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Accessible Venice

How to enjoy Venice, Italy with a wheelchair, walker, crutches, or cane.


Also see:

wheelchair ramp on venice bridge

ABOVE: Venice's waterfront promenades sometimes--but only sometimes--have wooden ramps on their bridges.

Disabled travelers are frequently intimidated by Venice. The city was built long before "equal access" became part of the architect's vocabulary, and the city is dotted with hundreds of bridges that require climbing and descending steps.

It's no wonder that many physically disabled tourists are tempted to skip Venice when traveling through Europe. And that's a shame, because it's certainly possible to enjoy Venice with a wheelchair, walker, or crutches if you know what to expect and plan your touring strategy accordingly.


Step 1: Start by picking a hotel location.

When choosing a hotel, remember that accessible features such as ramps, wheelchair-friendly bathrooms, etc. are only half the battle. In Venice, getting to and from the hotel is just as important.

Water taxis aren't accessible (except for those from Sanitrans), and Alilaguna airport boats can be tricky to board or disembark at some locations. We think you're better off staying in a location that's easy to reach by airport bus, land taxi, or the People Mover from the Tronchetto parking garage.

Here are two hotels that deserve special attention:


Hotel Santa Chiara (wheelchair-accessible hotel in Venice, Italy)

Hotel Santa Chiara is on the Piazzale Roma, near airport buses, land taxis, and the People Mover to the Marittima cruise terminals and the Tronchetto parking garage

Just around the corner are the ACTV Piazzale Roma waterbus platforms, where you can catch the No. 1 vaporetto up the Grand Canal to the Piazza San Marco and beyond. For photos, reviews, and rates, click below:

Booking.com


AC Hotel Venezia by Marriott

AC Hotel Venezia by Marriott is our alternative choice on the Piazzale Roma. The 79-room hotel isn't quite as close to land taxis or the ACTV Piazzale Roma stop as the Hotel Santa Chiara is, but it's even closer to ATVO airport buses and the People Mover.

The AC Hotel Venezia is comfortable and modern, with reasonable rates, and a bar-restaurant is in the lobby. Read our illustrated review, or click below for hotel details:

Booking.com



For more hotel options (which may be convenient for sightseeing, but not necessarily for reaching by public transportation), see our Accessible Venice Hotels article.

If you're able to walk, but not for long distances, our "How Many Bridges to Cross?" Hotel Listings will be helpful.


Step 2: Learn what to expect during your visit.

BELOW: This mini-map (taken from an old official map) shows wheelchair-accessible routes in the city center. The areas marked in yellow are barrier-free.

venice map photo

  • The Azienda di Promozione Turistica, a.k.a. the Venice Tourist Office, publishes free maps and brocures for disabled travelers. You'll find branch offices beneath the arches at the western (enclosed) end of the Piazza San Marco, at the Venice railway station, in the arrivals hall at Marco Polo Airport, and at various seasonal locations around town.

  • A few bridges, such as the Ponte delle Guglie (see photo below), have special half-height stairs that can be negotiated in wheelchairs. A sign warns that a companion is required--and after watching porters struggle with delivery carts on the bridges, we'd be inclined to second that precaution.

  • Accessible Venice decalA number of years ago, the Venice city government announced a plan to install wheelchair ramps on 80 bridges in the historic center. Delivery on the original plan has been spotty, but the situation today is much better than it was 10 or 15 years ago when many of the ramps were taken down each year after the Venice Marathon.

  • The not infrequent acqua alta or "high water" between late October and early spring is another thing to consider. When high tides and winds in the Adriatic push water into the Venice Lagoon, the result is flooding of St. Mark's Square and other low-lying areas. Pedestrians can don rubber boots or step onto temporary wooden walkways, but if you're in a wheelchair, you could be stuck in your hotel for a few hours until the tide goes down.

BELOW: Ponte delle Guglie bridge. The steps on the right are half-height with rounded edges for easier negotiation by wheelchair travelers with companions.

Ponte delle Guglie photo


Step 3: Buy a supply of "disabled tickets" for water buses.

Passengers with wheelchairs can buy single-fare "disabled tickets" at heavily-discounted rates from ACTV ticket booths and Hellovenezia offices. Each ticket is valid for 75 minutes, and a companion travels free.

Once you have a pass or a supply of tickets, you'll be able to get between the city's various "accessibility zones" on the map by using the water buses. (The city claims that about 70 per cent of the streets in the historic center are accessible by vaporetto.)

This strategy works especially well on the Grand Canal, the Giudecca Canal, and the Lido, where the No. 1 and No. 2 routes are wheelchair-accessible.

vaporetto photoThe No. 1 vaporetto is the most useful, since it zigzags from one side of the Grand Canal to the other on its 20-stop journey from the Piazzale Roma to the Lido. As the photo shows, this water bus can be crowded during the tourist season, but the conductor will usually clear a path for you, and the crew will help you on or off the boat quickly and without fuss.

Tip:

  • About two-thirds of the vaporetto lines are fully wheelchair-accessible; a few are not, although wheelchair-accessible boats are being introduced on the circolare lines that use split-level motoscafo boats. Fully-accessible lines are marked in our illustrated article on Vaporetto routes. Also see the Accessible Mobility page at Venice's ACTV transit-agency Web site, which has advice on specific routes (and also on accessible parking).


Step 4: When in doubt, call ahead.

Most churches are accessible once you get inside. The tricky part may be in getting up the steps, but this can be managed if you have a strong companion or aren't shy about bumming a lift from athletic tourists or locals.

Other buildings, such as museums, may vary in accessibility. The most impressive rooms in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, for example, require climbing a long flight of marble stairs--unless you use the special wheelchair with motorized rubber treads, which lets you assault the staircase like an army tank. Your best bet is to phone before you go, so you can make other plans if the building requires a sturdy set of lungs and legs.


More online information:

The City of Venice currently offers an accessibility map in PDF format. You can also pick up a printed Accessible Venice kit in Venice or Mestre.

Sage Traveling, a site that provides information on disability travel in 40+ European cities, has a useful "Wheelchair Accessibility on Venice's Vaporetto" page with photos.

Don't miss Jon Read's Wheelchair Travel Tips for Venice, which he shared with us by e-mail in  a number of years ago (and which is archived in our Venice Travel Blog).

We can also recommend two blog posts:

Please note that information in guidebooks or on Web sites isn't always up to date. (For example, many guidebooks and sites still mention bridge lifts that are no longer in service.)


Agencies that specialize in accessible travel:

Rebekah Serin of Regency San Marino SRL's Accessible Italy department writes:

"I am originally from New York and now live and work in Florence, Italy. I am with the specialized tour operator Regency San Marino SRL. We arrange group and individual travel in Italy for individuals with disabilities. We also can organize personalized itineraries for individuals, depending on their interests.

"We work with accessible coach buses, minibuses with tie-downs, and hotels with roll-in showers. We also visit accessible museums and restaurants and offer rentals of wheelchairs, electric scooters, and portable suitcase ramps. Your readers are welcome to visit our Web site and contact me for further information about our services."

Contact information:

Rebekah Serin
Manager, Accessible Italy
Regency San Marino SRL
Tel: From US: 011-378-0549-941108 or from Europe: 00-378-941108
Fax: From US: 011-378-0549-941110 or from Europe: 00-378-941110
Web site: www.accessibleitaly.com
E-mail: [email protected]

A company with a similar name, AccessibleItaly.IT, offers guided tours and services such as transportion in accessible vans, rentals of self-drive cars for disabled travelers, wheelchair and scooter hire, help in obtaining dialysis or oxygen, etc.