I knew that since I’ve been studying Ancient Rome for the last three years at university that I wanted to pack in as much as I could during my eighteen days in Italy, because it will probably be a while before I visit there again.
The majority of my stay was spent in Rome with day trips to Ancient Ostia, Tivoli, Pompeii and Florence. There is so much to do and see there that the eighteen days flew by much faster than I wanted. I booked nine tours with the company Rome and Italy, and even though I was exhausted from the heat and sometimes got a bit cranky, I loved every single one of them. Here’s a list of the tours I went on:
- Roman Forum and Colosseum
- Ancient Ostia
- Baths of Caracalla
- Villa of the Quintilii
- Villa Adriana (in Tivoli, close to Rome)
- Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
- Appian Way (opted out of a tour guide for this one), and
- Castel Sant’Angelo
This post will focus on how I got around these ancient sites and on my first two tours of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum and of Ancient Ostia.
Rome and Italy offers their tours and services for ambulatory and disabled travellers alike. If this company didn’t exist it would be extremely difficult for me and people in my situation to visit some of Italy’s most historical sights. Places like the Roman Forum, Ancient Ostia, and Pompeii have fortunately been preserved, but they pose some challenges for wheelchair users, like myself who want to go and see these archaeological sites. With Rome and Italy I didn’t need to worry about the logistics of how I would maneuver all the ancient roads that are still traversed by thousands of people today, nor how I would get an up-close look at other ancient monuments; they had it handled. If you follow my Facebook page, you might already have seen how I managed to get around. They have this unique wheelchair called the Wheely Trekky that reminds me of a cross between an old-fashioned rickshaw and a wheelbarrow.
It is a genius idea and it allowed me to see everything I wanted to. I didn’t feel too many bumps while on the Wheely Trekky because it has good suspension, but I did ask them to slow down on the first tour because the Via Sacra in the Roman Forum is very bumpy and I was being jostled around a bit. After that, it was smooth wheeling, for me that is; the two assistants that do the pushing work quite hard.
I should note that when sitting in this chair you will need some upper body strength to keep yourself upright, especially when they lower the front of the chair to take out the leg pedal, or when going down steps. I am just strong enough that I managed to support myself, but I know that some of my friends who are in wheelchairs might struggle to keep their balance. However, I imagine you could get a chest strap or something to prevent you from falling forward if you need one.
Booking your tour with Rome and Italy
Each excursion you go on with Rome and Italy may differ in price, depending on what you request. You have the option to just buy tickets to a site, be it tickets to a museum, gallery, or an archaeological site, etc.
Note: tickets are free for guests with disabilities and one companion. In theory, the staff at each site are supposed to ask you for a certificate of disability and then give you the tickets free of charge. But in every instance outside of my tours they just handed me two tickets right away, except for modern exhibitions. Plus, if you have mobility impairments you can go straight to the front of the line.
You can book a tour guide, the Wheely Trekky for sites that require it, and transportation. The price can add up quickly, but, in my opinion, it’s worth it. If you’re familiar with the history of a particular attraction then you might not want a tour guide. I am somewhat versed in all the places I went, but wanted to hear about it from a locals perspective. And, I’m glad I did; all the guides I had were great. Thank you Stefano, Cristiana, and Valentina!
Okay, so now it’s time to talk about the actual tours. With the exception of Pompeii and the Vatican Museum, each tour from the time of pick-up and drop-off at the hotel lasted about four hours. I used the Wheely Trekky for all the tours except for the Vatican.
Tour #1: Imperial Rome – The Roman Forum and Colosseum
The Roman Forum – In its heyday, the Roman Forum was a hub for political, social, religious, and commercial activities.
The Roman Forum is accessible to a certain degree. An elevator has been installed which allows wheelchair users to see a sizeable portion of the Forum. I opted to use the Wheely Trekky and so was able to see much more of the Forum than I would have had I attempted to use my power chair.
The Colosseum – Was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72. It was used for gladiatorial games, wild animal fights, and man versus beast fights. Pretty bloody stuff.
The Colosseum has been adapted with an elevator that allows all types of visitors to wander freely. The main level of the Colosseum is partially wheelchair accessible, but the second level is completely flat and offers stunning views.
Tour #2: Ancient Ostia
Ancient Ostia (or Ostia Antica) was an important harbour city, especially during the imperial period under emperors like Claudius, Nero, and Trajan. The name Ostia comes from the Latin os or ostium which translate as ‘mouth’ and marks the city’s location at the mouth of the Tiber River. However, today, the Tiber has receded a few kilometres away from its former location.
There is an accessible path at Ancient Ostia, but I was informed that it didn’t cover the whole area, so I opted to use the Wheely Trekky. The tour was about 3 hours and I got to see all the things I had previously only read about in textbooks. The area is a mix of grassy space and of paved sidewalks. A power chair with a strong battery could potentially navigate these areas but it would be difficult to fully explore the site since most extant buildings have a single step at the entrance. With the Wheely Trekky, I didn’t miss out on seeing anything.
There is an accessible bathroom near the entrance which was large enough for me to maneuver around in.
That’s it for now! I’ll write about a few of the other tours in an upcoming post because if I included them all here you’d be scrolling forever. Up next is the Baths of Caracalla, the Villa of the Quintilii, and Villa Adriana.