I am planning a trip to Italy with my mother for her 80th birthday. She has never been out of the country and when asked where she would like to go, she said "Italy". I know she wants to visit Venice, and we will probably also stay in Milan and Florence. My mother has become less and less mobile after breaking her leg last year. She still walks fine, but has very limited stamina. I don't think she is up to much touring in her current condition. Any advice on taking a senior to Italy? If I take a wheelchair, how accessbible is Italy? Can I rent a wheelchair once I am in country? Any thoughts?
If you google "Venice in a Wheelchair" you will find lots of sites with information about "accessible Venice".
A wheel chair will not be much use in Venice. There are tons of bridges with steps to go up and down. Most museums will have wheelchairs you can borrow so that shouldn't be a problem. If you take a chair with you it should be one of those lightweight travel chairs. This will help with all the stairs you will encounter. You may also consider taking a portable folding stool so she can sit when she needs to.
This may sound a little harsh but I would get a good physical therapist and get her on a program to strengthen her legs and increase her stamina. First, it would be good for her even if she was not going on the trip. And the trip might provide a little more incentive for participating. Second, Europe is not very conducive to limited mobility. No curb cuts, rough streets, sidewalks, and many stairs. Just climbing in and out of trains can be a challenge. A portable wheel chair will be helpful but limited where you can use it. I would look to local bus tours for getting around. Hop on/off buses would get you around with one or two hops on and off. My wife says that we are traveling to Europe until we need the walker -- then we will see Hawaii and Alaska.
Even with excellent public transit, I've found that I usually do a lot of walking in Europe. Your trip is certainly possible, but you'd have to build in lots of rest breaks and perhaps take a folding chair so that your Mother could rest whenever needed. Check www.magellans.com as I believe they had some light weight folding chairs listed on their website. You could also plan on using Taxi's to reduce the walking, so you'd need to have a budget for that.
It would also be a good idea for your Mother to do a bit of walking every day (where possible) to build up her stamina and physical condition. Consult her Physician first to get some guidelines, as he/she will know your Mother's capabilities better than any of us.
Plan your touring carefully and perhaps include an afternoon rest break back at the Hotel every day. If you plan a very relaxed schedule, hopefully your Mother will be able to tolerate the trip.
You might want to have a look at the Accessible Europe section on the Graffiti Wall (click the tab above).
Another suggestion would be to take out a membership in www.iamat.org so that you'd have access to an english-speaking Physician (if required). If you're really concerned about your Mother's health while travelling, you could also have a look at www.medjetassist.com.
To save on the legs, plan to use the Vaporetto (boat bus) in Venice. I nearly ruined my legs one year walking all over Venice. The next time I went I bought a pass for the Vaporetto and my legs were fine. I think it's the bridges that put a strain on knees and legs.
In most Italian cities there are piazzas with places to sit and enjoy the view. I take advantage of these. I'm also a fan of returning to my room mid-day and taking a break-siesta. You can sit endlessly in cafes while contemplating life over a cappuccino.
I found that many (most?) museums have an elevator somewhere. The Uffizzi is on one level (first floor) after you get there. In Venice a lot of the good stuff is in the cathedral and churches. Ground level.
Enjoy your trip. You and your mom deserve it. Ciao!
I recall seeing a map somewhere that shows the parts of Venice that are accessible by wheelchair. You might try googling.
Italy is not for the weak of heart or lame. You need good feet and legs sorry but cobble stone is ruff on the body. Old buildings,stairs,steep hills and roads will eat you up. See Naples and Die.You can drink the water and eat the food but watch out for the Pick pockets and you have to be on your guard and not overly nice. I carry a local news paper rolled up not to read but to keep the Gypsys kids off. Wear a Vest with an inside pocket,up high, with your papers and walit money.If you feel a hand under your chin and its not yours now you can breck-in thoes new Dentures.
Rob a couple years ago I remember Rick had a book out called "Easy Access Europe--A Guide for Travelers with Limited Mobility." It does not appear to be available on his website any longer but maybe you could get a hold of it at your local library. I saw a copy of it at our local Half Price Book Store this fall. It may offer some tips to make your trip go a bit smoother. Good Luck!
Thank you all for the words of advice. I look forward to updating you all on our progress!