Italy is blessed with one of the world’s most beautiful bays and coastlines, hills rugged and gentle, gorgeous sweeping vistas, and a sunny, mild climate; and cursed with an active volcano, Vesuvius, at its doorstep. It’s hard to appreciate just how close Vesuvius is until you’ve been there. Almost everywhere you are in and around Naples, Vesuvius looms. It also looms large in Neapolitan history and culture.
Many of the Italian immigrants to America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries came from Naples and throughout the Campania region, and much of what comes to mind when Americans think of Italian popular culture and cuisine originated or at least flourished there – serious and light opera, popular song, Sophia Loren! (born in Rome and grew up around Naples), Vittorio De Sica (born near Rome and grew up in Naples), Enrico Caruso (born and raised in Naples, learned to sing there, but, because of bad reviews there, refused to sing in Naples during his mature career). (And not just popular culture – Naples was the birthplace of Bernini, and Caravaggio spent time there after fleeing Rome.) Pizza, pasta and ice cream! It’s ironic, therefore, that many American tourists either bypass Naples entirely or stop for only a short time enroute to the Amalfi coast, Capri and the antiquities sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. What a missed opportunity!
This was our third trip to Naples, and, increasingly each time, we admired and relished the sights, the people, the cuisine, the natural beauty, the art and the tangible marks of history. Founded by the Greeks over 2,500 years ago and ruled by Romans (whose aristocracy and early emperors favored its environs for vacation homes, and even primary ones), Byzantines, Normans, Germans, Angevins, French, Austrians and Spanish before becoming an independent kingdom and then, in 1860, part of the unified Kingdom of Italy, Naples is a rich mosaic. It has soul, character and romance.
Most memorable for us were the people – vital, kind, aware, charming, witty, exuberant, intense, warm, energetic, resourceful, resilient, proud and independent. We understand very little Italian, yet these traits came through unmistakably. One example: one afternoon in 2014 we got caught in the rain on via Toledo; Michele had a small umbrella, which malfunctioned, hardly kept her dry and didn’t reach Howard (and he can’t hold an umbrella). A Neapolitan lady asked us where we were going, held her large golf style umbrella over Howard for three blocks, apologized that she couldn’t accompany us all the way back to our hotel and wished us a good trip.
Naples is complex – even on return trips, it took us a few days to get acclimated. Naples slopes uphill away from the sea, somewhat gradually at first and then more steeply. Even many of the gradually sloped areas have cross slopes. There are also some steep, high freestanding hills. The streets in the ancient Greco-Roman areas and other parts of the historic center, where many of the museums, monuments, churches, piazzas and palazzos are located, are narrow and crowded. Pedestrian density is extremely high. Many sidewalks and streets are bumpy, even those outside the historic center.
Some words about crime and grime may be helpful. Naples has long had a reputation for crime, well deserved by most accounts. (These are mostly crimes against property or targeted violence against enemies, not random violence.) The situation is considered to have improved significantly in the past decade or so. On our first trip, in 2006, we didn’t know what to expect, and were glad to see a serious, concerted effort to prevent crime. On all of our trips, police and carabinieri were visible throughout the city. People strolled day and night. We experienced no crime or attempts, and felt safe everywhere; however, we avoided the area near the central train station at night and wouldn’t have felt comfortable there at that time. We did have to guard our luggage carefully while waiting in the train station, but in which train station anywhere would that not be true?
There were refreshing sea breezes, the air was clear, and the city didn’t feel polluted. The streets were fairly clean and we didn’t see garbage piling up on any of our visits (beyond the full garbage cans one sees in many cities). There is a garbage crisis in the Naples area, but unfortunately it’s the result of many years of illegal dumping of toxic waste by the Camorra, and from what we’ve heard and seen, does not affect the center of the city. That’s not to say it isn’t horrific, a travesty and a major problem, merely that it shouldn’t deter you from visiting Naples.
Naples has many historic castles, palazzos, churches, museums and ordinary buildings; many of them have not been recently restored or cleaned. But many have been and a great deal of work is underway on others. The job is vast and resources are limited, but on each trip we’ve seen major progress. A new underground Metro line is under construction, and major street and sidewalk projects are ongoing on via Toledo and elsewhere. Civic pride and positive energy are palpable.
If you want a spotlessly clean, perfectly orderly place with the soul of a shopping mall, Naples isn’t for you. But if you have a strong sense of history, enjoy discovering unexpected gems, can appreciate a beautiful façade underneath some dust, and admire a people who are outgoing, warm and exuberant, and a culture that celebrates life, art, food and music, visit Naples! A person’s reaction to New Orleans may be a good litmus test: if you consider New Orleans too gritty, chaotic, and disorderly, you may be unlikely to appreciate Naples. But if you are charmed, intrigued, fascinating and energized by New Orleans, you may well feel the same about Naples.
However, because of its intensity, complexity, physical layout and density, we don’t recommend Naples for your first trip to Italy, whether you are able-bodied or use a wheelchair. Naples is fascinating, rewarding and worthwhile, and if you’ve been to Italy before and are accustomed to Italian tempo, logistics, improvisational problem-solving, urban density, customs, hours of operation and the like, we enthusiastically recommend visiting Naples.
NOTE: We traveled on our own to Naples, not with a group. In planning our trip we used the Internet and other information sources but not a travel agent. Although we’ve tried to be as accurate as possible, it’s essential to confirm all information, especially access details, directly with hotels, museums, transportation providers and other facilities. As in all research, primary sources are much better than secondary ones. Things change. It’s critical to re-confirm information shortly before acting on it.
Table of Contents
- Naples – Background, Terrain + General Access
- Electricity; Wheelchair Repair; Personal Care; Medical Needs
- Transportation in Naples
- Museums, Churches, Monuments + Other Sites
- Restaurants and Stores
- Walking Tours – Context Travel + Katie Parla
- The Great Courses Lectures
- Italian Disability + Medical Organizations
- Appendices: A metric conversion guide is in Appendix A. A dictionary of access terms in Italian, including a pronunciation guide, by Cornelia Danielson of Barrier-Free Travel, is Appendix B. More information about the authors is found in Appendix C.
1. NAPLES – GENERAL BACKGROUND, TERRAIN + OVERALL ACCESS
We continue to be delighted by the complete lack of smoking in restaurants and cafes in Italy. An Italian law became effective in 2005 that bans smoking in restaurants, bars and cafes nationwide, except in specially ventilated smoking rooms. (We’ve never seen a restaurant or cafe with a smoking room.) The penalties for patrons are strict, and those for proprietors even stricter. In our experience the law is taken quite seriously. Smoking is permitted at outdoor tables, but this has rarely been a problem: it seems that smokers have become more considerate even when smoking outdoors. Also, if you eat outside in a crowded, bustling city such as Naples, vehicle exhaust is unavoidable, so you can’t expect perfectly clean air anyway. And a collateral benefit of the smoking ban is that fewer people use cell phones in restaurants in Italy than in the US – many go outside to have a cigarette and use their phone.
The country code for international calls to Italy is +39 (from the US, 011-39). The area code for Naples is 081. Not all phone numbers in Italy have the same number of digits, so it’s important to double check. Unlike in some other European countries, you must dial 0 before the area code whether calling within Italy or from abroad; the 0 is not dropped when calling from abroad. For example, to call Naples from the US, dial 011-39-081-xxx-xxxx and, from within Italy, 081-xxx-xxxx.
We use the Italian designation for floor numbers in buildings. What Americans call the “first floor” is the “ground floor” in Italy, and the floor immediately above it, which Americans refer to as the “second floor,” is the “first floor” in Italy. In Italian elevators, the ground floor is “0”, rather than “1” as in the US.
Most Italian websites that we link to have webpages in English that are easy to find; usually there is a logo for English (often indicated by the British flag) on the homepage.
Terrain and Paths of Travel
Although of course there are still many wheelchair access barriers in Italy, we continue to be heartened by the increasing awareness of access and the needs and rights of disabled people. People sincerely want to help, and though they may not always know exactly how, they are eager to learn. Good access planning is evident in new construction and major renovations.
These observations are true of Naples, but Naples is more crowded and has a more difficult terrain and fewer financial resources available to eliminate barriers than the other major cities we’ve visited in Italy. Yet we saw great progress from 2006 to 2012 and from 2012 to 2014. One broad indicator is the number of people with mobility disabilities. In 2006 we saw fewer people in wheelchairs in Naples than in Rome and Florence, but in Naples in 2014 and 2012 we saw many people in manual wheelchairs, some in scooters and some in power wheelchairs. In fact, in 2014 and 2012 we saw significantly more people in wheelchairs and scooters in Naples than in Rome, and almost all were locals or at least Italians. The power mobility device of choice seems to be a four-wheeled scooter, which makes sense because of the hilly and often uneven terrain in Naples.
Many small and medium-size streets lack sidewalks. Cars, motorcycles and pedestrians share the same space. The good thing about these streets is that there is no curb, hence no need for curb ramps.
As in Rome, some sidewalks and streets are paved in black “Saint Peter’s stone,” so named because it has a point, like the dome of Saint Peter’s, on the side facing down into the earth. More common in Naples, however, as both sidewalk pavement and street pavement, are large rectangular stones that are pockmarked and bumpy to roll over in a wheelchair. You will also find these rectangular stones in Florence.
Dense and crowded as Rome is, Naples is even denser and more crowded. The piazzas are smaller and there are fewer of them. Intense as Rome is, Naples is even more so.
Traffic is heavy. Drivers, motorcyclists and pedestrians are proficient, alert and experienced. Drivers are aggressive in an impersonal way, but very skilled, alert and aware of pedestrians; they are not angry or deliberately inconsiderate. They aren’t shy about using horns, typically to alert pedestrians and other drivers to “look out – I’m coming through.” They can be quirky. We remember the alert driver in 2006 who came to a screeching halt on a busy street just after Howard had crossed, slowly rolled down her manually operated window and, unconcerned about the traffic piling up behind her, pointed out that he’d dropped the folded umbrella that had hung off the back of his wheelchair. There are many motorcycles, often with two or three people riding, and often without helmets. Neapolitan pedestrians are unfazed by close proximity to cars, unafraid of them and, it seems, sometimes even unaware of them. Many of the streets are one-way, making crossing manageable.
Parking is tight and vehicles often block curb ramps. Construction sites that block sidewalks don’t provide an alternate path of travel, as they are required to do in the US. Even in streets with sidewalks, one must sometimes roll in the street because of blocked curb ramps, blocked sidewalks and construction obstacles.
Some intersections lack curb ramps, and many curb ramps are steeper than in the US. When we say that a place is accessible by a ramp or a sloped street, we mean it is physically accessible. That does not necessarily mean it is accessible independently or would qualify as accessible under American standards.
