagant white marble monument with giant horse sculptures.
The Trevi Fountain is a great photo opportunity, legend has it if you want to come back to Rome, you must throw in a coin.
Galleria Borghese has Rome’s premier collection of masterpieces, including works by Titian, Caravaggio and Raphael.
Many of Rome’s shops can be found on streets branching off from Piazza d’Spagna (the Spanish Steps).
Ostia Antica is Rome’s version of Pompeii, about 45 minutes outside the city. It was founded in the 4th century B.C. and was a bustling port city until outbreaks of malaria and the river’s changing course led to its abandonment. It was covered in silt, and the site has gradually been excavated over the past century.
The neighbourhood of Trastevere, just across the Tiber, offers tons of charming sidewalk cafes, unique boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. It is also home to the Orto Botanico, comprising of 19 different gardens, and the piazza of Santa Maria, one of the city’s prettiest piazzas.
Piazza Navona features important sculptural and architectural creations. In the centre is the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian. Two other fountains, one at the southern end (Fontana del Moro) has a basin and four Tritons and at the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune.
Where You’re Docked
Cruise ships dock at Civitavecchia. It is about 1½ to 2 hours by taxi or bus to Rome (depending on traffic).
This is a commercial port and it’s about a 20 minute walk into the city.
The train station is around a mile away from the port and the journey time to Rome is around 1 hour 15 minutes.
Good to Know
Watch out for pickpockets on buses and at the major tourist sights (especially the Colosseum, where there are often bands of gypsies).
From Civitavecchia: The bus trip or taxi ride to Rome takes 1.5 to 2 hours. The other option: Take the train, which leaves every half-hour from Civitavecchia (takes a little more than an hour) and lands right in the heart of Rome at Termini Station. Additionally, most cruise lines offer both a motorcoach transfer option and organized tours. If you’re not a tour type, one advantage here to the cruise line motorcoach option is that if the motorcoach is late coming back, the cruise ship will wait. Taxis line up at the port, too; plan to pay about $150 each way to Rome and back.
In Rome: Rome is a great walking city; within the center area, most of the major historic attractions, shopping areas and fabulous piazzas are easy to get to on foot. However, Rome’s bus system is also efficient and simple to navigate, particularly from Termini Station. The Metropolitana or Metro (marked by a big red M) is the city’s subway system.
The official currency is the euro. Get cash from an ATM machine that’s compatible with your local bank. Local “cambio” shops exchange dollars to euros, though at higher rates than at ATM’s. Banks also provide exchange services for a fee. You can use credit cards, but dollars are generally not accepted by retailers and restaurants.
Italian is the official language, but many people you encounter will speak at least some English.
One of Rome’s most exuberant piazzas (traffic-free squares) is Piazza Navona, which is virtually a carnival. You can have your portrait drawn, sit by the fountain and enjoy a gelato cone, drink wine at a sidewalk cafe or dance to live music. Also fun is Campo dei Fiori, particularly if you like flea markets in the morning and fun, informal sidewalk cafes from lunchtime onward. (The only reason it’s not called a piazza is that it isn’t anchored by a church.)
Religious icons from Vatican City, haute couture, leather handbags and shoes are all popular buys.
Pasta is important here and popular local dishes include Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Rigatoni con la Pajata.
Points of Interest
- St. Peter’s Square and Basilica – St. Peter’s Square is a bustling piazza where the masses receive the Pope’s weekly blessings. This ornate square frames the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica, where St. Peter was martyred and buried. For the Disabled Cruiser St. Peter’s Basilica is possible by a combination of wheelchair ramps and elevators. There is a wheelchair ramp near the metal detectors, an elevator near the gift shop, and a wheelchair ramp in the portico leading up into the church. To enter St. Peter’s Basilica, the elevator is located on the right side of the steps. Ask the staff member at the coat check to call the elevator for you. An accessible restroom is located near the coat check. After you take the elevator up, you’ll need to go to the far end of the porch to get to the ramp into the church. Staff members will open the metal barriers for you. The ramp into St. Peter’s Basilica is a little steep. The interior of St. Peter’s Basilica is step-free and very large. The Disabled Cruiser can visit St Peters dome in a Wheelchair. There is an elevator to the roof so if you are in a wheelchair, you can reach the first level. The elevator opens out onto the roof. From here you can see the dome up close, but from the outside; move towards the front of the basilica and see this side view of the apostles; to reach the inside of the dome, even at this first level, there is a small staircase.
- Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel – Rich in religious and cultural significance, The Vatican Museums house one of the most impressive collections of art in the world, including the Sistine Chapel, home to Michelangelo’s masterpieces. The Disabled Cruiser will find that there are free wheelchairs available, and that wheelchair users cannot use the official Vatican Museums tours, but there is a recommended route for visitors in wheelchairs or mobility scooters which allows you to see about 70% of the museum and even the Sistine Chapel with a wheelchair. The elevators are only at the center of the museum. You have to go back to the center, take the lift to the lower floor, then head to the Sistine Chapel. The traffic moves in one direction but since you have to walk towards the opposite side (elevators), you’re going against the traffic. There are 2 entrances to the Sistine Chapel from the main museum: 1 stairs and 1 wheelchair/mobile ramp. They’re not next to each other so you have to go to the right one.
- Colosseum – The grandest of Rome’s monuments, the Colosseum was used by Emperors to entertain the public with spectacular games. Built in 1st century AD, the amphitheater is an architectural and engineering wonder. Entrance for the Disabled Cruiser into The Rome Colosseum is provided by a step-free main entrance, a flat smooth interior, and an elevator to the upper level. The Rome Colosseum handicapped accessible entrance to the building is located at the main entrance where there is a ramp, wheelchair users and other disabled tourists will be able to by-pass some of the lines. Wheelchair users will be able to go through a gate to get around the turnstiles. After you pass through the turnstiles, you’ll travel over a concrete path that is wheelchair-friendly. You’ll be on this path for about 1/4 of the way around the Colosseum until you get to the elevator. Inside the Colosseum a wheelchair ramp leads to an elevator which you can take to the upper floor. Once you get to the upper floor you will have a great accessible view of the interior of the Colosseum. If you want to get to the interior from the ground level, you’ll need to go over about 5 meters of rough cobblestones. On the ground level, you can easily view all of the ruins from a wheelchair. A paved path leads about 1/4 of the way around the Colosseum. You won’t be able to circumnavigate the lower level in a wheelchair because of steps.
- Trevi Fountain – The largest and most famous Baroque fountain in Rome, legend has it that if you turn your back and toss a coin into its aquamarine waters, you are guaranteed to return to the Eternal City. The Disabled Cruiser visiting the fountain will encounter roads that are cobbled and congested therefore wheelchair access is difficult to the fountain. There is an access ramp to the base of the fountain that allows wheelchair occupants to get up close to the fountain.
- Pantheon – One of the best-preserved monuments in the Eternal City, this magnificent, cylindrical building with 16 towering columns, built more than 1800 years ago, is a truly awe-inspiring look back in history. For the Disabled Cruiser the site is accessible for wheelchair users, however the cobbles leading up to the Pantheon make for a very bumpy ride.
- Spanish Steps – The Piazza di Spagna is the site of Rome’s most beautiful stairway, the Spanish Steps. Designed in the Roman Baroque style, its unique butterfly design will charm you with its graceful elegance. For the Disabled Cruiser, the main steps in front are not wheelchair accessible, but there is an elevator around the corner that will bring you to the top.
- Piazza Navona – A celebration of Baroque style, this lively square is situated in the historic center of Rome. Street performers and outdoor cafes surround three intricate fountains that dominate the piazza design. For Disabled Cruisers in a wheelchair, there is a small curb surrounding the center of the Piazza which is best accessed if unassisted from the south end or the center of the East side.
- Forum – The center of political, religious and commercial life in ancient Rome, this vast ensemble of ruins echoes the grandeur of a ruling empire and reveals historic remnants of an advanced society. Disabled Cruiser access to the Roman Forum has improved in the past few years with the installation of an elevator at the entrance. You no longer have to take a steep ramp down a couple of stories from street level to the Roman Forum ruins, now just ask a staff member to use the elevator. Only about 20% of the Roman Forum is wheelchair friendly. Much of the ground inside the Roman Forum is so uneven that wheelchair users will not be able to roll over it. Some of the area has firm ground that wheelchair users will be able to roll over andsome that is very rough with enormous cobblestones. At a minimum, there is a wheelchair accessible path from the Roman Forum entrance to Julius Caesar’s funeral pyre. The path from Julius Caesar’s funeral pyre to the accessible toilet in the back is over a few minor bumps and a small ramp.
Rome Accessible Excursions
Rome accessible tours are available for all the major sights including the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. Wheelchair users and other disabled visitors to Rome have a variety of options to choose from including private walking tours and driving tours.
