Venice in a wheelchair

  • Venice in a wheelchair

    Posted by TabiFolk on March 8, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    One big issue in accessible tourism is the barrier of information.  When there is a lack of solid accessibility information, people are often left to guess and base decisions on assumptions… that may not be accurate.

    One look at Venice, Italy, as seen in pictures and movies, one would assume that the city is completely off-limits to wheelchair users.  While some parts are impossible, great strides are being taken to help everyone enjoy Venice – there are even accessible gondolas!

    Durant Imboden wrote a great article on the accessibility of Venice on the Europe for Visitors website. It covers the importance of planning, practical advice, and a list of resources – it is definitely an encouragement to visit!

    Accessible Venice

    Have you visited Venice in a wheelchair or another type of mobility aid?  Share your experiences and help other people plan their visit!

    Josh Grisdale replied 5 years, 8 months ago 5 Members · 11 Replies
  • 11 Replies
  • blumil

    August 8, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    I visited Venice in electric wheelchair and wrote an article about that trip. You can find it here:

    In general, it’s really difficult to judge accessibility there. It’s mainly because of canals and its historical character. I think that making this city 100% accessible is nearly impossible. However, they’re doing a great job – as far as possible.

    I wouldn’t say that the city is completely off-limits to wheelchair users, but you certainly have to be more cautious than usual.

  • TabiFolk

    August 8, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks for the review – very insightful!  Keep them coming!

  • weekender

    September 16, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    I visited Venice last weekend, I found it far more accessible than I imagined. Here is the text from my review of the hotel I stayed:

    Novotel Venezia Mestre Castellana
    Via Ceccherini 21

    Tel: (+39)041/5066511
    Fax: (+39)041/940620

    The Novotel Venezia Mestre Castellana is a 4**** hotel and part of the Accor Hotels group, it is located about 10 kilometres from Venice Marco Polo airport, and about 2 kilometres from Mestre railway station. A taxi there from Marco Polo airport will cost about €40. The hotel has a bar, a restaurant/breakfast room and an outdoor swimming pool. To get in to Venice ‘proper’ you have to take two buses, the number 31H (32H on the return and 34H in both directions on a Sunday) for one stop and then the number 2, they are wheelchair accessible and cost €1.50 for the whole journey. If you choose to take a taxi instead of the bus it is about €30

    Access to the hotel was level in to a large reception area with the check-in desk at the far end. Check-in was quick and I was given my key card and breakfast vouchers and shown where the breakfast room and the lifts where. There are three lifts and like most of the recent hotels I have stayed in everyone uses them, stairs are only there for use in an emergency evacuation. My room was on the sixth floor, it was not as spacious as the Novotel in Berlin and much of the space was taken up by a second, foldaway, bed. I did not realise it was foldaway until I was leaving, I would have asked for it to be folded away if I had known as it stopped me getting to the side of either bed. I had to get on to the bottom of the bed and shuffle up to the top. I also thought the bed was a little too high for me (and the foldaway too low.)

    The bathroom was adequate in size to be able to move around comfortably. The toilet was situated in a corner with a wall to the left of it on which there was a handrail, there was no handrail on the other side though this isn’t a problem for me. Opposite the toilet was a bidet and next to the toilet was a stool with a large collection of fluffy towels on it.

    To the other side of the bathroom was the wash basin which had a mirror at the correct height to be usable from a wheelchair. Also in the bathroom was the bath tub, this had hand rails on all three sides that there was a wall, it also had a shower over it.

    To complete the bedroom there was a desk with chair, free Wi-Fi, a safe, a minibar, and a tv with local and international channels. There was also tea and coffee making facilities but as seems the norm they were placed on a high shelf out of the reach by people in a wheelchair…

    Despite the few small problems noted above my stay at the Novotel Venice Mestre Castellana was very good and when I travel again to Venice I would have no hesitation booking another stay there unless I could find somewhere nearer to the islands of Venice ‘proper’.

    (I would like to thank Mikey, my monkey puppet, for his assistance with this blog.)

    The blog with pictures can be seen at:

  • weekender

    September 16, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    I travelled around Venice ‘proper’ by waterbus, here is the text from my blog about the waterbuses.

    Venice has a system of waterbus (Vaporetto) routes that get you around all the islands and they are very wheel-chair friendly. The biggest boats, like the one in the photo to the left, run on routes 1 and 2 and display the blue wheelchair symbol. There are smaller boats on other routes which I did not see the symbol on but I managed to use every one that I tried and the staff on them were very helpful.