Throughout Naples we saw more curb ramps on each trip. One of the main streets, Via Toledo, now has curb ramps at most intersections. There are many curb ramps in the pedestrian area of Vomero. Generally the curb ramps in Naples are steep and have steep flared sides; both the ramp and the sides are far steeper than permitted in the US. Also, they typically are made of the same black stone as the sidewalk; there is no contrasting color, so one must be careful. Still, noticeable and important progress has been made – flawed as they are, these curb ramps are usable. Howard was able to access them by tilting his chair, and they would be usable by people in manual wheelchairs, although many would require assistance. Naples has made noticeably more progress in adding curb ramps since 2006 than Rome.
We also saw a lot more pedestrian-only zones than in 2006, including along the waterfront on via Partenope near the large hotels, and on via Toledo. Howard asked one of the volunteer monitors in the waterfront pedestrian area whether it was closed to vehicles only on weekends and was told that it is a pedestrian zone 24 x 7 through November. (This pedestrian zone is the only area we saw in Naples where bicycling is common, and even there, bicycle volume was moderate. Cyclists behaved well and were respectful of pedestrians.) Vomero has a large pedestrian zone in the main shopping area.
Restaurants and Stores
Restaurants and stores typically have a threshold step from 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm) high, and few have portable ramps. This was rarely a problem for Howard in 2006 because he used a lightweight (100 pounds/45 kg) power chair with a tubular frame similar to that of a manual chair. It was not difficult for Michele to tip and lift the chair up one step or occasionally even two. Michele is quite proficient at this and employees were always eager to help, although often they did not quite know how. It was amusing for Michele to watch as strong, macho men tried to use brawn instead of finesse and then were amazed – and slightly embarrassed – when she showed them how easy it was to do. (Michele is 5’4” tall.)
That was not possible in 2014 because Howard used his Permobil, so the entrance step presented much more of a problem. The Permobil can go up a step of approximately 3 inches (7 to 8 cm), but the entrance step at many restaurants and stores is higher. The entrance step would present problems for travelers in wheelchairs that cannot be lifted. Compared to Rome, Florence and other cities we’ve been to in Italy, many restaurants in Naples have a higher step at the entrance.
Some cafés and restaurants in Naples have outdoor tables, and we ate several meals outside. However, outdoor seating in Naples isn’t as ubiquitous as in Rome, so there were several restaurants we had wanted to try but couldn’t because they have high entrance steps and no outdoor seating areas. Also, some of the outdoor seating areas are on low platforms, semi-enclosed and up a small entrance step. In some neighborhoods, finding a restaurant with an accessible entrance or an outdoor seating area took some planning and searching, whereas in Rome it was easier. Nevertheless, we didn’t lack places to go, and eating outdoors is one of the joys and delights about being in Naples in warm, sunny weather. The entrance steps would be much more of an obstacle in other seasons, when sitting outdoors is not an option. For travelers in wheelchairs and scooters who have a choice of when to travel, being able to avoid the entrance barriers in restaurants and cafés is another reason for visiting Naples when the weather is good.
Museums, Monuments, Churches and Antiquities
We urge you to try to tour all major museums, monuments, palazzos, churches, parks and antiquities that interest you – they are likely to be at least partially accessible and you will see something interesting and beautiful on the way.
Elevators and Lifts
What follows is a description of our experience with elevators and lifts in Italy in general. The elevators we used in Naples were mostly in museums, and tended to be large. More detail is provided in Section 7 – Museums, Churches, Monuments and Other Sites, below. In contrast with our experience of true elevators, on our trips to Naples we had fewer occasions to use lifts than in other cities.
In American parlance an “elevator” is a vertical access device with a fully enclosed carriage and, usually, automatic doors; and a “lift” is a smaller vertical access device that is typically open at the top, does not have full height sides, can accommodate only one person, and may not be usable independently. Lifts are typically installed outdoors or when space is limited. Types of lifts are “platform lifts,” which travel straight up and down, and “stair lifts,” which travel diagonally along a stairway. In British parlance the word “lift” denotes both true elevators and these types of lifts. We use the American terminology because it is more precise. It’s important to know whether a vertical mobility device is a true elevator, which is typically larger, capable of carrying more weight, easier to use, usable independently and less prone to breaking down, or merely a lift.
Many of the platform lifts and stair lifts in Italy (even many of the newer ones) are typically narrower, shorter and have a lower weight capacity than in the US, sometimes as low as 330 pounds (150 kilograms). (The typical capacity in the US for lifts in public accommodations is 750 pounds or, less commonly, 500.) Howard’s Quickie power wheelchair, which he used in our trips to Italy in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009, barely fit many of them – perhaps by 2 inches (5 cm) in width (one inch/2.5 cm on each side). That wheelchair is standard size; people with wider chairs or with scooters would have difficulty fitting on some of the lifts. A heavy wheelchair such as a Permobil is too heavy for some of these lifts, and too long.
Unlike in the US, many Italian lifts are able to operate with the moveable safety edges (mini-ramps) at the front and back in the lowered, open position (roughly parallel to the platform and the floor), as distinguished from the raised, ramped position (at perhaps a 45 degree angle to the platform and the floor). On previous trips Howard’s Quickie wheelchair footrests often protruded past the front edge, and the rear tires rested on the lowered rear edge. This was a bit scary because there was no room to spare and no raised edges to help secure the wheelchair in place. It is essential to align one’s chair precisely and make sure the brakes are secured.
A brilliant exception to the small, low weight capacity lifts is a custom-built lift that was installed in the Medici Chapels in Florence in 2014. From the entrance level of San Lorenzo Museum (behind the Basilica of San Lorenzo) there is a new elevator up to a floor with direct access to the Chapel of the Princes, and from that level a custom-built telescoping lift gives access to the other chapel, Michelangelo’s New Sacristy/Medici Chapel. It travels vertically and then a telescoping platform slides forward to cover the horizontal gap between the top and bottom stairs. Howard’s Permobil fit easily lengthwise and widthwise, and the lift easily handled the weight. The platform is shaped to perfectly match the somewhat irregular space it traverses. These access improvements were due in large part to the advocacy of Cornelia Danielson, an American friend of ours who lives in Florence and is an architectural historian, access expert, the author of The Accessible Guide to Florence, and a Context Travel docent (see Section 9 – Walking Tours – Context Travel and Katie Parla, below).
Michele used several ATMs, all of which were too high for a wheelchair.
Solo Wheelchair Travelers
Navigating Naples in a wheelchair is difficult, even compared to Rome, which certainly is not easy. We try to indicate in our articles whether it would be possible for a person in wheelchair to travel alone and, if so, how difficult. Traveling solo seemed possible to us in some places. But, realistically, even for a wheelchair user with a strong upper body, it doesn’t seem possible to travel to Naples without an able-bodied companion.
Rome sets the standard for Italy. Public bathrooms in Rome typically are large, well-designed and clean, with high quality plumbing, often including bidets or handheld hoses in addition to the sink. The main exception is bathrooms in restaurants, which usually are small. Many bathrooms have high quality tile, often of marble or another stone. Many are staffed by an attendant who cleans them frequently.
The preceding is somewhat true of Naples, but the bathrooms typically aren’t as large or well-appointed as in Rome, and it’s more difficult to find accessible ones. Fortunately, the major museums in Naples do have well-designed accessible bathrooms. Because museums are free for disabled people, if you need to use the bathroom and are near a museum, you can do so even if you don’t want to see the exhibits.
Most of the train stations we’ve been to in large cities in Italy have large, clean, accessible bathrooms. In those government buildings, hotels and major stores in Italy that do have accessible bathrooms, the employees, guards and government workers have been quite willing to let Howard use the bathroom even though he wasn’t a customer. Besides exemplifying the overall kindness and empathy that are so common in Italy, we believe this also shows that Italians recognize the critical importance of being able to use the bathroom.
In Naples, as elsewhere in Italy, wheelchair accessible bathrooms often comprise a single user, unisex, lockable room with sufficient space for a companion, rather than an accessible stall in multi-stall men’s and women’s bathrooms. Sometimes one must ask for a key; this minor inconvenience is well worthwhile because it ensures the bathroom is clean and isn’t likely to be occupied by an able-bodied person who could be using the regular bathroom.
Most accessible bathrooms in Naples, as elsewhere in Italy, have large toilets that are higher than the standard accessible high toilet in the US. Typically the toilet is long and has a tank, which means that if there is enough space next to the toilet for a wheelchair, which there usually is, the wheelchair will be well aligned with the toilet. (Occasionally we have seen square bathrooms where the sink and toilet are caddy corner from each other and there isn’t quite enough space for a wheelchair to get past the sink and next to the toilet.) Often there is a cutout at the front of the toilet bowl designed to enable one to use the handheld hose. Typically there is a flip-up grab bar on the side of the toilet away from the wall, in addition to a fixed grab bar on the wall side. An emergency alarm with a pull cord is always within reach; this seems to be required by code in Italy. The sinks are large and the faucet handles long. Even some bathrooms that are not fully accessible are large enough for a wheelchair.
One design flaw is that many of the locks for the accessible bathrooms and stalls we’ve seen in Italy (and inaccessible ones as well) are small locks that require twisting; we’ve seen fairly few levers or sliding handles. Operating this type of lock requires fine motor skills, so, if your hand strength or dexterity is limited, be careful not to lock yourself in the bathroom. This style of lock is not permitted in the US.
The attention to water, bathrooms and plumbing in Italy is a legacy of ancient Rome, whose hydraulic engineering set the standard for the developed world until well into the 20th century, where public baths were a major civic, cultural and social institution, and where abundant fresh water was available to everyone daily. (Just how much water is the subject of lively and longstanding scholarly debate. The issue will probably never be resolved definitively but there is a consensus that supplying all one million Roman residents with sufficient high-quality water – albeit only through public fountains and baths in the case of the poor and middle classes – is one of the great achievements of ancient Rome.)
3. ELECTRICITY; WHEELCHAIR REPAIR; PERSONAL CARE; MEDICAL NEEDS
Electricity and Charging your Wheelchair
The standard plug in Italy has three prongs in a straight line (one is the ground) and is different from the plug used in most other European countries. Although you can buy a plug adapter in Italy, they are available at any travel store and you’ll save time if you buy a few at home before your trip.
We strongly recommend gel cell batteries, which are non-spillable, safer and more acceptable to airlines than wet batteries. Air travel is difficult enough for passengers who use power wheelchairs; wet batteries are a hassle for everyone.
Italy uses 230 volt AC power at 50 hz frequency. (France, Spain, Israel and many other countries also do.) If you use a power wheelchair, you’ll need a wheelchair battery charger with a setting for 220/240 volts. It eliminates the need for a separate voltage converter or transformer, which are heavy and expensive. A surprisingly small, lightweight and inexpensive charger with dual settings (110 and 220 volts) is available from MK Battery. Alternatively, you can buy a European charger with 220/240 only. www.mkbattery.com. Also try Lester Electrical. www.lesterelectrical.com.
