Wheelchair Accessibility in Florence

My day spent in Florence was a whirlwind of spectacular proportions. From Rome, we took the high-speed train, Trenitalia. We managed to pack a lot into the ten hours that we were there. But before I discuss what we did in Florence, I will tell you all about booking a wheelchair accessible train ticket and the assistance you will receive boarding the train.

Booking a Wheelchair Accessible Train Ticket in Rome

Before leaving Canada, I was looking into purchasing our tickets from Rome to Florence, but it was a little complicated, and I didn’t want to arrive at the railway station the day of our trip and have any confusion. So, instead, I decided it would be better to buy our tickets directly from the railway station, Roma Termini. Termini is so huge that we were a bit lost as to where we needed to go first. After a while of going back and forth, we found out we first had to go to Sala Blu, a place that arranges everything for those who require special assistance. You can find Sala Blu after passing all the shopping and dining areas on the left side of Termini, near the train tracks.

It took maybe an hour to get our tickets figured out at Sala Blu because the staff there didn’t speak any English and I knew next to nothing of Italian. There was a lot of pointing, gesturing and writing down numbers. Florence has a few train stations, so if you want to visit places like the Accademia Gallery and Uffizi Gallery, then you’ll want to get off at Santa Maria Novella. If you’re not fluent in Italian, then I recommend doing as much research as you can so that when you reach Sala Blu, there won’t be too many miscommunications. While in Canada, I looked up the times that I wanted to depart from Rome and return and where we needed to get off. Once we had the information all arranged, we then had to go to the Trenitalia desk and pay for our tickets. The ticket office staff informed us that we needed to arrive at Sala Blu 30 minutes prior to the train’s departure. On Trenitalia, the high-speed train, it only takes 1 hour and 22 minutes from Rome to Florence and vice versa. And, luckily, it turned out that the accessible seating area was in the first class section for the same price as a regular ticket.

Boarding the Train

Because the hotel we stayed at was within walking/rolling distance of Termini, we left it at 6:30 am on the day of and proceeded to Sala Blu. We waited a few minutes for the train to arrive and then I followed behind two of the Sala Blu assistants. Once we reached the train, I drove onto a lift that raised me up to the train’s level and very carefully managed to drive backwards into the seating area. I placed myself facing forward in front of a plastic panel because I didn’t see any marked place for me to park. It worked. When the time came for us to return to Sala Blu in the evening, it seemed as if they weren’t aware that I would be coming, even though we arranged it all two weeks before. Maybe that’s why they advise customers to arrive thirty minutes early; in case something didn’t get communicated. Later, when we boarded again, the assistants lifted up some seats and told me to back against them.

Before going to Italy, I had heard a lot of stories about pickpockets and how it often happens on and around the train in particular, but because I was guided by the Sala Blu staff and in First Class, nothing of the kind happened. I think you just have to be smart and cautious about how you’re carrying and handling anything valuable on you. If you’re carrying your purse on the back of your chair, then that will probably make you an easy target. In some pictures from my previous posts, you might have noticed that I did, in fact, sling a bag over the back of my chair, but there was nothing valuable in there, mostly just water and snacks. If someone had wanted to take it, it wouldn’t have mattered too much. However, during my entire stay in Italy, no one bothered me anyway.

Florence

We managed to do a lot in the span of ten hours. From the train station, we rolled/walked to each place we visited. Here’s a list of the places we visited that were all wheelchair accessible:

  • Accademia Gallery
  • Duomo
  • Medici Chapel
  • Uffizi Gallery

Accademia Gallery
The star of the show here is Michelangelo’s masterpiece David, and honestly, that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Florence, to see it in the flesh, or more aptly, in the marble. He really is huge and completely worth the visit. We looked around at some of the other artwork and then made our way to the gift shop where I bought way more books than I could possibly need.

From the train station, it’s about a fifteen-minute stroll to reach the gallery. Once again Google Maps came in handy. I had no problems navigating the streets of Florence; there are sloped curbs at almost every corner. And in some places, there was no sidewalk, only a cobblestone road, which was easy enough to manage, but makes for slow going. It’s the same deal here; the ticket office gave us two free tickets and we paid for one extra. The accessible washroom was large enough to accommodate my wheelchair but had little room to maneuver around.

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Il Duomo di Firenze
This cathedral is hard to miss because of how gigantic it is. Construction for it began in 1296 and was finally completed in 1436. The thing is beautiful, and I suspect, would be even more impressive seeing it at night. The line-up to get in was long, but one of the perks of using a wheelchair is getting to skip that line and go straight to the front. There’s a ramp on one side of the building that will get you in. Personally, I liked the outside of the building more than the inside.

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Medici Chapel
I don’t know much about this site except that Michelangelo had his hand in some of it; in designing the funerary monuments. The building has an elevator, but is under lock and key, so you’ll need to find a staff member when you want to use it.

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Uffizi Gallery
This place was great. There’s lots of Renaissance, Baroque, and Mannerism art. I didn’t want to leave. But time was limited. As in every museum or gallery that I visited in Italy – the bathroom was large and accessible.

The accessible entrance at Uffizi is across the street from the regular entrance area. So, after we got our tickets, a staff member from Uffizi led us there and showed us the elevator to reach the gallery. After we were done looking around, we had a bite to eat at the rooftop cafe before we headed back to the train station.

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That’s a wrap on my 2016 trip to Italy! It was amazing, and I can’t wait for the next time that I’ll go back.

Bye for now!

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