A wheelchair in Venice
“Venice is the most wonderful urban event ever existing in the world. A miracle. Venice, without wheels, is a city where nerves will keep intact…”. So spoke Le Corbusier in 1963 while talking about the city at human dimension. I am not sure if everybody’s nerves really keep intact in front of the thousands of visitors crossing St Mark’s square every day, even if there are no wheels around…
When rushed, travelling prevents the pleasure of discovery and exploration
If you can only stay a short time in Venice, don’t try to rush. Venice remains a city without wheels. And in contrast with wheels: no cars, no bicycles, even trolley bags were criticised as they affect the steps of the bridges.
If this is a condition to help you appreciate slow pace, the drawback could be that it’s a beauty denied to the ones that need wheels to move around. Among its over 400 bridges, side banks and stairs to reach the boats, steep internal staircases (even twisted) or external, Venice is likely the city with the highest number of architecture barriers you can ever imagine! Contrasting feelings, inadequacy and frustration: I fear many avoid visiting Venice.
What does Venice offer? How can you spend your time in Venice when you visit in a wheelchair?
Let’s start with a couple of accessible Venice itineraries. Consider around 3-4 hours each. These are itineraries that can be followed using public transportation, i.e., the vaporetto which applies special discounted fees for wheelchair users and their escorts. And no entrance fees are expected.
Day 1: The Doge’s palace and St Mark’s basilica
Our disabled guests will find it easy to visit the Doge’s palace. The elevator works on request, so please ask the attendant at the entrance. If the armoury and the bridge of sighs connecting to the new prisons imply several steps, no steps are encountered when visiting the doge’s apartments (often hosting temporary exhibitions), the gorgeous hall of the Four Doors welcoming the visiting ambassadors, the Senate and Collegio halls with their gilded frames and paintings by Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto.
As for the church of St Mark…
Outstanding mosaics can be admired when visiting the church and its museum upstairs. Once the private chapel of the Doge of Venice, the church was the main investment of the State. Mosaics in glass and gold leaf, floors, columns and slabs in precious ancient marble decorate the church all over. You just need to enter the church from its exit. You will then be led to a ramp bringing you in the Madonna Nicopeia chapel. On request you can use the elevator and reach the museum and see the original “quadriga”, the four copper horses looted in Constantinopole during the Fourth Crusade. All passageways are large enough for a wheelchair.
Day 2: The sestiere of Dorsoduro and Ca’ Rezzonico, the museum of the 18th century
The elevator works and helps you see all three floors of Ca’ Rezzonico, a palace on the Grand Canal. Rococo furniture, frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, an amazing collection of paintings by Pietro Longhi, Francesco Guardi, porcelain and sculptures in wood by Andrea Brustolon and, last but not least, a couple of early works by Canaletto. A palace to understand the swan’s song of the Venetian Republic as well as the Carnival era and its masks.
You can either reach it by private water taxi as the museum has its private pier or following a route across the district of Dorsoduro.
As for this area, Dorsoduro… One possible itinerary follows!
If you get off at the San Basilio station, you can reach the beautiful square of Campo Santa Margherita and the colourful artisans’ street of Calle delle Botteghe, where glass beads, masks in papier-mâché, souvenirs made in Venice and more can be admired. Campo Santa Margherita is a really beautiful Venetian square. It features nice cafés and the University of Ca’ Foscari and the IUAV (institute of architecture) are nearby: you can enjoy a nice time all day. There are also interesting bookshops, like Marco Polo or the Cafoscarina and a fair trade store, too.
Enjoy and if you need any assistance or more information, don’t hesitate to contact me! More accessible Venice itineraries will follow in my blog!
by Luisella Romeo
registered tourist guide in Venice, Italy