How to Get Around Rome as a Wheelchair User

Despite Rome being an ancient city, it is far more wheelchair accessible than most people might think. It has all the accessible modes of transportation that one could find in any modern city. Sure, sometimes they might be makeshift accommodations, but the basics are there and from my experience, people are usually willing to lend a hand with getting in and out of vehicles if needed.

I’ve been to Rome twice now and so have had the opportunity to try more than a few public and private accessible transportation options. Here they are:

Public buses

Many of the city buses in Rome are now wheelchair accessible. There is a fold-out ramp in the middle section of the bus which the driver will unlock with his/her key and fold it down. Once on the bus, there is a designated spot for wheelchair users and also buttons that are easy to reach to alert the operator when it’s your stop.

However, getting on and off the bus can be a touch tricky. The ramps are on the shorter side which creates a steeper incline, even more so when the driver lets the ramp down on the road instead of the sidewalk. However, most drivers (and bystanders) gave me a hand when I needed it. One day when I had been planning to visit the Vatican, it was pouring rain which created slick conditions when I tried driving up the ramp of the bus. Fortunately, there are nice people out there and they helped me get on and off safely.

Most bus operators I came across had no issues with putting the ramp down, but there were one or two of them who flat-out refused to get up from their seat even though their bus was designated as accessible and only half full. But like I said, I didn’t encounter those types of people very often.

If you are catching the bus in a busy tourist area, when the bus arrives, it can be quite crowded and you might have to wait about 7-15 minutes for the next one. If you’re staying at a hotel that is close to a metro station, like the one in front of Termini, it might be a good idea to head over there to catch the bus.

If you want to know which hotels are accessible in that area, I have two posts about where I stayed on each trip, which you can read by clicking >here< and >here<.

Accessible Taxis

The accessible taxis in Rome are large SUVs with a small area in the back for wheelchair users to park. Some of the taxis have pull out ramps, while others have truck ramps stowed away in the vehicle. Like the city buses, the incline can be a bit steep mainly because the spot for wheelchair users to sit in is placed higher than the other seats in the SUV. On one occasion, it took me three attempts to make it up the ramp with the help of the taxi driver and hotel porters. Because the spot where wheelchair users are supposed to park is much higher than the other seats, there is a section of the vehicle’s roof that has a cutout to provide space for your head. I did still bump my head on occasion, but nothing major.

When you place the call for a wheelchair accessible taxi in Rome, the dispatcher will ask for the measurements of your wheelchair, so they can send a cab that is big enough to accommodate it since their vans are not all uniform. I am far from fluent in Italian, so I had the hotel clerks call on my behalf and arrange for it to pick me up later on as well. Whenever I needed a cab whether that was with or without a reservation, they always came right away.


If you use a manual wheelchair and can transfer yourself, then you might have an easier time and can just stow your wheelchair in the back.

Walk or Wheel

Many of the major tourist attractions are grouped close together which in some instances can make it easier to just wheel there. The Roman Forum and Colosseum are within walking distance of each other. The only problem is that not all of the sidewalks have sloped curbs. The super touristy areas have sloped curbs, but if you venture away from those areas the number of sloped curbs drops dramatically. Not to be deterred, I would sometimes drive down the curb backwards if it wasn’t too high, or keep going until I found a better option. There are of cobblestones in many areas which can make for a bumpy ride, but it’s not too bad if you go slowly.

In some areas, there might be a sloped curb on one side of the street, but a sharp curb on the other side. In these instances I would either find an alternative route, or in areas that had less traffic I would get off at the sloped curb and then drive on the road until I found a spot where I could get back up on the sidewalk.

Private transportation

On my first trip to Rome, I booked a lot of my rides through Rome and Italy, a tour agency which offers many accessible services, because I wasn’t completely sure of how I would get from Point A to B and also didn’t want to be late for the tours I had booked with them.

They have a fleet of accessible vans that they outsource from Fausta Trasporti Accessibili per Disabili. It might be cheaper to book with them directly, rather than booking through RomeandItaly. All of the vans have an electric ramp in the back, plenty of space for wheelchair users, and a tie down system to safely secure your wheelchair.


I’d definitely recommend trying to book through Fausti, the owner Massimo, whom I now consider a friend, is wonderful and was always willing to go above and beyond what was expected. On my last trip to Rome, he volunteered a whole day showing me and my friend around areas that we had not yet seen and some of his favourite areas of the city. It was amazing and fun seeing the eternal city from a locals perspective.

