As someone who uses a wheelchair, I have visited Pompeii twice: the first time in a adapted chair, called the Wheely Trekky and the second, independently in my own power wheelchair. I also recently visited Herculaneum in my wheelchair. In this post I will describe what it was like using the Wheely Trekky versus exploring both of the ancient ruins on my own.
Visiting Pompeii using the Wheely Trekky
On my first visit to Pompeii, I booked a tour guide and the Wheely Trekky through the tour agency, Rome and Italy. The Wheely Trekky looks like a cross between a unicycle and a wheelbarrow, but it is a great way to visit sites that would otherwise be inaccessible in a wheelchair. When you rent the Trekky, you also get two assistants to push you around.
I am unable to transfer myself, so we used the hoyer lift that I rented for the duration of my trip to transfer onto the Trekky. The two assistants ended up sort of lifting me up an inch or two on the Wheely Trekky because the hoist couldn’t go as high as the seat. Once I was all set up, and with one assistant directing the Trekky in the front and the other pushing in the back, we were off to explore the preserved city.
I got to see many of the major areas that I had previously only read about in books and am really glad that I splurged on that tour. If you’d like to read my original post about my first visit to Pompeii, you can do so >here<.
It wasn’t that easy for the men who were pushing me around though. The sidewalks are comprised of huge cement blocks that are in some places, almost a foot high. It took a lot of exertion to push and pull me up those sidewalks. It’s definitely a job that requires a lot of physical strength. However, they managed, and I was happy to see the major highlights of Pompeii.
Pompeii is so large that it’s highly unlikely that the whole city could be seen in a single day, much less in a three to four hour guided tour.
That’s why I was so keen to schedule another visit to Pompeii during my second trip to Italy.
Visiting Pompeii Using a Wheelchair
Earlier this year, a group of archaeologists, engineers, and architects completed their project called Pompeii for all: Accessibility paths overcoming architectural barriers.
Now there is about a 3 km path that is accessible for all types of visitors. There are ramps all over the place that allow people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers to enter many of the houses and to cross the road over those huge cement-like blocks.
The main accessible entrance is at Piazza Anfiteatro.
There is another entrance on the Piazza Esedra side, but the accessible path is very short on that side and has only a couple significant landmarks, including the quadriportico and one of the two amphitheaters there. The two sights can be seen in ten minutes or less.
I recommend beginning at Piazza Anfiteatro where you can spend a solid two or three hours exploring the accessible path. If you decide to begin at Piazza Esedra, it’s a good idea to have a vehicle with you because the other entrance is about a twenty minute walk away and the sidewalks are not accessible since they do not have sloped curbs. I learned that the hard way.
>Here< is a map to familiarize yourself with the layout of Pompeii. Maps are also available on site.
The accessible path covers almost the same areas I saw the first time on my tour with Rome and Italy, but I was able to see more since I could go at my own pace. I think it would be fun for wheelchair users visiting for the first time to wander the accessible path on their own and then maybe book the Wheely Trekky to see the other areas that are not yet accessible. Rome and Italy are very flexible and arranged some things for me that were not listed as one of their services.
Whether you’re a history lover or know Pompeii from pop culture, it has something to offer everyone. And it was quite fun exploring a city that’s been preserved for two thousand years in my modern power wheelchair.
Note: Admission is free for visitors with a physical impairment and one person accompanying you. There are accessible bathrooms at the entrance area of both Piazza Esedra and Piazza Anfiteatro. I think there is an accessible bathroom in the ruins but I couldn’t find it. There is also a snack bar near the Forum.
Visiting Herculaneum using a Wheelchair
Herculaneum is much smaller than Pompeii, but it is a gem that is definitely worth seeing. It has an accessible path that predates the one at Pompeii. Like Pompeii, there are ramps set up across sidewalks and at the entrance of many buildings.
I think I was able to see more of Herculaneum than I did at Pompeii. I took my time exploring every nook and cranny that I could, which were many. It’s not possible to see all of Herculaneum in a wheelchair, but it is nice to wheel around on your own. In some areas, the sidewalks became narrower but I still managed to boldly make my way through. My wheelchair has a strong battery and a good grip on the wheels and I am a pretty good driver, so I may have dared what others would not have, but I wasn’t going all the way to Italy just to take the easy route. My chair did get stuck twice, but that was quickly corrected with help.
I wasn’t worried that my chair would suddenly stop working because I had it looked at in the shop a few weeks prior to my trip. It is a good idea to get your wheelchair checked out before any type of travel.
When I was arranging everything with Rome and Italy before my departure they advised that I book their Wheely Trekky for my visit to Herculaneum but I knew about the accessible path, so I opted not to. I did get them to drive me there and the van was booked for four hours from the time of leaving the hotel to the time of our return.
I am glad that I did not use the Trekky because as I said most of Herculaneum is wheelchair accessible and I didn’t have to pay the extra cost of using the Trekky.
Note: Admission is free for visitors with a physical impairment and one extra person and there is an accessible bathroom at the entrance in the ticket booth area.