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Wheelchair travel tips for Venice

Wheelchair user on the Zattere in Venice

ABOVE: The Zattere, a waterfront promenade along the Giudecca Canal in Dorsoduro, is more wheelchair-friendly than many parts of Venice (especially if you're visiting in late fall or early winter, when temporary bridge ramps from October's Venice Marathon may still be in place).

Venice isn't the most wheelchair-friendly city in Italy, thanks to more than 400 historically-protected footbridges (most with steps) that weren't designed with wheeled traffic in mind. Still, it is possible to enjoy Venice in a wheelchair, and we offer two pages of advice and online resources for disabled travelers in our "Accessible Venice" article at Venice for Visitors.

Recently, we got an e-mail about Venetian disability travel from Jon Read of the United Kingdom, who had just spent a long weekend in the city with his wife Carole (who uses a wheelchair). Here's what Jon had to say about getting around Venice while seated:

1. Forget [water] taxis -- no go for wheelchairs. [Water] buses are brilliant though, reduced fare for wheelchairs, currently €1.20.

2. Contact the hotel in advance and ask the best route from Piazzale Roma, or whichever arrival point you have. We went round to San Marco Zaccaria and found we had to cross three bridges to get to the hotel. Admittedly two had ramps, but the other would have been impassable had it not been for hotel porters lifting my wife in her chair over the bridge.

3. The Venetians are all helpful and polite. We encountered no end of help from the locals, from bus conductors to other travellers. The rest of the world has a lot to learn!

4. The German company that had the contract to maintain the bridge lifts has terminated the contract, hence the bridge lifts don't work. Make sure you have a map and use the buses and you can travel pretty much anywhere. Murano particularly is very pleasant by wheel!

5. Entry to most museums is free for wheelchair users, but that is for a reason. Few have lifts and all have stairs. We were welcome on the ground floor, but otherwise impossible.

6. Basilica San Marco is just accessible, but not the Golden Altar Piece or the treasure. 

We appreciate Jon Read's contribution, and we've linked to this post (and these tips) from our "Accessible Venice" article.


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Sharon Goldstein

We are going to Venice in mid SEptember. I do not use a wheelchair but I do use a three wheeled walker. Is that going to be a help to me or a hinderance? I can use a cane, but it is not as comofrtable.

Durant and Cheryl Imboden

Ms. Goldstein: The walker should be fine on level ground. Venice's paving stones are flat and smooth, unlike the rounded or bumpy cobblestones in some European cities.

However, you'll need to carry the walker up and down the steps of bridges. Most bridges aren't too high, but some (such as the Rialto Bridge and the Accademia Bridge) have quite a few steps.

My off-the-cuff recommendation (from someone who has no personal experience with walkers or canes): Take the walker if you have a companion who can lug it up and down bridges for you. (All public bridges have handrails or balustrades, so you'll have something to grasp or lean on when your companion is carrying the walker.)

Helen Duffield

Very disappointed to discover,on arrival in Venice,that the bridge ramps on the Riva de schiavoni have been removed this year. I have very limited mobility, and found myself trapped with one bridge to get to a vaparetto stop in one direction, two in the other direction, and three to reach via Garibaldi for a range of shops. Having spent many hours and several hundred pounds on creating our Carnevale costumes, frustrated my not being able to get to San Marco, or most other parading areas.

I am one of a party of up to 13 people who will not be going again!!

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