Train

If you plan on visiting another city, the high speed train is also wheelchair accessible. In Termini, one of the train stations in Rome, there is a special service area tailored to passengers who require assistance called Sala Blu. The office for Sala Blu is found past the ticketing area on the left hand side of the tracks. Should you need to book your tickets directly at Sala Blu, which I recommend to prevent as few miscommunications as possible, you can just tell the people checking passengers tickets and they will let you pass. I would advise that you go to Sala Blu with a plan in mind that includes the exact train station you want to embark and disembark at as well as the times because the staff there may not speak English, but if you are prepared it makes things easier. Once you have your accessible accommodations arranged, they will send you back out to the main area of the train station where you can complete the transaction of paying for your tickets. The lines are usually long, but as a wheelchair user you have the right to bypass them. That applies to any lineup for public attractions in Italy.

It can, at times, be slightly challenging to use Rome’s accessible transportation, but it definitely is possible.

Hotel Quirinale: A Wheelchair Accessible Hotel Review

I spent the last leg of my Italian trip in Rome, my favourite city. For the other cities I visited I had a tour agency make hotel reservations for me, but since I sort of knew the lay of the land from my last trip to Rome I decided to make the reservation myself for six nights.

Unless you are fluent in Italian, my experience has been that hotels there prefer prospective clients to send them an e-mail including the dates you plan on staying and what kind of room you require.

I picked this hotel because of its great location. It’s on Via Nazionale and is in rolling/walking distance of the Baths of Diocletian, Trajan’s Market, the train station, Termini, and the subway station, Metro. Still within walking/rolling distance, but a longer of walk is the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Roman Forum. It’s at least a 25-35 minute roll to those attractions. Continue reading

Wheelchair Accessibility in Rome

Whether or not you go on a guided tour, there is so much to do, see, and eat in Rome. If you use a wheelchair, like myself, then getting around Rome can present some challenges. In this post, I will discuss some obstacles you might meet throughout the city, different transportation methods, accessibility throughout the places I visited, and things I learned along the way. If you’d like to read about some of the accessible tours I went on in Italy, check out Part One here. Continue reading

Tours Made Accessible for Wheelchair Users with Rome and Italy – Part Two

This post is all about my tours with Rome and Italy at the Baths of Caracalla, the Villa of the Quintilii, and Villa Adriana aka Hadrian’s Villa. Check out Part One if you haven’t already.

Tour #3: The Baths of Caracalla, Rome

Background: Emperor Septimius Severus first commissioned the baths in AD 206 and after his death, Caracalla, his son, completed the baths in AD 216. The composition of the baths was typical of any Roman bath, including the frigidarium (cold water), the tepidarium (tepid water), and the caldarium (hot water), but on a much grander scale. The natatio (swimming pool) was next to the frigidarium and was open to the sky. In its day, the baths would have been decorated with marble, paintings, sculptures, and floor mosaics. On each side of the baths was the palaestra (gymnasium) where people could exercise. Libraries and gardens were also a part of the Baths of Caracalla. Continue reading

Tours Made Accessible for Wheelchair Users with Rome and Italy – Part One

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 died 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
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Villa of the Quintilii
  • Villa Adriana (in Tivoli, close to Rome)
  • Pompeii
  • Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
  • Appian Way (opted out of a tour guide for this one), and
  • Castel Sant’Angelo

Continue reading

Hotel Artemide – A Wheelchair Accessible Hotel in Rome

Let me start by saying this hotel is just fantastic. I was a little worried at first that I might encounter some physical barriers when I reached the hotel, but that wasn’t the case at all; everything was nearly perfect. I stayed at Hotel Artemide for seventeen nights; a long stay, but well worth it. The hotel is in a great location on Via Nazionale and is in within walking/rolling distance of a lot of big attractions. Nearby is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baths of Diocletian, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the National Roman Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme), the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, and lots of shops and restaurants.

I’ll begin by describing the wheelchair accessible facilities of this hotel; starting with the entrance, the elevators, the rooftop restaurant: Ambrosia, the room itself, and the welcoming staff. There is a spa in the hotel, but because I didn’t use it I am not sure if it is accessible.

The Entrance

When I was searching for pictures of the front entrance of the hotel it looked as if the street and entrance blended into each other seamlessly; however, when I reached the hotel I noticed that there was a small lip, maybe about an inch or so high.

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My wheelchair managed to climb it easily enough, once I had the front wheels on, I just slightly reversed and accelerated a little and I was in business.

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Elevators

Many elevators that I encountered in Italy are on the smaller side compared to Canada; and that also is true for this hotel. However, my chair did fit in both of their elevators. They have a third elevator, but that one is probably an original from the time when the hotel was built in the late 19th century. It is still in good working order, and is pretty neat, but is far too narrow for the width of my chair.

First, so you can determine if your wheelchair will fit, I’ll give you the measurements of my wheelchair. The width from the back wheels is 25.5 inches. My tray and driving stick protrude out a bit farther than the wheels, increasing the width to 29.5 inches. The length, including the foot rests is 43 inches.

My wheelchair did fit in the door of the main elevator, but with little room to spare.

