My 78 year old mother would like to go to Italy. We are looking at Lake Como and Maggiore, Milan, Valle d'Aoste, Turin, Pisa, Venice, Rome, and possibly the Mt. Vesuvius area. Hilly terrain is an issue for her. Does anyone have suggestions for travel or specific sites in these locations that do not involve a lot of climbing? Also, is there any place on this list that we should avoid?
By "climbing" I'm assuming you mean walking up and down hills and ramps as well as up and down stairs.
So, I would recommend against most towns on the edge of Lake Como and Maggiore (Varenna is very steep). They're mostly built on the sides of the hills/mountains that slope down (sometimes very steeply) into the lakes.
Milan is pretty flat (or ugly flat, to be more accurate).
Venice is also pretty flat, with the exception of the many little bridges that are a few steps up and a few steps down.
Rome is built on seven hills, but I don't remember thinking "Wow, what a hilly place" when we were there. Plus there's good bus and tram service.
When my wife and I were in Italy last year, I actually counted the stair steps up for two days. There were about 400 up stairs each day. I didn't count the down stairs figuring it was about the same. This included hotels, tourism sites, train stations and just walking around. When it comes to handicap access, Italy is not on the same planet as the U.S.
That being said, Mom needs to go to Italy. But, you may need to find places that are easy for her while you visit more intense parts of many sites. If you restrict yourself to only those things accessible to Mom, you will miss a lot.
Pisa is OK. It's flat. Venice is kind of OK but if you visit the Doge's Palace, you climb 3 flights of stairs just to begin the tour. Lots of stairs throughout. St. Mark's and Peggy Guggenheim museum -fabulous and flat. Murano (from Venice) is easy flat walking.
I'd recommend against Lake Como, as the town of Varenna is built into the hillside and would require lots of stair climbing unless you stuck to the passarella along the lakeshore, which isn't really the town per se. However, if you go to Lago Maggiore, that town is fairly level on the side of the lake and you can take boats to the three islands in the lake, which have beautiful sights to see. Of course, Venice is perfectly level, but there's a lot of walking and you do, of course, have to take steps up over each canal, and then back down again. Mt. Vesuvius ism, of course, a mountain, and the town most close to it would be Naples, which I would NOT recommend for a first-timer, as it's crowded, dirty and has a lot of petty pickpocket type crime. In the Naples area would be Sorrento, which is mostly on one level if you don't go down to the shore, which is down many steps from the town. It's a lovely town, and then close by is Pompeii, which has a hill to climb into town but then level
In Rome they have a bus tour for 15 euro right in front of Termini Train Station. It's a hop on, hop off bus and the pass is good for 2 days. It goes all arounf the city. Venice is flat but there is a lot of walking. I have a breathing problem and we just took out time. Hope this helps.
Noting your mothers age and your note about hills/climbing I suggest you focus on three or maybe four locations rather than nine. There will be much traveling between the nine locations you list and travel days can be exhausting. Como and Maggiore are wonderful but very hilly and lots of stairs. In some cases the only way to reach a site. Turin is lovely, flat and has good public transportation. Venice is good, you can just ride the vaporetto and walk as you wish. Rome has plenty of transportation even to the major sites but Mt Vesuvius is a long haul from Rome and involves lots of walking.
I would avoid the summer months as it is incredibly hot.
Also, I would be very concerned about the cobblestones and her balance.
While my 72 year old mom THINKS she's 25...she's not and her bones definately aren't.
I make her hold on to me...
I build in for a slower pace and we always have a wonderful bonding journey together.