Vatican City Wheelchair Accessible Guided Tour
This 5 hour accessible tour meets at the entrance to the Vatican Museums. You’ll start by visiting the Vatican Museums and the Raphael Rooms which contain Raphael’s School of Athens fresco. Your Sistine Chapel accessible guided tour starts just after you visit the Raphael rooms. After using an elevator and a wheelchair lift, you’ll go down a ramp with the most famous ceiling in the world above you. Your tour guide will point out the figures on the ceiling, discuss the magnificent Last Judgment on the back wall, and describe the restoration that has taken place. Your Sistine Chapel accessible guided tour finishes by going back out the way you came.
Your tour guide will spend the remainder of your tour explaining the architecture of St. Peter’s Square, the religious and historical significance of St. Peter’s Basilica, and leading you to the tombs of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II.
Wheelchair accessible transportation is not included on this tour. This tour uses a route that is step-free and smooth. The only cobblestones on this route are a short section near the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Wheelchair Accessible Tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum
This 3 hour Roman Forum and Colosseum accessible tour visits the two greatest remnants of Ancient Rome: the Colosseum towering overhead and the Roman Forum sunken below street level. The Colosseum is wheelchair friendly, and the Roman Forum, which has some obstacles, can also be visited in a wheelchair.
This Rome accessible guided tour tackles some of the oldest ruins in Rome. The Colosseum has been completely modernized and has smooth flat pavement throughout it except for a small band of cobblestones. An elevator leads up to the second level of the Colosseum for a different viewpoint.
The Roman Forum and Colosseum accessible tour travels along the sidewalk connecting the Colosseum and Roman Forum which is flat and smooth. At the Roman Forum entrance, you will find an elevator that can take you down into the ruins. Once you get there, only about 20% of the grounds are wheelchair accessible. The other 80% have large gaps in the rocks and ancient stairs.
Private Wheelchair Accessible Walking Tour in Rome
This 5 hour walking tour covers all the sights in the city center including those from Ancient Rome as well as the Baroque and Renaissance buildings in the city center. Your tour starts with visits to the most famous ruins of Roman antiquity: the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. The private handicapped accessible walking tour in Rome then proceeds to the towering Victor Emanuel Monument located next to Piazza Campidoglio. Two famous fountains are next: the Trevi Fountain and the Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. The oldest dome in the world is next on the list as you visit the Pantheon. Several other sights will pointed out as you wind your way through central Rome.
The step-free route for this private handicapped accessible walking tour in Rome is wheelchair accessible, but due to the nature of the ancient streets and cobblestones of Rome, wheelchair users who are less mobile may need occasional assistance from a companion.
You’ll start off your tour at the entrance to the Colosseum. The Colosseum and the Roman Forum both have step-free entrances followed by elevators. The Colosseum elevator takes you to the upper level, and the Roman Forum elevator takes you down to the ruins below. Wheelchair access at the Roman forum is only possible on about 20% of the surface area. The sidewalk between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum is flat and smooth.
To reach Piazza Campidoglio at the top of the Capitoline Hill, you will need to go up a winding street off of Via dei Fori Imperiali. The large Victor Emanuel Monument can be viewed from the Piazza Venezia in front of it. The piazza has cobblestone streets and smooth sidewalks. The Trevi Fountain can be crowded, but disabled participants on this private handicapped accessible walking tour in Rome can usually see it easily from the left or right side. The Pantheon has cobblestones leading to it and a wheelchair ramp at the front-left. The Fountain of Four Rivers is in the middle of the Piazza Navona and can be viewed without having to go up the single curb that runs around the piazza. The remains of the Temple of Hadrian will be viewed from the street.
Wheelchair Accessible Van Tours in Rome Italy
This 8 hour Rome wheelchair accessible van tour is an excellent way for disabled tourists to visit all the major tourist sights in Rome with the explanation of a tour guide. The tourist sights in Rome are quite spread out and this tour allows you to easily visit many of them in a single day. The van used for this tour has a wheelchair ramp that make it easy for motorized wheelchair users or manual wheelchair users to get on and off.
During the Rome wheelchair accessible van tour, you will see some sights from the van and others you will see by getting out of the van and going inside. The tour covers all of the major tourist sights including the ancient Rome sights such as the Coloseum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, the Pantheon, and Aventine Hill.
The Renaissance and Baroque sights that you will visit include the Holy Steps Church, San Giovanni in Laterno, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps. Your Vatican sightseeing will include the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Vatican Museums.
The wheelchair accessible minivan used for the wheelchair accessible Rome van tour can fit 2 wheelchairs plus 4 people. It has a ramp for wheelchair users to get on and off. Tour participants can exit the vehicle at some attractions and view others from the vehicle.