This post is the conclusion of the accessible tours I went on with Rome and Italy. Over the course of two days, we visited Appian Way and Castel Sant’Angelo, plus a bonus tour of the Ara Pacis Augustae. Be sure that you don’t miss Part Three which was all about Pompeii and my private tour at the Vatican Museum.
Tour #8: Appian Way, Rome
Background: The Appian Way (Via Appia) was an important road for the Romans. It ran from Rome to modern Brindisi, a city in southern Italy, from where ships would set sail to Greece. Scattered along the road are some monumental tombs left by some very wealthy Romans.
I scheduled my ‘tour’ of the Appian Way at the last moment before leaving Canada. Initially, I didn’t have anything booked for the day of my birthday, but thought a nice stroll through the Appian Way would be perfect; and it was. I didn’t book a guide for this outing because I just wanted to immerse myself in travelling down the same road that the Romans did and enjoying the scenery. One staff member from the company did come along and stayed with us for half of the journey before setting off. I had hoped to go to the Appian Way myself without the Wheely Trekky, but the tour company advised that the road would be impassable in my powered wheelchair. They were right; given that the road has been around since antiquity, some parts of the paving stones are rutted and uneven, while other parts are still smooth.
We left the hotel at 10 in the morning and the weather was pretty perfect that day. It wasn’t too hot and there was a gentle breeze, plus the trees dotted alongside the road offered shade.
After about an hour we came across the Tomb of Caecilia Metella, one of the most prominent tombs along the Via Appia. It was built around 20 BC for Caecilia, the daughter of a prominent political Roman.
Shortly after seeing that mausoleum, we started making our way back.
I have to mention Massimo again, our driver for every outing. After we were done at Appian Way, he offered to drive us to the Il Vittoriano, a huge nineteenth century monument that at its peak showcases the best views of Rome, free of charge, as a birthday present to me.
I’ll explain accessibility at Il Vittoriano in a later post.
Tour #9: Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome
Background: Emperor Hadrian built this huge mausoleum for himself and completed it in AD 140. He also built the bridge which leads up to the mausoleum and hovers over the Tiber River. In the Middle Ages, the tomb was expanded on top of the original structure and became a building used for fortification and at that time received its current name – Castel Sant’Angelo, for the bronze angel that crowns the building today.
I was surprised when I came out of the hotel and saw the Wheely Trekky lying next to the van because when I booked the tour months prior I was informed that I didn’t need it. However, I am glad that the tour company double checked because it turned out that it would have been impossible to see most of the building because there are steps all over. If memory serves, this wasn’t a tour listed on their website at the time I inquired about visiting the site, so they might not have been aware of accessibility issues. At any rate, it’s listed on their website now with a note that the Wheely Trekky should be used for the tour. Obviously, they didn’t charge me for using the Trekky that day. We spent about two hours there, which was plenty of time.
When you first enter the building there is a stair lift, but it wasn’t operable at the time we were there. I noticed an elevator on the top level, but the doorway is on the narrow side which makes me wonder if my chair would have fit through there anyway. There is a restaurant on the upper level that offers great views. It would be nice to have lunch up there.
Combined with this tour I had scheduled a visit to the Mausoleum of Augustus (25 BC), but I was only able to view it from the outside because it turned out that it wasn’t open to the public.
After that very brief look at Augustus’ Mausoleum, after which Hadrian modelled his own mausoleum, my guide, Stefano, mentioned the Ara Pacis Augustae, which immediately got my attention because I had it in the back of my mind to go there before leaving Italy. I asked if we could go check it out and the answer was in the affirmative. So that leads us to…
Tour #9.5: Ara Pacis Augustae, Rome
Background: Translated it means the Altar of Augustan Peace. It was constructed between 13 and 9 BC during Augustus’ rule as a means to propound the image of peace, goodwill, and of Augustus’ own greatness. During Mussolini’s rule, the structure was heavily restored.
Before going here, I had only seen pictures of the Ara Pacis, which do not do it justice.
There is a ramp on the left side of it that leads to the back where even more reliefs are visible. Also at the back is a small step, maybe 2 – 3 inches high. Going down was fine and I got to see a better view of the inside, but on coming back out of the altar, Stefano had to give me a big push to get up the step.
Well, folks, that’s it for all the tours I went on with Rome and Italy. Each tour was an incredible experience that I will remember for a long time to come. There’s no question that I will definitely book tours and other services with this company in the future. Remember: their tours are designed for everyone, for ambulatory people and people who need a little extra help.
This post may be the last of the tours I went on in Italy, but stay tuned to read about what I did in between each one and how accessible it is getting around Rome in a wheelchair.
If I skipped over anything, or if you have any questions, feel free to ask me through my contact page here.