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