Unlike Italy’s 50 hz, the frequency in the US is 60 hz, or 60 cycles per second. The difference in frequency could have an impact on your battery charger’s performance if it’s not rated for both frequencies. The symptoms would be overheating and possibly noise. (Thanks to David Caplan for this explanation.) The only time Howard had problems with his charger in Italy was in 2003, when it sometimes overheated and tripped the circuit breaker in our hotel room. He was using a charger with 110/220 settings, but we don’t know what frequency it was rated for. We were never able to figure out the problem and ended up buying a European charger, which worked fine. So it may be that some dual voltage chargers aren’t set for quite the right frequency, whereas European-only 220/240 chargers are.
If you use a power wheelchair or a scooter, we urge you to contact your dealer or the manufacturer before the trip and ask for a referral for a dealer/repair shop. In 2005 Howard needed to purchase a new charger in Rome because his charger was stolen at the train station. In 2009 he needed minor wheelchair repairs in Bologna. Both times he called the Italian branch of Sunrise Medical/Quickie for referrals to wheelchair dealers, and they immediately provided excellent referrals.
Permobil Italy. Disabili Abili. Via Paisiello, 17/a. 50041 Calenzano (near Florence). Although they are near Florence, they can arrange for repairs to Permobils anywhere in Italy. Betina Genovesi is the contact. Phone: +39-055-360-562. www.disabiliabili.net firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Sunrise Medical/Quickie Italy. www.sunrisemedical.it. firstname.lastname@example.org. Main phone: +39-052-357-3111. Fax: +39-052-357-0060. Jonathan Pezzali, the manager, is very helpful and speaks English well; his direct phone is +39-0523-573-146. Jonathan.Pezzali@SunriseMedical.it. Roberto Mandelli, technician; direct phone +39-0523-573-130.
Wheelchair dealers in Naples
These two companies were referred by Sunrise Medical. We don’t have experience with them. Rizzoli Napoli Off. Ortopediche. This company has locations throughout Italy and, among other things, manufactures prostheses. Via Pansini, 5. Nuovo Policlinico. Edificio 12. 80131 Napoli. Phone: +39-081-746-2858. www.rizzoliortopedia.com Cirap 2000. This company is located in Secondigliano, far from the center of the city. Corso Secondigliano, 189. 80100 Napoli. Phone: +39-081-431-589.
In Rome in 2009 Howard hired a personal care assistant. It worked out very well; he was dependable, skilled, strong, gentlemanly and friendly. The price was reasonable. Although he didn’t speak English and we don’t speak much Italian, communication was easy, and as a bonus, we learned a few more words of Italian. (He spoke several languages, was a quick learner, and learned more English from us than we learned Italian from him.) We hired him through the following agency, which has offices in Naples, Rome, Bologna, Florence and throughout Italy: PrivatAssistenza Contact Rosa Anna Giordano. Abbà Amico S.C.S. a R.L.; Via Carlo Poerio, 18; Naples. Phone: +39- 081-240-0088. email@example.com
The United States Embassy in Rome provides referrals to English speaking doctors and dentists. Howard needed emergency dental work in Rome in 2003 and was referred to a superb dentist.
4. TRANSPORTATION IN NAPLES
Azienda Napoletana Mobilita (ANM) is the main public transportation agency in Naples. www.anm.it. Phone: +39-081-763-2177 or, from Italy only, 800-63-95-25. ANM access information (in Italian only). Go to area clienti/servizi per disabili: http://www.anm.it/. The official Naples tourism website has a section about transportation access; it’s only in Italian. http://www.turismoaccessibile.org/categorie/trasporti-2/
We flew into Naples International Airport (Capodichino) in 2014 and 2006. A small airport, it’s only a few miles from the center of the city. Both times we had good experiences – much better, in fact, than at some larger airports in Europe. The assistance personnel who helped Howard exit the plane were strong and skilled. A large bus-like vehicle came directly to the plane and the entire vehicle rose to the level of the plane door. Howard was transferred to an aisle chair, brought a short distance into the vehicle and transferred directly into his own wheelchair, which was waiting in the vehicle. When we reached the terminal the employees deployed a ramp and Howard exited easily. Sometimes the access situation at airports is better for arrivals than departures. We’ve never flown out of this one, so don’t know how it would be to depart from it.
www.gesac.it. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: +39-081-789-6259.
Alibus is a shuttle operated by ANM from the international airport to the central train station and the port. Accessible transportation is stated to be available, but must be reserved in advance. See the ANM contact information, above. We did not take the shuttle.
We didn’t research or try the public buses in 2012 or 2014, so we don’t have current information about them. The access section of the ANM website, above, lists the accessible bus lines.
The double-decker, open-top “hop-on, hop-off” sightseeing buses are accessible. We didn’t take a ride but the buses we saw had the blue access symbol and appeared to have ramps. The website has the blue access symbol and says “wheelchair welcome.” City Sightseeing Napoli: phone is +39-081-551-7279 and email@example.com.
Naples has an extensive funicular system, much of which is accessible. Disabled passengers and one companion ride for free. We took Funiculare Centrale from via Toledo to Vomero in 2012 and 2014. The station on via Toledo, Stazione Augusteo, is to the left as you are going up via Toledo, on the West side of the street, across from Galleria Umberto I, not far from the beginning of via Toledo. It’s the first and lowest station on this line. Piazza Fuga in Vomero is the last and highest station. At Augusteo station one must get an employee’s attention and he will open the gate to the boarding platform. There is a gradually sloped ramp leading from the station to the lowest boarding platform, from which one can enter the lowest section of the funicular car. The platform is fairly small but not tiny, and it is level. If the driver lines up the car correctly, the platform is almost even with the funicular car vertically, but there is a horizontal gap of around 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm). Howard was able to enter by going fast, thanks to his front-wheel-drive, but it was a bit scary the first time. One also has to make sure that the passengers already in the car move aside to make way for the fast-moving wheelchair. This is Naples, so fellow passengers were alert, friendly and helpful. Passengers in manual wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs with small front wheels (those with rear wheel drive or mid-wheel drive) would need assistance. To exit at Augusteo station, exit the same side of the car as you entered. One time when we returned a Neapolitan man in a large four-wheel scooter zoomed into the car, as if he did this often. There was just enough space on the boarding platform for him and Howard to pass each other.
The ride takes 8 to10 minutes. At the Piazza Fugo/Vomero station, the horizontal gap is a bit narrower upon exiting than at Augusteo, and there is no vertical gap. However, when you enter at the station, you enter from the other side, and upon our return there was a 2 inch (5 cm) vertical gap and a 4 inch (10 cm) horizontal gap; Howard was able to enter, but it was a bit tricky. Manual wheelchair users, and those in electric wheelchairs with small front wheels, would need assistance. The existence and size of the vertical gap may depend on how well the driver aligns the car when stopping. In contrast, the horizontal gap at any particular station is a function of the system itself and, therefore, is unchanging (unless there are cars of different vintage and design in the system, but we were not there enough times to ascertain this). At the Piazza Fugo/Vomero station there is a large elevator from the boarding level up to the station level; the elevator worked fine. There is a gradual ramp from the station to the piazza outside.
There are two stations between Augusteo and Piazza Fuga/Vomero; we didn’t exit there. At one of them we could see from the car that there is wheelchair access to the boarding platform via a diagonal stair lift.
In doing our research we were told that the Chiaia funicular line is accessible, and the Mergellina and Montesanto lines are not. We were also told that ANM will arrange free, on-demand accessible taxi service from Consortaxi at the stops on the inaccessible lines. We didn’t try the Chiaia line or the taxi service.
Metro (Subway) and Metro Art Stations (2014)
Line 1 and Line 6 are stated to be accessible (all stations, but you should confirm this), and Line 2 is not. We’ve never taken the Metro but in 2014 we visited Toledo Metro Station, on Line 1, at via Toledo near via Armando Diaz. This extraordinary station appeared to be brand new; we later learned it’s a couple of years old. It’s the cleanest subway station we’ve ever seen anywhere, and the most beautiful, cheerful and well lit. The floors and walls have a variety of rich, high quality stones, and there’s a large, contemporary, stone mosaic wall mural inspired by ancient mosaics, depicting Neapolitan figures and maps of different parts of Naples. There’s a detailed and fascinating description, in Italian and English and with photos, of the archaeological discoveries made when the site was excavated. Wayfinding at the station is excellent; everything is intuitively located.
There is one elevator from the street to the concourse, and two from the concourse to the platform levels. At the concourse there is a wide, accessible gate. The elevators are medium size; Howard was able to fit easily along with two or three able-bodied people. The elevators were spotlessly clean, and with absolutely no unpleasant odors. The elevators are well integrated within the concourse area, not stuck in a dark corner.
The tracks in each direction are at different levels; they are stacked rather than side-by-side. The two elevators from the concourse level serve both track levels. The walls, floors and ceilings of the track levels are all blue. We waited for the first train and observed a 4 to 5 inch (10 to 13 cm) vertical gap between platform and train, and a 4 inch (10 cm) horizontal gap. We didn’t take the train, not so much because of the gap but because we ran out of time. It would’ve been difficult to get on the train in Howard’s Permobil; assistance would have been required. Manual wheelchair users and people in electric wheelchairs that are not front-wheel-drive would require a good deal of assistance. This train looked quite old; other trains may be newer and may have smaller gaps.
Toledo station is one of the Metro Art Stations. World-class artists and architects – Italian, American and others – were commissioned to design these stations and decorate their walls, floors and fixtures. The materials are high quality. The idea is that these stations form an underground contemporary art museum. The designs range from abstract to thematic, such as artworks at Dante station that relate to the writings of Dante. Some of the art stations are part of plans to redevelop the surrounding areas. One could spend the better part of a day exploring these stations.
Accessible Van Service
Aloschi Bros. provides ground transportation, cruises on the Bay of Naples and other travel services in Naples and Rome. In 2006 we hired them for a ride from the Naples airport to our hotel and a day trip to the Amalfi Coast. The drivers were on time and courteous. The driver for the Amalfi coast was very skilled on the difficult terrain, driving slowly on the twists and turns to make sure the ride was as smooth as possible. The vans were clean and large, with heavy-duty lifts. Howard was able to see well out the large windows. The service was expensive, in part because, as with many accessible transportation services we’ve found in Italy, the vehicles are large enough to transport more than one person in a wheelchair and several able-bodied passengers, so in effect you are paying for unused capacity. Unfortunately one sits much higher than in the lowered floor accessible minivan common in the U.S., so the ride isn’t as smooth no matter how skilled the driver. In planning our 2012 trip we inquired about a ride. Aloschi still provides accessible transportation (at least as of 2012), but we ended up getting a ride from a friend and not needing their services.