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The inside of the elevator is slightly larger and once I was in two of my friends could squeeze in, but it was close quarters.

The other elevator leads up to their rooftop restaurant, Ambrosia. That elevator is the same in width, but a bit shorter in length. I had about 1 inch to spare. If your wheelchair is longer and you really want to go check out Ambrosia you could always, if possible, take off your foot plates and that will give you an extra couple inches. It is really nice up there.

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And so is the view.

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There is a large step to gain access to the rooftop patio of Ambrosia, but when we asked if they had a ramp of some sort, they were quick to find it and lay it out for me. It remained there for the duration of my stay, which was nice.

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The Wheelchair Accessible Room

When I made the booking I requested a room with a roll-in shower and Hotel Artemide delivered. I also made some unusual requests of them. One was that if I could bring in a rented hospital bed (from www.specialneedsitalia.com) because I was worried that the legs of the lift that I also rented (from www.romeanditaly.com) would not pass through under the bed. Lots of hotel beds have a solid base which makes this impossible, unless they can rig the bed up on some strong support blocks made of wood or something, but that almost seems more complicated. The lift came with a sling, but I brought my own and used it in the room and used theirs for the tours.

Once we arrived at the hotel after the delay at the airport (Wheelchair Accessibility at Fiumicino Airport in Rome) we had to wait a short while for the room to finish being set up, but as soon as it was, everything was perfectly arranged. The hospital bed was there, fitted with the hotels bedding, the lift was parked by the bed, and the shower chair was ready to go in the bathroom. In order to get the bed to fit, the staff removed one of their beds and replaced it with the rented one.

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The sink was plenty high enough for me to drive under.

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The room has a second bathroom featuring a bathtub, which is good for the person that you’ll be sharing your room with.

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The room was large enough for me to move around comfortably without worrying about bumping into furniture. I had no trouble passing through the door of the room because it is a couple inches wider than that of the elevator.

The Hotel Staff

All of the staff at this hotel are excellent and they will do their best to make your stay perfect. On your behalf they can book tours, arrange transportation, and probably more if you ask.

Breakfast is complimentary and they have a large selection of yummy food to choose from. They even gave me a delicious fruit cake on my birthday.

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I really loved staying here, especially after a hot day of touring around. It was nice to come back and relax for a little while and then go exploring again.

Stick around for my next post about all the tours I went on with the company Rome and Italy.

Wheelchair Accessibility at Fiumicino Airport in Rome

I’ve always wondered, if it happened, how I would get off one of those planes that doesn’t line up next to the bridge of the airport and only has stairs leading down to the Tarmac. Landing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, I found out how it was done. I’m not sure exactly what it’s called, but there was this large box-like vehicle that drove right up to the plane and the airport staff wheeled me into it using one of their narrow aisle wheelchairs, transferred me to my wheelchair, and then it drove a short distance, lowered to the ground, and I was immediately ushered into an accessible van, and led to the airport’s entrance.

I flew with Air Canada and I should note that they did not use a slider sheet or a lift to transfer me from the airplane seat to the narrower chair that fits through the aisles, but instead one person lifted me under the arms and the other under the legs, which is always a bit awkward but it works.

The staff at Fiumicino, part of the ADR Assistance team, are really great. When I arrived in Rome, two people helped me from the point of getting off the plane up to finding my waiting ride, at no extra cost. Upon leaving Rome, ADR staff helped me again from check-in to boarding the plane.

While I was in that box-like vehicle (if you know what it’s called, let me know) I noticed that one of my foot pedals had become bent out of shape; at first, I thought it could be righted with a little effort, but no, it was really twisted. I should have taken them off and brought them aboard with me like I was thinking, but in the end I thought, no, they’re really sturdy, they’ll be fine. I’ve learned my lesson. Nothing else at the time was damaged because I lowered the armrests to their base, removed the driving stick and tilt switch, and seat cushion. One broken foot pedal was an inconvenience, but not the worst thing that could have happened.

Once we were inside the airport, the two ADR staff showed me and my travelling companions where to get our luggage and then led us to baggage services where I made a claim for the damage on my chair which took about an hour. Later, I was put in contact with a company called Scoot Around who then tried to find another company to repair the damages, but unfortunately, they could not find a company in Italy that deals with Quickie wheelchairs. So, I relied on the one good foot pedal for the duration of my trip.

On the return flight, I had to go to baggage services again because a bit more damage was done to my chair. I don’t get too nonplussed about these things because after flying enough times my expectations are rather low with regards to how my chair will be handled (it is very heavy, so there’s that) and in my experience, most airlines are prepared to pay for any damage and will try to send someone to fix it during your holiday if they can.

That about sums up my experiences at the airport this time around. My next post will discuss the awesome hotel that I stayed at in Rome.