Wheelchair in Rome & on cruise

This item appears on page 17 of the February 2009 issue.

My husband, Leon, and I went to Rome for five days and then on a Mediterranean cruise for two weeks in October ’08. Leon uses a wheelchair, though he can walk a bit when he needs to.

• In Rome we stayed at the Migdal Palace Hotel (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II n. 173, 00186 Rome, Italy; phone +39 06 68890091, fax 68892327, www.migdalpalace.it), which is a real find in central Rome.

It is within walking distance of the Vatican, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain and the Jewish Quarter. It is around the corner from the Piazza Navona and across the street from Campo de Fiori, so there is lots of good food nearby.

The rooms were super clean and the breakfast was excellent. It is also Shomar Shabbat for religious Jews who need this.

The staff was wonderful and helpful. Elena is a wonderful person and the one you will be dealing with.

The cost was €122 (near $152) a night. The only negative for us was that there were six steps to get to the elevator.

• We decided that Rome is not the place to go if you are in a wheelchair. We did our best, as we have traveled many places and dealt with inaccessibility. We found the Forum to be inaccessible. And though the Colosseum has an elevator, getting there is difficult. Once inside the Vatican, all is fine; the cobblestones on the way in are what’s difficult.

The Vatican museums are a joy and totally accessible. We hired a wonderful guide, Brenda Bohen (e-mail brenda.bohen@gmail.com). She has done extensive research on the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. We paid her $200 for half a day — a bit steep, but for a special day it’s worth it.

I also would recommend the company Brenda works for, Rome for Jews (call David Walden at +39 339 705 9603 or visit www.romeforjews.com; closed on the Sabbath and Jewish holy days), for general touring and tours of the Jewish ghetto.

• The cruise on the Carnival Splendor was fine, but the ports were extremely difficult. We had a private tour to Ephesus; the tour guide was good, but we could not get more than 200 feet into the ruins. Some people did take a wheelchair through, but they must have been tougher than me.

The same was true in Istanbul. We had a private guide who we found through ITN, and she and the van and driver were wonderful, but once we were at the Tokapi Palace it was really difficult to get Leon to the various buildings.

(For the guide we used in Istanbul, e-mail Lale Kosagan at kosagen@yahoo.com; Lale’s sister-in-law, whose name I can’t remember, was our guide. We paid $300 for a full day, including a nice Mercedes minibus, a driver and all admissions.)

After these experiences, we canceled tours in Athens, Naples and Florence and just enjoyed the ship. The good part is that we returned home very rested.

We have traveled throughout Eastern Europe (including Russia), Western Europe, South America and Israel but have never encountered the degree of inaccessibility we found on this trip. In fact, many able-bodied people we met on the cruise twisted or sprained ankles or fell and broke bones on the uneven ground and cobblestones.


San Diego, CA