Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world built on a lagoon composed of over a hundred small islands surrounded by an immense network of canals. All the Renaissance and Gothic buildings, bridges, and blue waters combine to create a magical city like no other.
It sounds wonderful, but also like it would be somewhat of a challenge to navigate using a wheelchair, right? Surprisingly, it is not as bad as you might think. Of course, the bridges are an obstacle, but there are many other areas in Venice that are wheelchair-friendly.
I was in Venice for two and a half days and managed to pack in a lot during my brief stay which all took place on the Grand Canal. All of the places I will mention can be reached by using the vaporetto bus. If you missed my previous post explaining all the wheelchair accessible transportation options in Venice, you can find it here.
Accessible Areas on the Grand Canal
Piazza San Marco
The square is very wheelchair-friendly as it is flat and the only stairs I encountered were the set that led to the next island over. You could easily spend the better part of the day taking in all the sights here.
Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
The palace was the residence of the Doge, the seat of government, and the palace of justice. It’s a huge gothic palace that started its construction in 1301 and finished in 1450. Inside is the Grand Chamber Council, a really large hall where the ruling elites of Venice used to meet.
St. Marks Basilica
It was originally built in the early 9th century, but burned down in 976 during a revolt against the Doge Pietro Candiano. His successor, Doge Domenico Cantarini, began restorations and it was eventually completed in 1071.
Most of the basilica is accessible, except for a short set of stairs that lead to the Cupola of the Prophets where you can see the Pala d’Oro, a gold altarpiece studded with all kinds of gemstones. The Pala d’Oro is semi-visible from the main part of the church.
Museo Correr offers displays of Venetian art, history, and culture.
The museum’s website advises that visitors call before arriving to ensure that their accessibility needs are met.
Nearly all the other museums I have been to in Italy are very wheelchair accessible. This one has a step that’s about 6 inches high. I had some extra help from a local person who was pushing me around and a manual wheelchair when I went to visit, so we managed fine, but it would have been difficult in a power wheelchair.
Once we were inside the building, I was ushered into a very small elevator (56 x 100 cm) that could only fit me and one of the museum staff who had a key to operate it.
Shopping and Dining
There are many restaurants and department stores in the San Marco area that have accessible entrances.
There are also signs on the pavement that say “WC” which lead to a wheelchair accessible bathroom.
The Accademia Gallery has collections of art that range from the fourteenth century to the Renaissance period.
Note: Entrance is free for wheelchair users and one additional person travelling with you. There are accessible bathrooms in all the museums I mention.
If you plan on catching the train to another city this is where you would need to get off the vaporetto or whatever other form of transportation you are taking. The train station is called Venezia Santa Lucia. Sala Blu arranges accessible seating on the train for those who require it. You can find their office in many major train stations throughout Italy, including Santa Lucia. They have a lift that will get you from the platform up onto the train and there are accessible bathrooms onboard.
Piazzale Roma is the entrance of Venice, but it also has restaurants, souvenir shops, and if you want to go on an accessible gondola ride you’ll find it at this square.
For about a year now there’s been a wonderful company, Gondolas4all, who have been offering accessible gondola rides. They have a lift that lowers both you and your wheelchair down into the gondola. It’s pretty neat. They are located at Piazzale Roma which can be accessed by hopping on the vaporetto bus. They offer the rides for 30, 45, or 60 minutes and can accommodate two additional passengers who do not use a wheelchair. I booked mine ahead of time by email and paid at the end of the ride.
The gondola ride was definitely one of my favourite experiences in Venice.
Stay tuned for my next post which will be all about the accessible hotel I stayed at in Venice.