A man sitting on a wheelchair is boarded on a gondola in Venice, Italy. (AP Photo/ Luigi Costantini)
Gondolas in Venice, Italy are now wheelchair accessible thanks to a new project called Gondolas4All. On March 11, 2016, the Gondolas4All organization unveiled its first wheelchair-friendly access point. Wheelchair users around the world are rejoicing due to the news which includes an automatic lift and the opportunity to ride in an authentic boat. Founder Enrico Greifenberg stated, “It’s an innovative project for Venice since wheelchair accessibility on gondolas has never been realized until now.”
Gondoliers are trained to operate the lift safely. Wheelchair users can gain access to the lift from car-accessible Piazzale Roma and book gondola rides at tariffs located throughout the city. Although Venice isn’t known as the most convenient city for wheelchair users, this innovative project brings the city closer to creating a wheelchair friendly environment.
- Separate from the tourists – Visitors to Venice often head towards popular attractions such as St. Mark’s Square and the San Marco Basilica. While it’s nice to take pictures and visit these popular areas, try to separate from the crowds and visit the Neighborhoods. Visit where the locals eat and live. You will find hidden restaurants, captivating historical landmarks and meet friendly locals.
- Choose an accessible guided tour – Unfortunately, most group guided tours are not wheelchair accessible. Instead, hire a private tour guide to show you around the city. Hotel front desks often have details regarding private accessible tours.
- Enjoy bargain shopping – Venice provides plenty of shopping opportunity. You can choose to shop high-fashion stores or enjoy bargain shopping at the many street vendors and markets located throughout the city.
- Beware of bridges – Venice is filled with bridges, only some are wheelchair accessible. Improvements and updates to bridges are continuous. Check the maps to know where are all wheelchair accessible bridges are located. Knowing where the accessible bridges are will save time and allow you to focus on enjoying your trip instead of navigating through the city.
- Consider accessible dining options – Wheelchair accessible dining options in Venice include dining on the Grand Canal, restaurants located at St. Mark’s Square and intimate neighborhood restaurants.
- Visit the fresh markets – Visit neighborhood markets to get a true feel for the city. Most neighborhood markets have wide open streets for the locals to gather. You can find fresh fruits, vegetables, street food, clothing, accessories, shoes, trinkets and more. Best of all you get to communicate with the locals who enjoy sharing interesting stories about their neighborhood.
- Use the water taxis or Vaporetto to avoid the bridges – The Vaporetto route makes stops at nearly every dock along the Grand Canal. It is considered one of the easiest ways for wheelchair users to navigate throughout the city and avoid bridges.
- Beware of low floating boats – Vaporetto boats are a popular way to travel throughout Venice. However, as a wheelchair user, you need to beware of low floating Vaporetto boats. These boats are usually overloaded with people causing it to be as much as 1 foot lower than the dock. This often happens during the busy times of day such as very early in the morning and late at night.
- Be the first to enter the boat and the last to exit – The Vaporetto boatmen will allow everyone to exit the boat at each stop before allowing others to enter. Try to be the first one in line to enter and the last one off to exit. This helps prevent issues with low floating boats.
- Request assistance at the train station – Visit the Disabled Customer Assistance Service office located in the Venice Santa Lucia train station. Request assistance to enter and exit the train. The staff members will provide a wheelchair lift to assist you.
Accessible Hotels West of the Piazza San Marco
- Luna Baglioni – A medium size luxury hotel conveniently located west of the Piazza San Marco.
- Bauer – This modern luxury hotel is full-service and has excellent restaurant options.
- Bauer Il – This hotel is the sibling of the Bauer hotel. It is located in a palazzo facing the Grand Canal.
- Saturnia International – This four-star hotel is located on a major shopping street and accepts pets.
- Monaco Grand Canal – This upscale hotel is located near the San Marco boat stop.
Accessible Hotels North of the Piazza San Marco
- San Zulian – This hotel offers two wheelchair-friendly rooms located on the ground floor.
- Comfort Hotel Diana – This hotel offers affordable wheelchair accessible rooms.
Accessible Hotels near the Grand Canal
- Palazzo Stern – This luxury hotel faces the Grand Canal and is located next to the Vaporetto and taxi boat stop.
Piazzale Roma Accessible Hotels
- Ca’ Doge – This small hotel is located in the corner of the Piazzale Roma. The People Mover is located nearby for convenience.
- Santa Chiara – This hotel is located directly on the Piazzale Roma. They provide accessible rooms and accommodations.
Accessible Hotels near the Santa Lucia Railroad Station
- Principe – This hotel is located on the Grand Canal with street level entrance from the train station. It is a full-service hotel with a restaurant and 139 wheelchair accessible rooms.
- Boscolo Bellini – You have to make reservations early for this hotel since it only has two wheelchair accessible rooms. It is a convenient short level ground wheelchair ride from the train station.
Now that Venice has made one of their main attractions wheelchair accessible, it should encourage users to visit the enchanting city. Remember to plan ahead, choose an accessible hotel room, use the water taxi service and enjoy a gondola ride on an authentic boat. Make your trip to Venice extraordinary by going behind the main tourist attractions to see how the locals live. Since Venice has made their gondolas wheelchair accessible, perhaps it will encourage access to more of the bridges located throughout the city.