Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

Rome, Italy April 2012


The Airline and the Airport

At Gatwick North all was well, except for security which had a 15 minute queue; they mix the disabled, elderly and families together. British Airways allows disabled passengers to board first and my communicator guide and I boarded the plane through a tunnel.

Disabled passengers can allocate their own seats beforehand free of charge so my communicator guide and I had adjoining seats. I was a little bit disappointed as I had enquired with British Airways that I was hearing and visually impaired, but on my ticket it stated that I was deaf and not visually impaired. The airline had no alternative formats, like large print material.

At Rome Fiumicino Airport, it is flat, spacious and when there is an escalator you will find a lift nearby. A shuttle was provided to get from the terminal to baggage claim which is accessible for wheelchair users. There are disabled toilets, but they are located in the main areas.

At the Apartment

I booked the apartment through Friendly Rentals, whom I stayed with in Barcelona. The apartment is not accessible for wheelchairs as there are three steps down when entering the block. There is a lift which goes to all four floors.

Getting Around

Getting around Rome for disabled people is one of the biggest challenges. Pavements are worn out, too narrow, or either cobbled. We were walking on the road half the time. Also parking in the Italian capital is horrendous, at numerous occasions I saw cars blocking zebra crossings and a few parked on the pavement. This is an issue for disabled travellers as they may find it tricky to get around them.

The city has a small two line metro system, A and B. However, only a limited amount of stations are accessible for wheelchair users. Bologna Station where the apartment was, is step free with a lift down to the platform via the ticket area. The biggest challenge here is to spot the surface lift which is very well hidden, no signage leading to it. On the trains, there is lack of awareness; people rarely offered me a seat which was rather frustrating.

Line A has 11 out of 27 stations with disabled access, however Line B had none highlighted. Two out of three Line B stations that I used were accessible including Bologna and the Colosseo. The Colosseo Station had a stair lift where a wheelchair user would have to call for assistance to activate the stair lift.

Some buses in the city are accessible. The number 80 bus has an adapted ramp to allow a wheelchair user to board with a designated area. The downside of relying on buses in Rome is that all are not easily accessible and at most bus stops there is no timetable with lack of seating areas. We were generally waiting for buses for more than fifteen minutes!

Trams are not quite accessible even though there are no steps to enter, it is the gap when you are getting on or off that's the issue.


The Vatican Museums offer concessions for the disabled where my communicator guide and I got in free. This attraction is mostly flat with lifts and ramps in place and the disabled toilets are located inside the mains. However, there is six miles of walking which can be very tiring with hardly any rest areas. The lifts are operated by security guards to stop overuse.

The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museum, which was a long walk to get to. We had to enter by taking the exit and there were lots of people coming in the opposite direction, and only a few of them had the awareness and made space for us to pass. In the Chapel, it was too crowded and to see it for just ten minutes and then to head back the way we came, was just too tiring.

At St Peters Basilica, it is free for all, and there was a queue skip for the disabled. This attraction had ramps and lift access throughout; I didn't climb a single step. However, there is a lift to the top and then another 330 steps to the top of the dome. Even I didn't want to do this as it would have been too much for me. Also, the Basilica is not as crowded as the Sistine Chapel.

The Trevi Fountain is free to all, but to get as close as possible there are four to six steps down with no handrail. As it was quite busy, a man helped me down the steps which was the only person to actually assist me.

Access to the top of the Spanish Steps is rather strange. There is a lift that can take you up, but afterwards there is another flight of steps.

The Colosseum provides a quick queue skip with concessions for the disabled where we both got in free of charge. Due to the age of this attraction, I was very surprised to see that there was a lift for disabled people. This attraction can be slightly uneven at times, but is generally flat.


The Roman Forum has concessions where we both got in free of charge. This site is very cobbled and can be extremely difficult for mobility. Funnily enough, this attraction provides a disabled toilet, but to get there the huge cobbles have to be conquered first. The Curea is a museum of the Forum; however, the access here is poor as there are five to seven steps to enter.

St Clements Church is not accessible for wheelchair users with three to five steps to enter. There were concessions provided to see the underground section, which is fifty steps down to see two different floors. It is very dimly lit and quite uneven.

The Roman baths had concessions where we both got free admission. The area is generally flat, with some cobbles and quite grainy. An audio guide was provided, but due to my hearing impairment, it was not necessary.

St Augustines Church is not accessible for wheelchair users as there are seventeen steps to enter. Inside the lighting is suitable for the visually impaired.

The Pantheon is accessible and free to all. There is a side ramp that takes you up one step and upon entering there is a small one inch step down. Inside the natural light plays a big part on this attraction so the best time to visit is on a sunny day.


Eating Out

Generally, restaurants can be difficult for disabled people. Most have steps to enter with little space for mobility and I did not notice any restaurants with a disabled toilet.


Everywhere in Rome there are cafes catering for the great Italian coffee. However, like restaurants they are not easily accessible. There was one café in particular which has a flat entrance with the best and cheapest coffee in the city.