An Accessibility Guide to the Vatican, Rome

Desiree Michels

Visitors: 51

Vatican City is one of the most famous places in the world. Besides being full of iconic art and architecture, it is home of the Pope and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It attracts tourists, both catholic and non-catholic, from all around the world, and this creates a unique atmosphere around the city-state. It is also an excellent destination for those seeking accessible holidays for disabled travellers.

Reaching the Vatican

This is a destination that I have previously travelled to with a disabled travel partner and we found it to be highly accessible throughout. We discovered that the best way to reach the centre was to take a taxi through the gates and past the Swiss guards, where a special entrance leads straight into the Vatican’s heart through a tunnel. (Contact one of my team if you’d like to pre-book an accessible taxi to make your journey a simple and straightforward experience too. )

St Peter’s Basilica and the museums, Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel are not connected by step-free access, so wheelchair users will need to take an external sidewalk which is roughly 1km. It is downhill from the museums to St Peter’s, so I would recommend visiting them in that order.

Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are highly accessible, with a ramp at the entrance and elevators allowing you to reach each floor. Wheelchair users can also return along the tour route and go through roped off areas to avoid steps.

After the museums, a staff member can show you how to reach the Sistine Chapel and escort you behind a roped off area, where you can follow a smooth path to the chapel. Halfway down, an elevator can take you to the Raphael Rooms; here you will find a collection of world famous frescoes painted by Raphael.

Sistine Chapel

To reach the chapel, you will need to traverse a short staircase which is possible with the use of the wheelchair lift (a staff member will be present to operate this). If you present documentation of your disability you can visit the Sistine Chapel for free. Rental wheelchairs are available and handicapped guided tours can be booked in advance. There is step-free access throughout, along with smooth floors and ramps. After the chapel, guided tours are allowed to take a shortcut to St Peter’s Basilica, but disabled visitors will need to go back and exit at the entrance to the museums. The step-free route will then take you to St Peter’s.

The entire area is highly accessible and it is clear that a lot of thought and effort has been put into accommodating those in a wheelchair. The only minor frustration is having to take the external route to access St Peter’s, but the sights and general atmosphere around Vatican City more than make up for it.

Arranging enjoyable and stress-free holidays for disabled groups is our expertise and the Vatican is a destination that I have personally travelled to with a wheelchair user. For more information about Vatican City and its accessibility, don’t hesitate to get in touch. My team and I can also assist in many other ways to make holidays for disabled groups to the Vatican highly enjoyable for all.

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Philip Scott is the owner and founder of Can be Done, a fully licensed UK tour operator specialising in worldwide holidays for disabled individuals and groups. With over 31 years’ experience organising long and short breaks for disabled travellers, Philip has built a reputation for helping his clients select hotels and accommodation that offer high standards of accessibility, to ensure that those with special needs can experience truly relaxing and carefree holidays.


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