    To access the waterbuses there is usually a small step down, as can be seen in the photo to the right, I had no problem getting down this but needed assistance to get up it. The boat men and ladies were quite happy to assist in this way. On the larger boats on lines 1 and 2 there is an open deck in the middle where you access the boat, if it is not busy you can sit here and get a great view but if the boat is busy you will be asked to go to the rear passenger cabin where there are a couple of wheelchair spaces with seatbelts if required. On the smaller boats, without the blue badge symbol, I was directed to sit next to the wheelhouse.

    There are either ticket offices or ticket machines at most of the piers to buy your tickets, then before boarding the boat you hold your ticket near the validators. The cost of a trip on the boats is €7.50 and you can get on and off for up to 75 minutes from first validating your ticket provided you continue in the same direction, if you change direction a new ticket is required. However, for wheelchair users if you go to a Tourist Office (there is one near the bus station at Piazzale Roma) you can but your tickets at a cost of only €1.50 and a companion can travel with you at no further cost.

    The waterbuses within Venice, along with land buses, are run by ACTV, there are also waterbuses that run to and from Venice Marco Polo airport which are run by a different company called Alilaguna and which require different tickets. The cost of these depend on where you are travelling from, as an example I caught one at San Marco which cost me €15 for a single ticket. This includes transporting one suitcase. For these boats the crew will get a ramp to assist you on and off.

    If like me you thought Venice would not be a wheelchair friendly city to visit you may be surprised. During my two days here I found it very easy to get around using the waterbuses and also the regular buses on land. You can get to many places by taking short hops rather than trying to cross the many, many bridges. Venice is somewhere I will definitely be returning to in the future.

    The blog with pictures can be seen at:

  • weekender

    September 16, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    My review of the two day weekend trip will follow later in the week. 🙂

  • azaleeboy

    September 16, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks for the info!  I never thought I would be able to visit Venice!

  • weekender

    September 16, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    [quote quote=5900]Thanks for the info! I never thought I would be able to visit Venice!

    Venice was *far* more accessible than my recent trip to Brussels!

  • weekender

    September 24, 2018 at 1:29 am

    Here is the text from my blog about my weekend trip to Venice:

    Today I am at Manchester Airport awaiting my flight on Lufthansa to Venice via Munich. I have never been to Italy before and until recently would have considered Venice to be a difficult place to visit for a wheelchair user, but research on the internet seemed to suggest otherwise. In the map on the right those areas marked in green as supposed to be fairly easily accessible, those in khaki less accessible, and those in red not accessible. During the next two days I will find out.

    My flights with Lufthansa and Air Dolomiti went to plan and the transfer at Munich airport was as smooth as could be. On arrival at Venice Marco Polo airport I headed to the taxi rank and on to the Novotel Venezia Mestre Castellana which which you can read about here, the cost was€40. It was a regular taxi but the driver told me wheelchair accessible vehicles were available at the same cost.

    On Saturday morning I got up quite early and went downstairs for a breakfast of salad, cold meats, scrambled eggs, cheese and a cup of tea. Then on to reception to enquire how to get in to the centre of Venice, they told me that I could get two buses, that the fare was €1.50, and gave me a photocopied map showing were to get the buses and what bus numbers to take. What they didn’t tell me was that I needed to buy my ticket there… At home in Wales I have a bus pass and don’t pay and if I get a bus in England I pay the driver, I wasn’t aware that in foreign parts you have to buy your tickets before getting on the bus. An Italian family at the bus stop told me this and said I could have one of their tickets, they also helped me on and off the two buses.

    Arriving at Piazzale Roma it was very busy with coaches, cars and taxis. There were people everywhere going in every direction and many ticket offices. I walked down to the waterfront where there were even more people, ticket offices, ticket machines and boats going in all directions. I just wandered around for some time watching it all before deciding to visit the Tourist Office. To get to the Tourist Office you have to go back past the bus station and you can see it just beyond at the top of a flight of stairs, if you walk past it a short distance and then double back on yourself you arrive at the level of the office. Here I was given some maps of wheelchair accessible routes of various locations in Venice and bought a handful of tickets for the waterbuses at a discounted rate of €1.50 for wheelchair users (and a companion), I had read that you have to purchase these at the tourist office but have also heard reports you can get them at the regular ticket offices.

    Back to the waterfront and I headed to the pier to get on a no. 1 waterbus and decided to get off at Rialto Market. Getting off the waterbus and heading down an alleyway to the market square I could smell the fish that were being sold on the first stall I came to. The market was very colourful and apart from the fruit, veg, and fish stall there were stalls selling hats, masks, sunglasses and all manner of souvenirs of Venice.