Aloschi Bros. Phone +39-081-764-8240. Fax +39-081-764-8816. www.aloschibros.com. firstname.lastname@example.org. Our contact was Antonella Aloschi. email@example.com.
For lodging, as for real estate, the three most important factors are location, location and location (assuming good wheelchair access). Strolling through a vibrant, beautiful, interesting neighborhood is one of the most enjoyable things about traveling. It’s exciting to stay in the heart of the city, where one can go by the same building, monument or piazza ten times and discover something new and fascinating each time. Strolling at night is romantic and exhilarating; staying at a central location makes it easier to stay out late. A central location is also more conducive to an afternoon nap because it’s easy to go out again afterwards.
Because accessible public transportation is often difficult to find, unreliable and subject to change, staying in a central location is critical unless you are able to transfer easily to an ordinary taxi. Being within rolling distance of museums, antiquities, monuments, churches, restaurants and shopping saves time, energy, uncertainty, frustration and expense.
In keeping with the Italian talent for water and bathing, all wheelchair accessible hotel rooms we’ve seen in Italy, except one, have roll-in showers, unlike in the US and some other countries where only a minority of “accessible” guest rooms do. (It is telling that in French a roll-in shower is known as a “douche a l’Italienne” – an Italian shower.)
Hotel rates in Italy typically include breakfast and value added tax (VAT), making it easy to budget your trip. The only thing not included is local lodging tax, usually two or three € per person per day.
When inquiring about access, we use this hotel questionnaire and ask the hotel to email photos of the accessible room, especially the bathroom. When it comes to wheelchair access, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
Where We Stayed
On all three trips we stayed in Chiaia, an upscale residential area developed in the late 19th century. There are terrific neighborhood restaurants, wine bars, cafés, stylish boutiques and other stores. There’s a lot of nightlife, with young Neapolitans overflowing from the bars into the small streets. The neighborhood is lively, but while crowded and noisy compared to many cities, it’s quieter and less dense than Spaccanapoli, the historic center of Naples. The terrain is moderately sloped by Naples standards. The streets and sidewalks are bumpy, with uneven stones – welcome to Naples! Chiaia is near the waterfront. In the other direction, it’s an easy stroll on via Chiaia, a pedestrian zone with smooth pavement, to via Toledo, the bustling main street leading uphill toward the archaeological museum and Spaccanapoli, the historic center.
At both hotels (Palazzo Alabardieri in 2014 and 2012; Majestic in 2006) the service was among the best of any hotels we’ve ever stayed in. The staff in both places has a kindness, hospitality, enthusiasm, vitality and warmth that we have learned are part of the Neapolitan character. Though the staff was gracious to all guests, in both hotels they seemed especially solicitous of us, wanting to be sure there were no access barriers and doing everything they could to make us comfortable.
The rates at both hotels were remarkably reasonable. Lodging and food in Naples are a bargain compared to Rome and many other places.
Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri (2014 and 2012)
Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri. Four star. Via Alabardieri, 38. Phone: +39-081-415-278. www.palazzoalabardieri.it.
Palazzo Alabardieri is one of the most charming, well located and accessible hotels we’ve ever stayed in. It’s a few doors from Piazza dei Martiri, an easy to find landmark with unique stores and cafés, and close to pedestrian zones. It’s a 10 minute walk East of Hotel Majestic, where we stayed in 2006 – a bit less residential but closer to the historic center. Beware – the stone pavement on this block of via Alabardieri is especially uneven and bumpy.
There’s a short gradual ramp at the entrance, and an electric door. From outside the building is unassuming, and upon entering one is delighted by the elegance of the lobby, an oval-shaped room overlooked by a walkway on the second floor. The stone floor detail, rich wooden table, yellow ceiling, and light fixture are all concentric ovals. The decor and furniture are unmistakably Neapolitan, elegant but not stuffy, with just the right amount of Baroque influence and a touch of Liberty style. There is a cozy bar off the lobby, and several well-furnished meeting rooms, most of which are down two or three stairs.
The breakfast room is down two or three stairs. In 2012 the staff set out a steep, wide wooden ramp for Howard, but we decided to forgo this in 2014, and Howard had breakfast in our room. Breakfast was delicious, especially the coffee. (The coffee everywhere in Naples is superb.) Neapolitans are late birds, so breakfast is served till 10:30.
In 2014 we stayed in Room 811, on the ground floor. The bedroom is medium size and well lit with lamps everywhere, although without much natural light. There is one window, overlooking a small courtyard, and the curtain needs to be closed most of the time. There isn’t a view, so the only drawback of having the curtain closed is the lack of natural light. The bed is comfortable – firm, but not too firm. All doorways in the bedroom and bathroom are at least 32 inches wide. Like all hotel rooms we’ve seen in Italy, there is a slot near the door to insert the room key card; with the card in, the electricity is turned on; when one leaves the room and removes the card, all the electricity is turned off. This is convenient and energy-saving.
Room 811 has two bathrooms – one accessible and one regular; it was a small luxury for Michele to have her own bathroom. The regular one is fairly large; the accessible one, medium-size, with plenty of turning radius for an electric wheelchair. The regular bathroom is tiled in marble; the accessible one, travertine. The regular bathroom is a bit more elegant.
The accessible bathroom has a large, high toilet with built-in water jets; the water temperature and force are adjustable. A long horizontal grab bar and a vertical one are mounted on the wall to the left of the toilet (to the left as you face the toilet), and a flip-up horizontal grab bar is on the right side of the toilet (it’s attached to the rear wall). There’s plenty of transfer space on the right side. There is a medium-size roll-in shower, moderately sloped toward the drain, with horizontal and vertical grab bars. A small, removable shower seat hangs from one of the grab bars. The water was forceful and as hot as desired. There are emergency pull cords near the toilet and the shower. The sink is easily accessible, although there is no counter or ledge to put toiletries. The faucet has a long handle. There is a grab bar on the wall near the sink. The mirror is large, with excellent visibility from a wheelchair. The blow dryer is too high to reach.
The regular bathroom has a bidet, a huge mirror, a large bathtub and plenty of counter space for toiletries.
In 2012 we stayed in the other accessible room, number 814, also on the ground floor. The bedroom in Room 811 is a bit larger. Room 814 also has only one window, but the orientation is different and there is more natural light. There are two bathrooms, one accessible and one regular, which are similar to their counterparts in 811 but smaller. The accessible bathroom in 814 is adequate size but noticeably smaller than 811. Its access features are essentially the same as in 811 but the orientation of the toilet is reversed – the fixed grab bars are on the right side as you face the toilet, and the movable one is on the left. In 2012 we didn’t know that the hotel has two accessible rooms. Room 814 is excellent but, having stayed in both of them, we prefer Room 811. Both rooms are quiet.
Hotel Majestic (2006)
Hotel Majestic. Four star. Largo Vasto a Chiaia, 68. Phone: +39-081-416-500. www.majestic.it.
The Majestic is in a modernized, immaculately maintained building with warm wood tones and gorgeous marble slabs in greens, grays and beiges. Though it faced the street, our room was very quiet with the window closed.
The main entrance has electric sliding doors and is up a two to three-inch threshold; the threshold was easy in Howard’s electric wheelchair but some manual wheelchair users would need assistance. There is a door without any threshold a few feet away, however, and the bellman was always eager to open it for us. There is a medium size accessible bathroom near the lobby, with a large, high toilet; side transfer space, grab bars, a large sink and an emergency alarm cord.
The regular elevator doorways are too narrow for a wheelchair, so guests in wheelchairs will need to use the service elevator. This wasn’t awkward or a hassle because the cleaning ladies made sure to keep it clean, kept the nearby corridor free of obstacles, and smiled warmly as they made way for us. Howard’s Quickie electric wheelchair was able to fit into the doorway of the service elevator with around two inches to spare on each side, and the elevator is easily wide enough for one able-bodied person along with the person in a wheelchair. However, Howard’s wheelchair just barely fit lengthwise with the footrests in their shortened position. The footrests can be removed in order to shorten the wheelchair; this was not necessary, but it almost was. We didn’t measure the elevator but, in researching our 2012 trip, were told the elevator dimensions are 49.2 inches (125 cm) by 47.2 inches (120 cm), and the doorway is 33.4 inches (85 cm) wide. When inquiring, be sure to ask for precise measurements – don’t rely on this information. We don’t know whether a Permobil would fit; it would be a close call, one way or the other.
The inviting breakfast room is up two stairs but is easily accessed via a ramped walkway near the kitchen. The waiters at breakfast were always attentive, anticipating our arrival and setting a comfortable table for us.
We stayed in Room 101. The bedroom is medium size, but so well designed, cheerful and well lit that it seems larger. We were told the room is 215 square feet (20 square meters) excluding the bathroom; this seems accurate. There is comfortable king size bed, not two single beds pushed together as is often the case in Italy. The air conditioning and air circulation were excellent, not dry or stuffy. The ceiling is high and there is a large window with bright sunlight and a view of the school across the street. Some rooms on higher floors have sea views and are priced accordingly, but none are accessible. (We’ve noticed that accessible hotel rooms in Italy tend to be on the lower floors, probably to make evacuation easier in an emergency.) There is abundant detailing in warm, elegant wood. The switch for the electric window shade, most light switches and most electric outlets (there are many) are accessible, and all the lights can be turned off by an accessible single switch at either side of the bed. There is a built-in closet with accessible drawers but inaccessible hangers. The guest room doorway is approximately 36 inches wide and has a magnet to hold it open. The door doesn’t have a lever handle; there is a push button at the top, so it doesn’t require twisting.
The bathroom is luxurious, spacious, well lit and has terrific amenities. Slabs of creamy white carrera marble with silver veins line the walls, accented by edge details of gorgeous orange marble, also used for the floor tiles. The bathroom doorway is at least 32 inches wide. There is a large, high toilet with plenty of adjacent transfer space. There is a bidet (handy for doing laundry); a large, well-designed sink; a huge, accessible mirror; a heated towel rack and a fan. The towel rack, light switches and hair dryer are accessible. There is plenty of accessible shelf space for toiletries. A phone is next to the toilet, and emergency alarm cords are next to the toilet and in the shower. There is a large roll-in shower with a handheld shower nozzle and plenty of water pressure. The shower floor has anti-skid strips and is gently sloped so the water drains well.
However, there are no grab bars near the toilet or in the shower, and no built-in shower bench. Howard wrote to the hotel asking them to install grab bars.
