Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, yeah we’re coming to a town
And you’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
If ya ever navigated on the Erie Canal
My travel friends Ingrid & Olivier just went to Venezia (Nov. 2016). Since this is not exactly an obvious city to visit with a wheelchair, I asked if they could do a guest blog.
Eh, voilà – here it is:
Venezia is flat. There are no cars, scooters or bikes. All paths have big stone tiles, that are easy to wheel on. Not like a kitchen floor, but easier as the tiles outside Oslo Town Hall.
Venezia has many big and small canals which divides the islands into smaller areas. Bridges over the canals binds the areas together. Most bridges have stairs/steps. There are no fixed dimensions on the stairs, but most have steps on average 15 cm height and around 40cm length. There are ramps for all the bridges along Canale di San Marco from Piazza San Marco to Giardini Binnale.
For moving from one area to another without using bridges, you can use a boat. There are numerous stops for boats (public transport) and I believe all areas has their own stop. The Vaporettos as the public transport boats are all accessible with a manual wheelchair. So are the stops. Dependent on the height of the water, there can be a hight distance to the boat, but there are always ramps and staff who can assist you. Be aware that most stops have more than one pier (different lines and directions) and some places I saw that the piers for the same stop was on different sides of the canal/bridge. This was not visible on the route map, and I could not find a more detailed map which gave you the full overview. If you end up in the wrong place, it is good to know that all routes in all directions stop at San Marco, where it is easy to change pier. San Marco also have a ticket booth with English speaking personell. Ticket price is 1,5 euro for wheelchair user + assistant and is valid for 75 minutes.
“The airport boat” Alilaguna is also accessible with a manual wheelchair. You have to sit on the deck with the captain and the luggage, and they write on their pages that they can only fit one wheelchair at the time.
Most shops, restaurants and Osterias (wine bars) have one step of around 15-20 cm to enter. In the winter season there are few outdoor restaurants available.
If you first get in somewhere, there are surprisingly many places that has a spacious WC. On our second day all three restaurants/bars we visited had a disabled friendly toilet. On one of the winebars we visited (that also served food), it turned out they had a ramp at the back entrance.
The St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica San Marco) and all other churches/buildings we visited had at least one step to get inside. Often followed by another step down.
We stayed in the Best Western Montecarlo a few hundred meters from the St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica San Marco). On Booking.com it said in the description that the hotel was “disabled friendly”. When I booked, I had written that I had a manual wheelchair and I had asked for a “wheelchair friendly” room. This was what we got: A 15 cm step to enter the hotel, a super small T-shaped elevator, where I could just fit when I backed in and turned 90 degrees, a bathroom door with 2 cm clearance for my wheelchair (ca 55cm). I managed because I have a small/short wheelchair and because I traveled with my non-disabled boyfriend, who could assist me.
I was very happy to stay close to the St. Mark’s Basilica. Within the canal area, we had a relatively large area without the need to cross any canals. It also turned out that the bridges along the main canal had ramps. The San Marco area has in addition a lot of tourist trap restaurants, but also some good restaurants and wine bars. San Marco is the main hub for transportation and they have a tourist office, who is very helpful in guiding you to wheelchair accessible routes for sightseeing.
November is definitely low season. In spite of this, there were many tourists everywhere, but no long queues or stress. I can vividly imagine that high season can be troublesome.
If you are not bothered by one step to get in places, Venezia is a possible destination with a manual wheelchair. Choose the area to live in mainly according to what you want to do and what kind of transportation opportunities you want.
It is not necessarily impossible to travel with an electrical wheelchair, but it takes thorough investigation and planning ahead. I would also consider to bring a foldable ramp to enter the Marcus church and other sights.
Have a nice trip!
I & O