Gardens of the Vatican<br> Photo by: Leonardo Barbosa (Stock Exchange)

Gardens of the Vatican
Photo by: Leonardo Barbosa (Stock Exchange)

Buongiorno! Wrapping up our grand tour of Italy at Disabled Travelers, today we’re going to visit Vatican City! The Vatican is the home of the Catholic Church and is located in the heart of Rome. Barely over 100 acres, it is an independent city-state ruled by the Bishop of Rome – the Pope. Though it’s a small place, its many legendary religious sites mean that it usually requires a few days to “take in”, just like Rome itself. That’s why we’re giving it a special entry in our ongoing Italy access guide.

St. Peter’s Basilica is the site of the Christmas Eve midnight mass, one of the most important rites on the calendar. Though portions of the Basilica date back as far as the 1500s, it is remarkably accessible. The independent website offers detailed information on access to the Basilica along with other disabled travel resources, including contact info for wheelchair taxis. Wheelchairs rented in Rome can also be used in the Vatican: check out my earlier Rome post for info. For a strong overview of how to maximize your time in the city, look at this article from TripAdvisor. Slow Travel has one more great travelogue to share with us, this one from Vatican, which has a lot of firsthand, insider information not offered anywhere else.

The Museums of the Vatican have a collective website that also includes a mobility impaired access page. The site also provides a map of the recommended tour route for visitors requiring a wheelchair accessible experience. For those visiting the Museums, wheelchairs are provided free of charge and may be rented on the day of the visit by calling ahead or visiting the “special permits” desk in the entrance hall. For visits to the Lateran Apostolic Palace, call-aheads are required a day in advance. Unfortunately, the Papal Gardens are not accessible.

For coin and stamp collectors, take heart that the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office, which issues special commemorative coins and stamps, is located on accessible grounds near the entrance hall and post office of the Museums and has an English language website. The central Vatican City State website has a monuments page you can use to find out more about the various important sites around the city.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are many tour operators who work in and around the Vatican, sometimes exclusively, sometimes in conjunction with larger Italian itineraries. Nancy Aiello Tours has tours in Rome, Florence, Venice, and “skip the line” wheelchair accessible tours of Vatican attractions. My Vatican Tours offers private tours with wheelchair access but does not welcome wheeled guests on group tours, sadly. Another option is Vatican Tours Online. If you plan to set things up yourself, TickitItaly is useful for booking your museum and attraction tickets.

For handicapped travelers, a good thing to know is that the Vatican does not require wheelchair users or mature visitors to wait in line – they are simply moved ahead as quickly as possible. However, some places will require wheeled guests to use alternative passageways, which is one reason it is relatively hard to get into a Vatican group tour as a disabled traveler. Also be aware that, unless standards have changed recently, each wheelchair user may not be accompanied by more than two people.

Well, that about wraps it up for the Disabled Travelers tour of Italy. Now, granted, there are other terrific sites in the country that we haven’t checked on specifically – Sicily, Piedmont, and many more. But the general resources provided in the earlier posts will go a long way toward setting up a great accessible holiday in these areas. And I’ll be back with an update if there are any noteworthy changes or new discoveries!

Until next time, adventure on!


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Comment by Rollsquare

Posted on May 2nd, 2011

Thanx for your guide. I’d like to add to your helpful list, because it show an accessibility map of Rome. People can directly add accessible venues, accomodations, toilets, restaurants and then locate them using the mobile app.

Comment by Si

Posted on May 20th, 2011

Thanks, Rollsquare! I’ll be mentioning this terrific resource in a future post.


Comment by nancy cusack

Posted on December 27th, 2011

I am looking into touring tuscany with my son, who can walk but uses a travel chair for long distances. I tried Gate one travel and was told that they do not accomodate people with wheel chairs. What tour companies do????