In researching our 2012 trip we were told that Room 101 still doesn’t have grab bars but the hotel has another accessible room, Room 109, which is larger and has a roll-in shower and a grab bar near the toilet. The hotel wasn’t able to send photos. We don’t know whether this room was accessible in 2006 or was subsequently renovated.
Hotels – Other Possibilities
We haven’t visited any of these hotels; all information was provided in response to our inquiries. All of them have roll-in showers. Because much of the information is several years old, we aren’t including dimensions. It’s imperative that you inquire with the hotels, especially about elevator dimensions.
Historic Center and Nearby
- Caravaggio Hotel. Four star. Piazza Cardinale Sisto Riario Sforza, 157. Phone: +39-081-211-0066. www.caravaggiohotel.it. The accessible room is on the ground floor.
- La Ciliegina Lifestyle Hotel. Four star. Via Paolo Emilio Embriani, 30. Phone: +39- 081-19-71-88-00. www.cilieginahotel.com La Ciliegina opened in 2010.
- Albergo Palazzo Decumani. Four star. Piazzetta Giustino Fortunato, 8. Phone: +39- 081-420-1379. www.palazzodecumani.com. There are two bathrooms in the accessible guest room – one accessible and one regular. However, the lobby, bar and breakfast room are not accessible – they are up three stairs from street level. There is an elevator from street level directly to the floor where the accessible room is located. The elevator also stops at the reception level, but not the lobby, and there is nowhere at the reception level for guests to spend time.
- Palazzo Turchini. Four star. Via Medina, 21/22. Phone: +39-081-551-0606. www.palazzoturchini.it. The entrance is level with the street. The accessible room is a single room and quite small.
- Hotel Piazza Bellini. Three star. Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, 101. Phone: +39-081-451-732. www.hotelpiazzabellini.com. The entrance is level with the street. The photos show a 2-inch high ledge around the roll-in shower.
See the description of Castel St. Elmo (Section 7 – Museums, Churches, Monuments and Other Sites, below) for more information about Vomero. Some of the streets in this neighborhood have stairs. But even using the streets without stairs, because of steepness and distance (not far as the crow flies, but the streets are long and winding) it would be essentially impossible to roll in a wheelchair from this area to the historic center and the waterfront. The Funiculare Centrale line is accessible, but one would be relying on the elevator at the Vomero station, and it would be a hassle to be completely dependent on the funicular. Staying here might be feasible, however, for slow walkers and for manual wheelchair users who are able to transfer to an ordinary taxi.
- Grand Hotel Parkers. Five star. Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 135. Phone +39-081-76-12-474. www.grandhotelparkers.com. There is a “little” step at the main entrance. The view restaurant is accessible by elevator but the roof terrace is not. The accessible guest room has no sea view (disappointing in a hotel renowned for its glorious panoramic views) but is huge.
- Hotel San Francesco al Monte. Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 328. Phone: +39-081-42-39-412 or +39- 081-42-39-111. www.hotelsanfrancesco.it. This hotel is in a 16th century former convent with panoramic views and magnificent art. There are no stairs from the hotel entrance to the elevator. The accessible room has a sea view. The roof terrace, breakfast room and restaurant might not be accessible; the information we received was unclear.
There are several luxury hotels clustered on via Partenope, along the magnificent waterfront. The area is great for strolling day and night, and is flat. This location isn’t central, however; it’s further from the historic center than is Chiaia.
- Hotel Royal Continental. Four star. Via Partenope, 38 and 44. Phone +39-081-76-44-614. www.royalcontinental.it. There are some stairs at the main entrance. There is a side entrance without stairs, but one must ask the front desk staff to open it. There are several accessible rooms, all of which are interior rooms without sea views.
- Grand Hotel Santa Lucia. Five star. Via Partenope, 46. Phone +39-081-76-40-666. http://www.santalucia.it/en/. The hotel entrance has a ramp 47 inches (120 cm) wide. There are no stairs to get to the elevator.
6. MUSEUMS, CHURCHES, MONUMENTS + OTHER SITES
Disabled visitors and one companion are admitted free to all government-owned museums in Italy and most others. It’s still necessary to get a ticket at the ticket counter, although employees were sometimes willing to let us in without a ticket. The tickets make good souvenirs – they have rich, interesting images and graphics – another reason why it’s advisable to get tickets.
The date of our most recent visit is indicated for each place.
Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) (2014)
If you can visit only one museum in Naples, this is it. Extraordinary artifacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other antiquities sites – mosaics, frescoes, sculptures (including the Farnese collection of colossal Roman marble statues), glass and coins – are on display. Access is excellent. We got there by strolling up via Toledo. The curb ramp at the intersection of via Toledo and Piazza Museo Nazionale in front of the museum is rutted and has a steep cross slope, but Howard was able to navigate it. Many people in manual wheelchairs would need some help. There is a gate at the parking lot near the entrance; get the guard’s attention and he will open it. The building is on a hill but the site is flat. There are no stairs at the entrance. A huge elevator serves all floors. There are no changes in level among the galleries on each floor. Don’t miss the Secret Cabinet, the collection of strange, erotic and pornographic objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum; you must be 14 or older.
In 2014 some of the galleries were closed, not for renovation or installation of exhibits but because the museum was short staffed, probably due to budget cuts. The closures rotate frequently, so if your heart is set on visiting a particular gallery, confirm in advance that it will be open.
There is a large accessible bathroom on the ground floor, with a large, high toilet; plenty of side transfer space, a large sink and an emergency alarm cord. The door is a heavy sliding door, so most wheelchair users will require assistance. The bathroom is locked; you must ask an employee for the key. It’s a minor inconvenience to find an employee but this is outweighed by the fact that, like many locked accessible bathrooms in Italy, this one is very clean.
Capodimonte Museum and Park (2012)
This great museum and spacious park are at the top of Naples. We got a ride there, which took quite a while (perhaps 45 minutes from Piazza dei Martiri); it would be difficult to get there by bus. Wheelchair accessible parking is available on the site. The paths in the park are paved in smooth black St. Peter’s stone and are mostly gently sloped. Access at the museum is excellent. There is a level entrance. There is a medium-size elevator; it was easily large enough for Howard, Michele and two other people. There are small changes in level (around 3 inches/7 to 8 cm) between some of the galleries, all of which are ramped.
There is an accessible bathroom in the courtyard. There is a 3 to 4 inch (7 to 10 cm) step, and a permanent ramp. There is an attendant. The bathroom is a typical Italian accessible bathroom. This one is medium-size. There is no toilet seat, but neither are there toilet seats in the regular bathrooms.
Castel St. Elmo (2012)
The castle is located up in Vomero, which has more trees and less traffic than many other parts of Naples, and boasts spectacular views and a large pedestrian shopping zone. When we were there in 2012 there was a gentle breeze and the air felt fresh, a welcome relief from the midday heat below. But in 2014, when the weather was moderate down below, it was windy and chilly in Vomero.
From the Piazza Fugo/Vomero station of the Funiculare Centrale (see Section 5 – Transportation in Naples, above) for more information on how to get there) to Castel St. Elmo there is a series of moderately sloped winding streets. Most corners have curb ramps, but Howard traveled in the street much of the way because some of the designated sidewalk areas have significant cross slopes. From the station to the castle was an easy 10 to 15 minute stroll. There is a more direct route, but it’s up a long flight of stairs.
At the entrance to the castle there is a steep driveway. Howard had to tilt and recline his wheelchair far back; manual wheelchair users would need assistance, as would power chair users whose chairs don’t tilt and recline. Accessible parking is available. There are two elevators: one serves the ground level and top level; the other serves the ground, middle and top levels. Both are moderately large; Howard, Michele and two other people fit in each of them. It’s a long ride to the top. From the ground level of the castle to the elevator there is a gradual slope and no stairs.
At the top level there is a 3 inch (7 to 8 cm) stair from the elevator landing to the huge open area inside the parapet walls. The open area is flat and paved in fairly smooth bricks. There is a walkway around the walls, which is accessible only by a very steep ramp. Fortunately, there is no cross slope on the ramp. Howard was able to go up the ramp at full speed, and was able to go down only by tilting his wheelchair back the maximum amount to compensate for the steep slope. Manual wheelchair users, and people in electric wheelchairs without high-speed motors and tilt capability, would need much assistance. One is rewarded for the effort by extraordinary, panoramic views of the city, the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. Some of the openings in the crenellated walls are fairly high; Howard elevated his wheelchair to see through them. Some people in manual wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs without an elevating feature would be able to see through the openings; others wouldn’t. Even for those who cannot, it is fascinating and exhilarating to be so high up and explore this old Spanish castle, and there are other viewing spots at wheelchair height.
At one side of the open area at the top level there is a viewing room, easily accessible by a gradually sloped metal ramp with railings, and from which there are jaw-dropping views of Vesuvius. An accessible bathroom is nearby, which is smallish for Italy but adequate. There is no toilet seat, but neither are there toilet seats in the regular bathrooms. At the top level there is also a contemporary art museum, accessible by a small, dedicated elevator.
At the middle level one can see various parts of the castle. There are some moderately sloped ramps leading to towers and turrets. There are also auditoriums and meeting rooms, which we did not enter. If you are running short of time, skip the middle level; there is much more to see at the top level.
Certosa e Museo di San Martino
The San Martino Museum, housed in a former charterhouse (monastery), is in Vomero, not far from Castel St. Elmo. In planning our trip we inquired about access several times but received no response. Unfortunately we did not have time to go there and check it out. http://cir.campania.beniculturali.it/museosanmartino
The street, via Duomo, is on a fairly steep hill. From the street to the entrance porch there is a wide, moderately sloped metal ramp with handrails. From the entrance porch there are two stairs, each of which is 7 inches (18 cm) in height. The guard brought a portable wooden ramp, but the ramp is 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) too high, resulting in an odd disparity in level, and Howard needed major assistance exiting. The Chapel of San Gennaro is up one stair 10 inches (25 cm) in height from the nave, and there is no ramp. However, one can see much of the chapel from the nave, and in the nave there is an informative, high-quality real-time video display of the chapel.
Galleria Umberto I (2012)
There are no stairs at the entrance on via Toledo.
We enjoyed a romantic stroll along the lively waterfront from Chiaia to Mergellina. The scenic waterfront here has cafes and restaurants and is bustling with fisherman and their boats. The sidewalk is mostly flat, smooth and continuous, without major access barriers.
Metro Art Stations (2014)
Many of the Metro stations in Naples have compelling, noteworthy art and architecture. See Section 5 – Transportation in Naples, above.
Monte di Pieta (2012)
There are several stairs from the courtyard up to the entrance, and no ramp. The sculptures by Pietro Bernini (father and teacher of Gian Lorenzo) are in niches on the outside of the building and can easily be seen from the courtyard.
Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) (2006)
There are no stairs at the entrance, but the surfaces in the nearby street, in Piazza Plebiscito and in the palace’s ground floor courtyard are paved in very uneven cobblestones and the ride is quite bumpy. All of the galleries are on the first floor (up one floor from the ground floor), which is accessed by a small elevator. Howard fit only by removing his wheelchair footrests and backing into the elevator; there was no space to spare. It would be difficult or impossible to fit in the elevator with a large electric wheelchair, such as a Permobil, or a scooter. The bathroom is not accessible.
In response to our inquiry in 2014, museum staff told us there is a “pedana,” (a platform lift or diagonal stair lift) to go up four stairs at the entrance, but the weight capacity may be too low for a large electric wheelchair. Inside the museum there is an elevator from one floor to another. The garden is completely accessible. Due to time constraints we didn’t make it there.
Pio Monte della Misericordia (Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy) (2012)
At the entrance to the main church there is one stair 6 inches (15 cm) in height, but according to the guard they will be getting a ramp. But even with a ramp, there wouldn’t be an accessible way to get from the main church to the chapel where Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy is displayed. Besides being entered from the church, the chapel has its own separate entrance from the street. There are two or three stairs from the street up to the chapel entrance, and a steep wooden ramp. Howard was able to use the ramp with a great deal of assistance from the guard; manual and electric wheelchair users would need much assistance. It is also possible to see the painting from the street.
San Carlo Opera House (Teatro San Carlo) (2006)
Opera, ballet and other concerts are still performed at Italy’s oldest opera house, founded in 1737 and the great rival to Milan’s La Scala. Guided tours around 20 minutes long are given. There are at least five stairs at the main entrance. There is an accessible entrance, but wheelchair users wanting to take a tour must provide a few days’ advance notice. We didn’t reserve in advance, so weren’t able to take the tour. Accessible concert seating is available, although probably not at the last minute. We did not attend a concert. There is an extensive website in English where you can order concert tickets and learn the illustrious history of Teatro San Carlo. www.teatrosancarlo.it.
San Domenico Maggiore (2006)
There is one high stair at the entrance. It was not difficult for Michele and one other person to lift Howard in his lightweight electric wheelchair, but it would not be possible in a heavy electric wheelchair such as a Permobil. Conditions may have changed since 2006.
Sansevero Chapel (2014)
Do not miss the Sansevero Chapel. In a city of the unusual, this chapel is truly unusual. Like many buildings and works of art in Naples, it’s not as well-known as those in Rome, Florence, Siena and elsewhere. This mysterious, ornate, intimately sized Baroque chapel is the product of a brilliant and eccentric mind, Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero. The Veiled Christ – Giuseppe Sanmartino’s masterpiece of white/grey marble – and other exquisite sculptures are displayed on the ground floor. Sanmartino’s work rivals those of Michelangelo and Bernini in its virtuosity, immediacy and ability to move the viewer. Leave time, though, to see the other artworks and read about their meaning and origins.
There is one high stair at the entrance, and the employees set out a short, steep portable wooden ramp. Howard needed assistance from the employees in both directions and, when exiting, used the tilt feature of his Permobil to compensate for the steepness of the ramp. Manual wheelchair users, and people in electric wheelchairs without a tilt feature, would need assistance in both directions. The Chapel should get a longer ramp – although the street outside the entrance isn’t very wide, it’s wide enough for a longer ramp. The skeletons (“anatomical machines”) are down a flight of stairs but can be seen well from a viewing gallery one step up from the ground floor; the employees moved the ramp and used it to give Howard access to the gallery. The employees were friendly, gracious and justifiably proud of where they work. They were delighted at the delight of the visitors. www.museosansevero.it
Santa Chiara (2014)
The street from the outside portal of the church to the entrance to the majolica cloister and museum is moderately sloped, with a moderate cross slope. Some slow walkers and manual wheelchair users would need a bit of assistance; electric wheelchair users would not. The pavement is composed of large, uneven, bumpy stones. The entrance is level; there is no stair. The walkway around the perimeter of the cloister is flat and paved with smooth stones. The interior paths of the cloister are up one stair 30 cm (12 inches) in height from the walkway. The cloister can be seen and enjoyed from the perimeter, and a visit is well worthwhile even if one cannot ascend to the interior. There is a moderately sloped ramp from the cloister perimeter walkway up to the museum; there is a 5 cm (2 inch) lip at the bottom of the ramp, which should not pose an obstacle for most people with mobility limitations.
In 2014 and 2012 we didn’t go into the church itself, but we did in 2006. The church is up one small stair and one high stair; in 2006 it was not difficult for Michele and one other person to lift Howard in his lightweight electric wheelchair, but it would not be possible in a scooter or a heavy electric wheelchair such as a Permobil. Conditions may have changed since 2006. Manual wheelchair users could access the church with moderate assistance.
At the Santa Chiara cloister there is a medium size accessible restroom, not far from the ticket booth. One must ask the employee for a key. This is the only accessible restroom we’ve found in Spaccanapoli, so Howard returned to it when in the area even if we didn’t want to visit the church.
Via San Gregorio Armeno (2014)
This street of artisans with traditional Neapolitan Christmas displays, nativity scenes, toys and puppets is moderately hilly and paved in bumpy cobblestones. Most of the shops are up one stair and are inaccessible for people in electric wheelchairs, but the shops have wide open fronts, the merchants are welcoming, the displays spill out onto the street, and one can see them and be waited on from the street.
Villa Floridiana (2014)
This museum and park are in Vomero, in the opposite direction from the Funiculare Centrale station as Castel St. Elmo. The streets leading to the park entrance are relatively flat. Most of the pathways in the park are moderately sloped. The section of the path closest to the park entrance has gravel; it wasn’t difficult for Howard to traverse but many manual wheelchair users and slow walkers would need assistance. Thereafter the paths are paved in a smooth material, but their condition has deteriorated in some areas. The area in front of the museum is paved in large, extremely uneven stones. There appear to be two or three stairs at the museum entrance. When we were there the museum was closed. The park and museum building seemed rundown and in need of maintenance. Still, many Neapolitans – human and feline – were enjoying a leisurely afternoon at this spot.
7. RESTAURANTS + STORES
Compared to Rome, Florence, and other cities we’ve been to in Italy, many restaurants in Naples have a higher step at the entrance, and were impossible for Howard to access in his Permobil. Several restaurants that had been recommended or looked appealing were inaccessible. Some restaurants have outdoor tables, but this is less ubiquitous than in Rome. So restaurant choices in Naples for people in electric wheelchairs or scooters are more limited. Still, it was wonderful to eat outdoors when we could, another reason to visit Naples when the weather is good, if you have a choice of when to travel. In short, it’s more difficult, and takes more planning and searching, to find accessible restaurants in Naples than in some other cities, but there are plenty, and the food in Naples is a real treat.
The culinary highlight was the incredibly fresh, moist and flavorful fish and seafood, which tasted like it was caught just minutes before being served. We feasted on marinated anchovies (alici), baked seafood linguini (linguini alla cartoccio), linguine with clams (linguini alla vongole) or with tomatoes, clams and mussels (linguini alla scoglio), swordfish (pesce spada), Mediterranean sea bass (spigola) (much closer to striped bass than to Chilean sea bass), gilthead bream (orata) (which may or may not be the same as tilapia/St. Peter’s fish), and giant calamari. The fish is prepared simply, either grilled or baked, sometimes baked in acqua pazza, a simple fish stock with garlic and parsley, and often served with fresh bright fire-engine-red large cherry tomatoes bursting with sweet flavor. (Among other foods, Naples is justly famous for its tomatoes, which benefit from the volcanic soil.) Pezzogna is a delicious small fish with white flesh, in the red sea bream family, that we ate fried and grilled. Paranza refers to several types of small white fish, which are typically fried. The fried fish was always lightly fried, never greasy.
Ravioli Caprese (ravioli filled with ricotta and buffalo mozzarella in a light tomato sauce) was scrumptious. Neapolitan pasta we liked include scialatelli (long, flat noodles, almost square in cross-section) and paccheri (large diameter tubes, similar to rigatoni but bigger); both are chewy and go perfectly with fish, seafood and tomatoes. Fresh local bitter greens spigarello and friarielli (the latter may be the same or similar to what’s known in the US as broccoli rabe and elsewhere in Italy as rapini), sautéed in olive oil, lemon and garlic, sometimes with chili flakes added, were the ideal side dish.
The pizza is also delectable and Neapolitans’ pride in it is justified. Neapolitans eat pizza as a snack, an appetizer and a main course. (We don’t know about breakfast.) They are so crazy about pizza that some upscale restaurants and those that specialize in seafood also have pizza ovens, and many include the word “pizzeria” in their names.
Every coffee we had in Naples was delicious, whether at our hotel, a café or a restaurant. The coffee was medium bodied, rounded, well roasted, rich yet not overpowering.
Our favorite regional wines were Aglianico and Taurasi – deep red, full bodied, with a nice balance between fruit and earth. Taurasi is made from the Aglianico grape; it has the prestigious DOCG designation and must be aged at least three years, including in wooden barrels.
Service was casual, relaxed, knowledgeable and proud, and if we ate somewhere more than once, the waiter welcomed us like old friends.
For informed, impassioned and opinionated restaurant reviews and recommendations, and fascinating information about the history and lore of Neapolitan food (and Roman and other cuisines), visit Parla Food, a blog written by our friend Katie Parla. www.parlafood.com.
The restaurants are listed by location.
Manfredi (2014 and 2012). Via S. Teresa a Chiaia, 33 (Chiaia). Phone: +39-081-411-647. www.pizzeriamanfredi.com. This neighborhood favorite is a 10 minute stroll from Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri. The inside area is definitely not accessible (it’s down a very high stair, and the corridor is too narrow for a wheelchair anyway), so we ate outside. The outside dining area is sloped, which was challenging for Howard. This place gets crowded with neighborhood residents, with many people waiting on the street near the tables, catching up with friends, walking their dogs and hanging out until a table is ready. Yet we did not feel rushed. For travelers in wheelchairs it’s a good idea either to call in advance and explain that you need an outside table, or to come early. Manfredi serves fresh, delicious fish and seafood, fish/seafood pasta, and good pizza. The food is simple and traditional. On all of our visits, most patrons were Neapolitan; there were few tourists.
Nativus (formerly la Barrique) (2014, 2012 and 2006). Piazzetta Ascensione, 9 (Chiaia). Phone: +39-081-032-0201. This warm, cozy restaurant and enoteca (wine bar) in Chiaia, a few minutes’ walk past Manfredi, is an exception to the fish and seafood theme. Serving dinner only, it features steak, veal, lamb, cheese, and some classic Roman pastas such as cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and black pepper). With a huge, reasonably priced wine list emphasizing southern Italian wines, including many by the glass, Nativus is a great place to learn about the regional wines. Service was gracious and friendly. There is a 2-inch (5cm) threshold at the entrance.
