Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Florence and Tuscany in a Wheelchair

We arrived in Florence via train (it is wheelchair accessible, but staff should be alerted the day before, just pay for normal seating price and they will escort you to an accessible area), to roads of people driving on right side—a change from the left side driving in England.  I felt a little safer and less confused. An added plus was being able to push myself on regular sidewalks because they were decently even.  The sky was warm and a little drizzly as we wandered around the city.  We purchased tickets for "Tuscany in a Day" tour across the street from the tourist info center across from the train station.  Keep in mind buses are not accessible and require assistance.

 A highlight of Florence was the Accademia where I saw the awesome masterpiece by Michelangelo, David. He was beautiful with naturalistic style and accurate portrayal of every muscle and vein in his body. He was so much taller than I thought he would be. I was in awe and had to circle the statue a few times before moving on. I also got to ride a lift that was attached to side rails that led to a higher floor of the museum, just like the grandpa in the movie, “Up.” That was a fun trip :)

I took a tour of the Tuscany including Pisa, San Gimignano, and Siena. I enjoyed the Tuscan sun while having a nice spaghetti lunch, overlooking endless rows of vineyards and rolling hills.  Going to the leaning tower of Pisa was a dream finally realized. I couldn’t believe that I was actually there! Unfortunately, I was unable to make it inside. The neighboring churches were accessible though, with ramps to get inside and minimal steps. 

Be prepared for steep hills in San Gimignano and Siena, as well as inaccessible shop entrances.  It's not easy to push up steep, cobble stone roads.  On the other hand, Pisa is pretty flat, although sandy.  The buildings have wheelchair accessible entrances.

Although not as wheelchair accessible because of its steep cobble stoned hills and stairs, I had a fun visit through the quaint little town of Siena. There were many picture-esq scenes from atop which required hiking up the cobble stoned hills. I had a hard time pushing myself up because it was so steep so Carlina had to help me. While going up like the fifth hill that day (I feel really bad), she yelled, “I hate this town,” as we passed a woman who had an easel set up and was painting a pretty section of the town.  The woman stopped and asked, “You’re kidding right?” To which I had to clarify that Carlina meant she hated pushing me, not the city. Haha. Phew! I was afraid she was going to rail on us. 

As the annual horse race among its 17 districts was to be held the next day, colorful district flags hung from tall stoned buildings around Siena. Bands of young men and flag throwers marched around the town, boasting their presence over the other districts.  It was fun to imagine how the following day would be with horses racing through the little roads. I wish I had more time to stay and watch! 

I thoroughly enjoyed the Tuscany as it was a nice little break from the city and showed a beautiful side of Italy. It can be done in a wheelchair, but requires some help. Don’t be afraid to do it!

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