Rome is a city known for its unique historic remnants of a once very powerful empire. One of my all-time favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn starred in a film, Roman Holiday that instilled a desire in me to see this city for myself.
Carlina and I arrived in the night at the Termini center and caught a bus through town that would hopefully to help us get to our hotel near the Vatican (we weren't sure because we don't speak Italian and the bus driver didn't really speak English!). It was so cool to drive through the city as it looked like a place where modern buildings were embellished with beautiful statues and historic structures. I remembering thing, "Is this real?"
When we arrived at the Vatican, we found cabs waiting, so we went up to one that looked wheelchair accessible because it was larger. However, there is a cab line system so we had to take the one at the very front of the line. The drivers weren't really nice about it, even though I had a special need. It was a little shady thing with this cab we took. I think we were charged more because of my wheelchair, but I guess it was a small price to easily get to the hotel, although I think he went a long roundabout way to increase the pay. We figured out the next day that it was a much shorter walk to the Vatican than the length of time he took to get us to the hotel. Lame. But it's OK, he must have really needed the money (that's what we kept telling ourselves). We reserved tickets to the Vatican for our second day there, so we explored other places first.
Carlina and I mapped out our days with lots of historical sites on a map that came with the Roma Pass (€30 per pass), which we heard about beforehand. We got it from a local shop (they sell them everywhere). It allows us to use the public transport-metro (B line is accessible but with limited stops) and bus systems for two days. I learned after that those with mobile disabilities can get one free of charge, although there are limited buses with disabled stickers on them (my wheelchair couldn’t fit through the doors of the bus, not convenient at all, but someone with some mobility and a fold up hospital chair would be just fine on the buses). I personally would not get the Roma pass again because it didn't quite suit my needs.
My favorite spots to visit were the Forum and the Colosseum, which are right across from each. As I wheeled through the ruins of the Forum. This was not the most comfortable stroll because of old broken paths, and I needed lots of help, but heck, we're in Rome! My companion and I got in for free (the theme in Europe is if the price is discounted, most likely it's not accessible). I was wonderstruck by the fact that the great emperor, Julius Caesar walked these grounds. The story behind the construction of the whole metropolis and the power struggle over the empire were real life dramas.
There was much to see in the Vatican: beautiful sculptures, intricate woodcuts along the walls, cabinets used by popes, jewels, paintings all over the ceilings, rugs of biblical stories, etc. I was super excited to see the Sistine chapel, but didn’t expect to be stuck in a jam-packed mosh pit. This made my experience a little more hectic and I found myself rushing through the paintings on the ceiling, afraid I would to tired to enjoy the Sistine Chapel if I waited until the end. Go in with a game plan of how to tackle this massive, digitally stimulating place. My eyes were so tired by the end. Expect to spend many hours, maybe a full day there. It was difficult to get through massive crowd there, so just expect to go a little slower than usual. There were steps to get down to Sistine chapel, so we were led by an attendant to a lift (ask for "ascensore") that is connected to the siderails of the stairs and guards had to temporarily block off the narrow pathway so we could get through. They were a big help. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the beautiful artwork although my eyes were exhausted by the end. I was also glad for the lifts and ramps! It was SO worth it!
Here are some places that are fairly wheelchair friendly:
Delicious lasagna and gelato made Rome just that much more memorable. I had a great time and thanks to the help of Carlina, this was possible. Glad I came, I saw, I conquered Rome in a wheelchair.