Photo of Andraea Lavant in Italy, she is wearing a white sun dress and a tan hat. She is enjoying a beautiful outdoor area while being seated in her Quantum Rehab electric wheelchair with iLevel technology.

Italian Adventures as a Power Wheelchair User: Venice and Naples

Prior to going on our two-week adventure through Italy, I heard lots of mixed reviews.
Certainly, there was no contesting the beauty and uniqueness of a travel experience in this
magnificent country; rather it’s the overall accessibility for a wheelchair user that presented
concern…as it does for many countries outside the US. Laws like the Americans with Disabilities
Act don’t exist everywhere, so navigating with a mobility device of any kind can often be
challenging, and sometimes even impossible.
Thanks to the assistance of two disability-friendly travel agencies (mentioned in my last post),
our experience in Italy was not only memorable, but was manageable with my #4Front2 power
wheelchair. Here are my thoughts from an access lens about Venice and Naples:

  1. Venice: Our first stop was to this beautiful city surrounded by water. We were warned
    that this would be the most inaccessible city due to the cobblestones and bridges that
    connect the city. While this is true, choosing the best hotel location can make it much
    more pleasant. We stayed at the Palazzo Venezianno, a quaint but lovely property right
    near a main water bus line with great accessible rooms. A key to a better experience in
    Venice is staying near one of the main Vaporetto (water bus) stops – Line 1 or 2, as
    water buses are wheelchair accessible.
    Another key to navigating Venice was to use a GPS system (like Google Maps) to
    indicate where accessible bridges are. We were able to plan our daily adventures simply
    by determining which areas of the city were near vaporetto stops and had accessible
    bridges. While this did limit us to certain areas, we had more than enough to occupy us
    for the five days of our stay.
    As mentioned in my previous post, bringing along a portable ramp was another
    important aspect of making our trip accessible. Most of the stores we visited had at
    least a small step to enter, so the ramp was very helpful.
    Overall, Venice was my favorite city we visited. While access (like cobblestones)
    presented challenges, the beauty of this romantic city made up for it. (Although I’m
    slightly biased because it’s also the city where my wife and I eloped)!
  2. Naples: Almost the complete opposite of Venice, Naples was a very fast-paced (slightly
    dangerous) city. As soon as we exited the train, we encountered busy streets and lots of
    access challenges. We found that many of the deep cobblestone sidewalks don’t have
    curb cuts, and even if they do, there are few crosswalks. Often during our trip, my wife
    had to stand in the street to block traffic just so I could cross. Even still, with the limited
    curb cuts and narrow sidewalks, I found myself rolling down the main streets alongside
    Vespas, cars, and trucks, hoping not to get hit. There are also very few traffic lights, so it
    truly is an “every person for themselves” experience.

All this said, our stay at Unahotels in Naples was lovely. We had a great wheelchair
accessible room that was within walking distance to the train station. We even rode in
an accessible van to support our two-weeks’ worth of luggage. Also, Naples is the home
of pizza and so much rich history, including beautiful churches, so I have ZERO regrets
that we went…I’m just not sure we’ll be back!
Next time I’ll share about our experience in Rome and Milan.

Written by: Andraea Lavant