In 2012 and 2006 this place was called la Barrique (a barrique is a wine barrel), and we had a wonderful dinner there each time. In 2014 we strolled into the same place, not realizing it had changed name and ownership. The interior hadn’t changed one bit. Nativus’s menu is similar to that of la Barrique – serving meat and no fish or seafood or pizza, and with Roman and other Central Italian influence instead of Neapolitan. We were there in 2014 on a Saturday night and were literally the only patrons the entire night. At first we thought it was empty because we were early (8 PM is early for dinner in Naples), but no one else showed up. The food was delicious and fairly priced. The waiter, helper and chef kept giving us extras and eagerly awaiting our verdict, which was delightedly positive each time.
Umberto (2014). Via Alabardieri, 30 (Chiaia). Phone: +39-081-418-555. www.umberto.it. This restaurant is next door to Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri, and the hotel’s room service menu comes from the restaurant. Umberto has its origins in 1916. It serves traditional Neapolitan cuisine, and also offers some innovative and signature dishes. The decor is moderately upscale. The sidewalk is narrow and around 5 inches (13 cm) above street level, and from the sidewalk there is one stair around 5 inches (13 cm) high at the entrance. In 2014 Michele found two boards to use as a ramp, placing them side by side; the boards were long enough to easily bridge both vertical changes in level. The waiters held the boards and it was easy for Howard to enter and exit.
In 2014 we ate here twice. Everything was delicious, including saffron based seafood risotto, baked filet of sea bream, short pasta tubes with octopus and olives, and other pastas. The desserts were a treat. There is an extensive wine list.
In 2012 we were unable to access Umberto, so we ordered pizza, which they delivered to our hotel and we ate in the hotel bar. The pizza was teriffic and inexpensive.
Howard is writing to the restaurant to ask them to get a portable ramp.
Pizzeria Decumani (2014). Via dei Tribunali, 58 (Spaccanapoli). Phone: +39-081-557-1309. Scrumptious traditional Neapolitan pizza, crust with just the right balance of chewiness and “crustiness,” and a wide choice of toppings. Inexpensive and informal, with fast and friendly service. At the entrance there is a built-in, gradual ramp made of black marble mosaic, so access is easy. The owner was proud of his ramp.
Scaturchio (2012 and 2006). Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, 19 (Spaccanapoli). Phone: +39-081-551-70-31. www.scaturchio.it. This famous pastry shop in the old city, renowned for its sfogliatelle (flaky, shell-shaped Neopolitan pastry), is a must for locals and travelers alike. Don’t miss the terrific espresso and also the rhum babas. There is a 2-inch (5 cm) threshold at the entrance.
Osteria Donna Teresa (2012). Via Kerbaker, 58 (Vomero). Phone: +39-081-556-7070. We had a wonderful lunch at this tiny place owned by an elderly couple (the Nonna is the chef) and their daughter. This is a place for an inexpensive, quick meal, not for lingering. At least for lunch, there is no written menu, it’s fixed price only (and a bargain), and the choices are limited. For appetizers we had pasta i checchi (flat pasta with mashed chickpeas; unlike some other versions, this one was not a soup), tomato and potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing, and lentil soup; all were superb. For our main dishes we had veal polpette (meatballs) with tomato sauce, which was one of the best meatball dishes we’ve ever had, and fresh marinated anchovies.
The waitress and her parents couldn’t have been more welcoming. The restaurant is up a step of around 4 inches (10 cm), and there is no ramp. Howard was just able to make it with a running start. The father moved a table out of the way to provide room to do this, and was greatly pleased that Howard was able to get in. We got there early by Neapolitan lunch standards (around 1 PM) and it was not yet crowded, so the two tables closest to the opening weren’t occupied. It would be difficult for someone in a wheelchair, especially an electric one, to get in if those tables were occupied; the customers would have to move while the wheelchair user entered. Also, the restaurant is too narrow for someone in a wheelchair to get from the entrance to one of the interior tables, so customers in one of the front tables would need to move to a rear table and yield the front table to the wheelchair user. We recommend either getting there early, or calling and asking them to reserve a table at the entrance.
Limone limoncello store (2012). Piazza San Gaetano, 72 (Spaccanapoli). Phone: +39-081-299-429. www.limoncellodinapoli.it. This is a limoncello factory in the heart of Spaccanapoli. At the side entrance there is a step around 4 inches (10 cm) high; Howard was just able to get in with a running start. You can see vats of limoncello being made, and you can open the lid and smell it. The smell is overpowering; from it you wouldn’t imagine how fragrant and delicious the finished product is. (Or if you already like limoncello, you’d never suspect how strong it smells when it’s being made.) They are generous with their tastings. We bought some limoncello to take home. They also make other fruit liqueurs, such as melon. A section of the well-preserved Greek and Roman subterranean antiquities in Spaccanapoli is underneath this store.
Bowinkel (2012). Piazza dei Martiri, 24 (Chiaia, near Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri). Phone: +39-081-764-4344. Renowned antiquarian store selling art objects, prints, photographs, watercolors and postcards of old Naples. We purchased some delicate, evocative miniature prints. The business was founded in 1895. The owner, Ernesto Bowinkel, has fascinating stories about the history of Naples as experienced by his family, originally from Germany. The building was bombed by the Allies in World War II. There is a step around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) high; it was easy for Howard to get in. Open Monday through Friday (closed during lunch hour), and Saturday mornings; closed in August.
Note that there is another Bowinkel store with similar merchandise. It’s a separate business owned by Ernesto’s brother Uberto and located on via Santa Lucia. We haven’t been there.
8. WALKING TOURS – CONTEXT TRAVEL + KATIE PARLA
A good guide can enrich and enliven travel anywhere, and this is certainly true in Italy, with its complexity, multiplicity of physical and historical layers, vast temporal scale, extraordinary richness, and sometimes nearly overwhelming density. There is a lot to absorb. The walking tours we took with contexttravel.com in Naples, Rome and Florence have been among the highlights of our trips.
Context operates in-depth small group (six people maximum) and private walking tours (Context prefers the term “itineraries”) of three to four hours led by English-speaking docents who live in the city where they lead tours and have advanced degrees in art history, architecture, archaeology, history or languages. The docents aren’t conventional, full-time tour guides – they are specialists sharing their expertise and passion for their subjects while also practicing their professions when they aren’t giving tours. The tours are thematic. Context began in Rome and now operates in Naples, Florence, Venice, elsewhere in Europe, and in Asia and the United States.
We took Arte Napoletana walks with Context docents Maria Laura Chiacchio in 2014 and 2006, and Fiorella Squillante in 2012. Maria Laura and Fiorella are multi-lingual Neapolitan natives with advanced degrees. They both combined the pride, lore and familiarity of a native with the learning of an academic expert. Their knowledge and insights were deep and broad, their enthusiasm for Naples energizing, and their pacing perfect. They were historically imaginative in evoking the past, generous with their time, and welcomed questions.
Over the years we’ve also taken many Context tours in Rome, Florence and Paris. Fascinating, in-depth and interactive, these walks, like those in Naples, have added a rich dimension to our knowledge and appreciation of these cities. The high quality of the docents, small size of the groups, large amount of time devoted to a particular thematic topic, and interactive nature of the tours make a Context walk a true learning experience, as well as enjoyable. What you see and learn are likely to leave a lasting impression.
Context views access as a challenge, a learning opportunity, and an endeavor consistent with its commitment to social responsibility and sustainability. Several times over the years the docents rearranged our tour to make it more accessible. In recent years Context has developed its Mobility Program, which aims to identify the degree of accessibility of its itineraries for wheelchair/scooter users and slow walkers, to design accessible itineraries, and to systematize the information. Howard is proud to be part of an advisory panel that helps Context with this program. On our 2014 and 2012 trips to Naples, Rome and Florence (and in Paris in 2013) we took several Context walks in order to survey and document their level of accessibility and recommend ways to improve it.
Context offers a large variety of itineraries with varying degrees of access. Given the age, terrain and site conditions in these cities, it is unavoidable and understandable that not all of the itineraries are accessible, some are only partially accessible and some are completely inaccessible, but Context is trying to do as much as is feasible. When signing up, provide detailed information about your mobility limitations and capabilities.
If you are in Florence, we highly recommend a tour with Context docent Cornelia Danielson, who is not only an architectural historian specializing in Italian Renaissance architecture, but an access expert and tireless advocate for disability rights in Florence, Tuscany and beyond.
Katie Parla, formerly a docent for Context, gives private tours of southern Italy and Rome, and writes passionately and insightfully about Italian food, wine, art and antiquities. In 2009 she took us on a superb tour of Via Appia Antica (the Appian Way) in Rome. Her knowledge of southern Italy and Rome is impressive, her enthusiasm infectious. She’s aware of and conscientious about disability access. Her food blog is Parla Food.
9. THE GREAT COURSES LECTURES
The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company) produces lectures on a variety of subjects by award-winning college professors. We’ve enjoyed the following series, which are fascinating, well produced and have added immeasurably to our knowledge and appreciation of Italy.
- Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City by Professor Steven Tuck
- Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity’s Greatest Empire by Professor Steven Tuck
- Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome by Professor John Hale
- Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon by Professor Stephen Ressler
- Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity by Professor Stephen Ressler
- Genius of Michelangelo by Professor William Wallace
- Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance by Professor William Kloss
- Italian Renaissance by Professor Kenneth Bartlett
- History of Ancient Rome by Professor Garrett Fagan
- Famous Romans by Professor Rufus Fears
- Greece and Rome: An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean by Professor Robert Garland
- Great Battles of the Ancient World by Professor Garrett Fagan
- Tourist Information Call Center of Campania Region. www.italia.it. Phone: +39-06-39-96-78-51. From Italy only, 800-22-33-66.
- Naples in 3 Days – A Guide to Neapolitan Art and Architecture. By Fiorella Squillante, our friend and Context docent. 2012. An indispensable guide to the main museums and churches, written with enthusiasm, artistic insight and historical context by a Neapolitan native. It would be difficult to see everything in this book in only three days. Creative Educational Press Ltd. ISBN: 978-0-9570796-0-1. Can be ordered online at www.naplesin3days.com or www.thecepress.com. Published in, and ships from, the UK.
- Bay of Naples & Southern Italy (Cadogan Guide.) By Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls. 2007. A well-researched, insightful and thorough travel guide to Naples, Campania and the rest of southern Italy, with an emphasis on history, culture, art and archaeology. Published by Cadogan Guides. ISBN 1-86011-184-X. Unfortunately this book is out of print and Cadogan Guides appears to be out of business. However, copies are available online. Although the hotel, restaurant and logistical information may be out of date, the high quality of the historical and cultural information makes this book still worthwhile.