    After looking around the market square there were further streets to explore. Soon I found a shop that sold freshly pressed fruit drinks that were displayed on a counter of ice. Every now and again one of the shop owners would throw more ice over the prepared drinks. I chose a mixed berry drink which went down well in the heat of the afternoon. Further along the street I stopped again, this time at a gelato (ice cream) kiosk where I chose a mint cone.

    Back to the pier and I caught a waterbus to the island of Lido where the beaches of Venice can be found. Lido island is where the name for an outdoor swimming pool in Britain comes from. Lido is long and narrow and has cars and buses on it. From the waterbus pier you head inland and after not too long you come to the other side of the island where there is a beach with wheelchair accessible paths on it. I spent about and hour here sitting on the beach.

    Before leaving Lido I went to a beach café where I had a glass of Coca-Cola with ice and lemon, this cost €4… Arriving back at the pier there was a small, limited stop, waterbus about to leave on which I travelled back to Piazzale Roma. It was evening when we arrived back and the day trippers had begun to leave making it a more peaceful place than I had left several hours earlier. The light was now good for photography so I took photographs before finding somewhere to eat.

    All day I had only found places that sold pizza or pasta, two things I am not keen on, it was not until about 7:00pm that I found a Turkish kebab and burger place by the taxi rank at Piazzale Roma. I was very hungry and had a large kebab with a mug of black tea. After a long day it was now time to head back to my hotel, as I was tired and wasn’t sure if I could find the stop where I would need to change buses I took a wheelchair accessible (only because it was at the front of the rank) taxi back to my hotel, the cost was €30. Before going to bed I spent some time writing postcards.

    Before I knew it Sunday morning arrived and it was down stairs again for breakfast. As I had only found pizza and pasta yesterday I prepared for today with a big breakfast, one plate of cold meats, cheeses and tomatoes and another plate of scrambled eggs and bacon. Then I got the buses back in to Piazzale Roma for another day of exploration. Deciding to visit the island of Murano, famous for its glass, I headed for the pier to find a big queue. Nearby was a coop supermarket where I spent about 15 minutes and bought some mozzarella cheese and a bottle of cola before returning to the pier in time for the next boat.

    Reaching Murano I got off at the first stop and began walking around the island to the left. I passed by a glass factory and could see in at the gates, I continued around as far as I could go and then crossed over the island through some alleyways where you could smell cooking as it was now Sunday lunchtime. Eventually I came to a canal that had shops along both sides but I was unable to cross to the other side. I think I may have been able to see more of Murano if I had not got off the waterbus at the first stop here; I will know for next time.

    Another waterbus ride later I arrived at San Marco, I didn’t get to St Marks Square but spent my time along the waterfront and in the alleyways. The bridges I saw in this area had ramps placed over them to enable wheelchairs to cross, they were a bit steep but if you are quite fit they are doable and more often than not strangers would often help me over them. In the alleyways here I found a number of seafood restaurants but it was too late in the day to try them out as shortly I had to head off to the airport.

    Finding the pier for the Alilaguna airport boat I purchased my ticket for €15. This was a different kind of waterbus and the crew had to get a ramp to assist me to board. There is no specific place for wheelchairs and the seating areas are downstairs so the crew directed me to one of the luggage areas in the middle of the boat. We made a few stops on the way and at the first one a crowd more people boarded.

    Shortly after leaving this pier one of the passengers came back up the steps and asked, in Italian, if I spoke English and asked if I would like her to stand next to me. I said I didn’t mind and so Zena, as she later told me, joined me and we chatted for the rest of the hour or so journey and during the walk from the boat pier to the departure hall. Check in and my two flights with Lufthansa back to Manchester went smoothly with an on time arrival.

    Venice turned out to be quite accessible for a wheelchair user, especially if you use the waterbuses to make short journeys if you can’t cross over the bridges. I certainly can recommend it as a weekend destination, though you will probably want to stay longer, and it is somewhere I will be returning to in the not too distant future. I would also like to find somewhere accessible to stay on the islands for any future visit.


    My blog post with photographs can be found at:

  • Josh Grisdale

    September 24, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Another awesome post!  You always make me feel like I’m there 🙂

    An Italian family at the bus stop told me this and said I could have one of their tickets, they also helped me on and off the two buses.

    Was the bus not accessible and so you needed help to get on / off?

  • weekender

    September 24, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    I probably could have written that better, what I meant was they showed me how to use the buses, inform the driver at the front you need the ramp at the centre doors and showed me where I needed to change to the second bus.

    I think buses in Europe are pretty similar with at least two entrances/exits but here in Wales (and rest of UK) buses only have one door at the front opposite the driver.

    (And you get on the wrong side of the bus in Continental Europe!)

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