Italy trip with mobility issuses?
September 20, 2022 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I would like to take my elderly parents to Italy in October (either Florence or Rome.). How can I make this fun for us all?

My parents really want to go to Italy. They are both elderly and one has pretty significant mobility issues (early stage Parkinsons). Not wheelchair bound but sometimes a cane.

I would go with them. But as I remember Italy, it is a lot of walking! They would be very happy with a slow schedule. They have money to stay somewhere super nice in a very good location. They can also throw money at some at the problems they might face (i.e., get cabs, pay for not waiting in line, etc.). That said, they do not have overly fancy or niche tastes.

Any suggestions for this? Would Florence or Rome be better? (I'm tipping towards Rome as my mother would like to see the Vatican -- but, then again, mobility issues? And Florence's beauty is more compact.).

Also there's Covid, of course, but not sure what to do about that, though I know Italy is better at masking than most of Europe. They would mask.

Any advice is much appreciated, esp. as we are thinking about this at the last minute! I do really feel that if we don't go now, we will miss the window for them to do this trip.
posted by heavenknows to Travel & Transportation around Italy (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just a thought, Siena is even more compact than Florence and rather similar.

The Vatican's most famous parts are equipped for accessibility.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 7:25 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

I'd go with Rome and stay somewhat central and near to a cab stand. Cabs can get you everywhere in Rome so you can save the steps for looking around your destination. The cobblestones can be tricky to walk on, but the areas with the most popular attractions mostly have regular sidewalks, too.

Oh, and wherever you go in Italy, you should street view to ensure a cab can get you to the door of your accommodations. Also check that the hotel or place has an elevator and doesn't require stairs to the room. I once stayed in a hotel where, although there was an elevator for general use, the room my parents were given inexplicably had the bathroom down a steep flight of stairs in the room.
posted by miscbuff at 7:57 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]

I found that in Rome, the FreeNow app made taxi trips very easy, even when there were no cabs nearby and even for those of us who don't speak Italian. (It's not a separate system like Uber but calls standard taxis and lets you enter the destination.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:59 AM on September 20

I went to Rome with my mom, who has MS, and it was fine. At the time she needed to use a cane to get around. Granted, this was 20 years ago, but it was very easy to get a cab and I don't remember her having too much trouble accessing any of the major points of interest in the city.
posted by cakelite at 8:01 AM on September 20

There are tour operators that offer accessible options that are designed for people with mobility or other considerations.

I am not familiar with ones that focus on Italy, hut a search for "accessible tours Italy" turned up several. Here's one.
posted by brookeb at 8:22 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

We were looking into details for taking my in-laws to Lisbon, which is very much not a great place for people with mobility issues. I second the recommendation to check all details of your accommodations to make sure that your parents do not need to go up and down stairs. Especially quaint and beautiful historic European hotels may have either no elevator or rooms that aren't accessible from the elevator.

Though my in-laws ended up not joining us, I searched for and found car services that allow you to book a car and driver for anywhere from one day to a full week. The driver is also a registered tour-guide. Your parents could be picked up at their hotel, taken to all the attractions at their own pace, have a guide for many of the attractions (I'm sure some do not allow outside guides), and have a person who is always looking out for them. The prices were not at all unreasonable, 100-150 euros per day. Might be worth looking into something like this.
posted by dellsolace at 8:28 AM on September 20

I found that in Rome, the FreeNow app made taxi trips very easy, even when there were no cabs nearby and even for those of us who don't speak Italian. (It's not a separate system like Uber but calls standard taxis and lets you enter the destination.)

FreeNow is if Uber could also call cabs/taxis if there were no Ubers around so it has the cheaper Uber style pricing plus taxis, I really recommend it if you are travelling to Europe.
posted by ellieBOA at 8:31 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

This is an issue my parents have had to navigate (not specifically Italy, but Portugal). The plane let them check this at no extra cost - worth checking.

Many museums have wheelchairs for patrons - also worth checking. My parents recently purchased an ultra light mobility chair - it requires someone to push it for it to work. I know you say your one parent isn't wheelchair bound, which describes my dad as well, but he still benefits greatly from having the option to sit. People also give him more space and patience when he's sitting in the chair, which sometimes he needs.
posted by coffeecat at 8:36 AM on September 20

A few years ago, maybe 4, before Covid, my friend E went to Italy from the US with her four daughters. E was maybe 94 at the time. Even though she was not then, and at 98 is still not, in a wheelchair, they brought one along for her, a light portable one, and used it a lot. It made the trip much more enjoyable for everyone, they could take turns pushing her, she got to see more than she would have been able to if she'd been walking. Is there any chance at least one other younger family member would like to go along too? My friend's daughters are super fit which helped. (If you're not super fit, time to work on it!)

One part of the trip they all enjoyed immensely was a cruise on the Adriatic. I wonder if there's something similar on the Mediterranean side that would allow your parents to see more of Italy, one with a side trip to Rome, maybe.
posted by mareli at 11:06 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

I've travelled a couple of times with a family member who has mobility issues. It can vary a lot from person to person, different people have different needs and preferences.

One thing I'll add is: consider how hilly the places are that you want to go to. My travelling companion and I have decided in advance that for future trips, we'll go to relatively flat places. San Francisco and Quebec City, for example, are out. I've been to Lisbon and yes, my travel pal would be fairly miserable there, too.

I'll also add that, generally, when dealing with hotels, you have to be friendly but very clear and firm. We worked with one hotel where the person helping us with the booking seemed very enthusiastic and engaged about dealing with our requests......then gave us a bathroom with no grab bars.

We did some research on Rome a couple of years ago -- if there are still golf cart tours available, that might be an interesting option. We considered it.
posted by gimonca at 2:39 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]

I went to Rome with my mother a few years ago, who does not require mobility aids yet, but does benefit from a gentle pace. Things I noticed that haven't been covered are 1) that some of the sidewalks would've been a bit challenging if she needed a mobility aid (mostly due to being both narrow and busy - some of this could've been mitigated to some extent by avoiding rush hour and popular meal times), and 2) a point that you may have in mind already but I didn't - tight transfers at the airport. The single biggest point of mobility stress was that we ended up with a close transfer on our way home, which would've been easier on us both if we'd requested a wheelchair for my mother in advance - we managed, but we had priority access due to being in economy plus and I carried all our bags so Mom could walk faster.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:55 PM on September 20

This is definitely a situation where money is a big help. Arranging a private Vatican tour ahead of time means just breezing by security rather than having to wait hours in line.

A golf cart tour was also really good for my mobility challenged family when we visited Rome! Got to see lots of neat places up close that would have been difficult to walk around in for us.

Arranging private tours and/or getting a driver/tour guide will make a Rome trip go super smoothly even with mobility issues. Also highly recommend a day trip to the Amalfi Coast if you're already staying in Rome. Absolutely beautiful drive even if you only stop to walk around for a little bit. :)
posted by CarolynG at 6:07 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]

One further bit on requesting assistance at the airport--we found several times that requesting a wheelchair in advance of arriving at the airport did not necessarily mean that there was a dedicated person, chair or vehicle reserved and waiting for us. It seemed like more a general way for the airline to gauge overall demand from day to day. We still had to wait in line for a person to show up and carry us. Our schedules were set up so that we didn't have to deal with same-day transfers; these experience were on arrival at the airport for the first flight. We showed up with lots of extra time, which reduced the stress level for us.
posted by gimonca at 2:53 AM on September 21

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