- Naples ’44. By Norman Lewis. An empathetic, incisive, observant, dryly ironic diary by the British travel writer of his year in Naples as an intelligence officer after the Allied landing in Southern Italy and the liberation of Naples. Carroll & Graf Publishers (Avalon Publishing Group). ISBN – 10: 0-7867-1438-7. ISBN – 13: 978-0-7867-1438-4.
- The Gulf of Naples – Archaeology and History of an Ancient Land. By Umberto Pappalardo. 2006. A beautifully photographed, well written guide to the archaeology and history of Naples, nearby towns including Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum, and the islands. Has just the right level of detail. Arsenale Editrice. ISBN 88-7743-316-7.
- Hidden Naples and the Amalfi Coast. By Massimo Listri, with text by Cesare Cunaccia. 2002. With sumptuous photos and brief, impressionistic text focusing on customs, legends and lore, this coffee table book can be enjoyed before one’s trip, to whet one’s appetite, and after, as a souvenir. But “hidden” is a misnomer. Rizzoli Libri Illustrati. ISBN 0-8478-2482-9.
- In the Shadow of Vesuvius – A Cultural History of Naples. By Jordan Lancaster. 2005. Although not especially well-written, this book is a useful introduction to the complex 2,500-plus year history of Naples. ISBN 1-85043-764-5.
About Access in Naples
- www.TurismoAccessibile.it is part of the official tourism website of the city and province of Naples. It has an English language section including information about transportation, hotels, museums, etc. The information doesn’t seem to be kept current, but there are referrals to other information sources.
- Global Access News – Disabled Travel Network, founded and operated by Marti Gacioch, this site has terrific general information about traveling in a wheelchair, and articles (including ours) and links about travel to a variety of destinations. www.globalaccessnews.com.
- Mobility International USA (MIUSA) focuses primarily on exchange, work/study and community service programs for disabled students but can also provide useful accessible travel information. www.miusa.org.
- Slow Travel is a website loaded with information about traveling more slowly than typical tourists. It isn’t specifically about wheelchair access, but it has some trip reports about wheelchair access to various destinations. www.slowtrav.com.
11. ITALIAN DISABILITY + MEDICAL ORGANIZATIONS
The organizations listed below include disease-specific medical nonprofits, disability rights groups and independent living organizations. In addition to advocacy and medical research, some Italian medical nonprofits provide services such as transportation, referrals to service providers, and other services that are often provided by independent living centers in the US. Many of these organizations have semi-autonomous local branches, some of which maintain their own websites. The local branches are more likely to provide assistance to disabled travelers than the national organizations. To find the websites of local branches, go to the parent organization website.
- AISM – Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla
- ANIEP – Associazione Nazionale per la Promozione e la Difesa dei Diritti Civili e Sociali degli Handicappati
- ANMIC – Associazione Nazionale Mutilati ed Invalidi Civili
- AP – Associazione Paraplegici di Roma e del Lazio – Onlus firstname.lastname@example.org
- AVI – Agenzia per la Vita Indipendente Independent living organization based in Rome. email@example.com
- Cittadinanzattiva Onlus – Disability rights organization focusing on barrier removal in Rome.
- CO.IN – Cooperative Integrate Onlus Roman disability rights organization that has some accessible tourism projects. firstname.lastname@example.org
- FAIP – Federazione Associazioni Italiane Para-tetraplegici
- UILDM – Unione Italiana Lotta alla Distrofia Muscolare
Metric Conversion Guide
One inch = 2.54 centimeters.
One centimeter = 0.3937 inches
One meter = 39.4 inches
One square meter = 10.76 square feet
One kilometer = 0.62 miles
One mile = 1.61 kilometers
One kilogram = 2.2 pounds
One hundred grams = just under ¼ pound (3 ½ ounces)
One pound = 0.454 kilograms (454 grams)
One liter = 0.264 gallons = 1.056 quarts
One gallon = 3.785 liters
English-To-Italian Dictionary Of Disability Access Words And Phrases © Barrier Free Travel 2003, 2006, 2014. (Included by permission of, and with thanks to, Cornelia Danielson of Barrier Free Travel.)
- “disabled” – DISABILE or HANDICAPPATO
- “I am disabled” – SONO UNA PERSONA DISABILE
- “wheelchair” – SEDIA A ROTELLE or CARROZZINA or CARROZZELLA
- “I use a wheelchair” – SONO IN CARROZZINA
- “I use an electric wheelchair” – USO UNA CARROZZINA ELETTRICA
- “wheel” – RUOTA
- “battery” – BATTERIA
- “tire” – GOMMA
- “tire tube” – CAMERA D’ARIA
- “my wheelchair needs to be repaired” – LA MIA CARROZZINA HA BISOGNO DI ESSERE RIPARATA
- “transfer board” – TAVOLETTA DI TRASFERIMENTO
- “I am unable to walk” – NON CAMMINO
- “ramp” –RAMPA or SCIVOLO or PEDANA
- “is there a ramp?” – C’E’ UNA RAMPA?
- “stairs” –SCALE
- “are there stairs?” CI SONO DELLE SCALE?
- “how many steps are there?” – QUANTI GRADINI SONO?
- “elevator” – ASCENSORE
- “is there an elevator?” – C’E’ UN ASCENSORE?
- “is it necessary to climb any steps to get to the elevator?” – CI SONO DEI GRADINI PER ARRIVARE ALL’ASCENSORE?
- “what are the elevator’s dimensions?”- QUALI SONO LE DIMENSIONI DELL’ASCENSORE ?
- “what is the width of the doorway?” – QUAL’ E’ LA LARGEZZA DELLA PORTA?
- “what is the height of the bed?” – QUAL’E’ L’ALTEZZA DEL LETTO?
- ”up” – SU“down” – GIU’
- “roll-in shower” – DOCCIA A PAVIMENTO
- “accessible bathroom” – BAGNO ACCESSIBILE or SERVIZIO IGENICO ACCESSIBILE
- “grab bars” – MANIGLIONI or CORRIMANI (hand rails)
- “is the bathroom wheelchair accessible?” – IL BAGNO E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
- “does the bathroom have a roll-in shower?” – IL BAGNO E’ CON DOCCIA A PAVIMENTO?
- “are there grab bars in the bathroom?” – CI SONO DEI MANIGLIONI NEL BAGNO?
- “is the bus wheelchair accessible?” – L’AUTOBUS E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
- “is the train wheelchair accessible?” – IL TRENO E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
- “is the van/minivan wheelchair accessible?” – IL PULMINO E’ ACCESSIBILE ALLE CARROZZINE?
- “does the van/minivan have a ramp?” – IL PULMINO HA UNA RAMPA?
- “does the van/minivan have a lift?” – IL PULMINO HA UN SOLLEVATORE ?
- “the elevator/ramp/lift is broken” – L’ASCENSORE/ LA RAMPA/ IL SOLLEVATORE E’ ROTTO (or “ROTTA” depending on the gender of the noun)
- “how far is it from [ ] to [ ]?” – QUANTO DISTA DA [ ] A [ ] ?
- “blind” – NON VEDENTE or CIECO
- “I am blind” – SONO CIECO or SONO UN NON VEDENTE
- “Braille” – same word is used, pronounced “brile” (with a long “i” and silent “e” like “bile”)
- “guide dog” –CANE GUIDA
- “deaf” – NON UDENTE or SORDO
- “I am deaf” – SONO SORDO or SONO UN NON UDENTE
- “hearing impaired” – IPOUDENTE
- “I am hearing impaired” – SONO QUASI SORDO
- “sign language” – LINGUAGGIO DEI SORDOMUTI
- “sign language interpreter” – UN INTERPRETE DEL LINGUAGGIO DEI SORDOMUTI
Every letter (vowel and consonant) is pronounced in Italian. There is no silent “e” for example as there is in English
A is always a short “a” (as in “adopt”)
E sounds like a long “a” (as in “ate”)
I sounds like a long “e” (as in “eat”)
O sounds like a long “o” (as in “oats”)
U sounds like “ou” (as in “you”)
C has a hard sound like “k” before “o” and “a” (carrozzina) BUT BEFORE
OTHER VOWELS it sounds like the “ch” in “chair” (doccia)
APPENDIX C: About the Authors
Because one’s capabilities, limitations and equipment affect the access achievable and his point of reference informs his perceptions, we’ll tell you about ourselves. We are fortunate to live in San Francisco, where wheelchair access to buildings, monuments, streets and sidewalks is generally excellent. Howard has muscular dystrophy, uses a power wheelchair and cannot stand or walk. Michele is able-bodied. In 2014 and 2012 Howard used his everyday wheelchair, a Permobil with a seat elevator, reclining back, elevating footrest and tilt-in-space. The Permobil is comfortable and rugged, but there are some disadvantages. It weighs around 325 pounds (148 kg) and, unlike the Quickie lightweight folding power chair he used in previous trips to Italy, it cannot be tilted and lifted, although it can climb a curb or step around 3 inches (7 to 8 cm) high. This presented obstacles we hadn’t encountered on previous trips at some restaurants, stores and churches. The Permobil is 26 inches (66 cm) wide and, with the footrest in the shortened position, 48 inches (1.22 meters) long. Howard is 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall and, when seated in his wheelchair, 57 inches (1.45 meters) high. All other dimensions in this article are approximate; we didn’t have a tape measure.
A Call for Advocacy
Researching your trip, the trip itself and the time after you return present great opportunities to educate and advocate for access. If we learn that something isn’t accessible and could feasibly be made accessible, or that something is mostly accessible but could be improved, Howard often sends an immediate email with detailed recommendations. On our trip we provide feedback in real time. After we return Howard writes letters advocating better access, including appeals to government officials. We aren’t merely critical – we try to acknowledge and appreciate good access, and we also recognize the logistical and architectural difficulties and limitations in making old buildings and ancient sites accessible. Our communications have usually been well received and our efforts have helped spur improvements.
Howard has written to the mayors of Rome and Paris about access barriers, including the need for more curb ramps, and to the CEOs of the Rome and Paris airports. When writing to government officials, we usually send copies to local disability organizations. Sometimes a complaint or recommendation from us, as foreign tourists, can lend additional credibility and cumulative weight to similar advocacy by local individuals and disability organizations. Ironically, it may be easier for officials to ignore or delay action on a complaint by a local than one by a foreign tourist. See Section 12 of this article for a list of Italian disability and medical organizations.
We urge you to use your trip as an opportunity to help move the ball forward on disability access – you will already have the information and the impressions will be fresh in your mind, so writing an effective letter won’t take much extra time.
Wow! Thank you so much for your informative guide. I live in Naples and my mother, who has a disability, is visiting soon. Your guide has helped and inspired me to plan a trip she will greatly enjoy.