My brother-in-law visited us in Rome for three weeks, returning to the US last Saturday. When we began talking about his trip, Charlie told us that he wanted to see the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, and the Forum. Then he told us that he was having problems with his knee, and my heart sank. I wasn’t worried about the Colosseum, which has an elevator, but the Vatican Museums have four MILES (not kilometers) of exhibits, and tour buses are too big to fit through the tiny, crooked streets of Rome’s Centro Storico. Michael made a couple of suggestions, and Charlie got to see most of the top sights in Rome, although he didn’t get to see the Forum or Palatine Hill because the street in front of them is now closed to automobile traffic. Here’s how we did it.
- On Charlie’s first day in Rome, he and I took the 116 bus through Centro Storico, so he could get a sense of the city. The route of the 116 changed (for the better) recently, and it now wiggles close to many of the main sights in Centro. Charlie’s knee didn’t allow us to get off the bus much, but we did have lunch downtown at Recafé, one of my favorite lunch restaurants, and took a cab home.
- For the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s, I booked a three-hour wheelchair tour with Sage Traveling. Our tour guide, Lea, was terrific, and everything happened exactly as scheduled. Charlie was overwhelmed by two of my favorite places in the museums: the Gallery of Maps and the Sistine Chapel. I was surprised at the number of elevators in the museum—I didn’t know that there were any! At the end of the visit Charlie either had to walk down several flights of stairs or return to the main entrance of the museums and be wheeled several blocks to the front entrance of St. Peter’s. He elected the former and did really well, although he climbed down a LOT of steps and was pretty tired that night.
- To see the major sights in Rome, I booked a four-hour golf-cart tour with My Best Tour. We had a ball, and we saw so many sights: Piazza Farnese (where we started and ended, although that is flexible), the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (which had a statue of Jesus by Michelangelo), the Pantheon, the Church of St. Ignazio, Piazza Nazionale (with the memorial to Vittorio Emanuelle II—the memorial is known as the typewriter or the wedding cake), the Forum of Hadrian, Circus Maximus, the Church of St. Peter in Chains (with Michelangelo’s Moses and the chains that supposedly bound St. Peter), the Trevi Fountain, the Basilica of Santa Maria of the Angels & Martyrs (Michelangelo designed this church in an old Roman bath—I had never seen it before), the Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona. The tour can be customized, which we did because Charlie had already seen several sights, and Victor, the tour guide, was patient and knowledgeable.
So don’t let a bum knee or hip interfere with a great time in Rome. Use some of the great resources that are available and have a ball!
P.S., We also stumbled (literally!) into a golf-cart tour in Florence. The company is just beginning, and although our tour didn’t have the polish that My Best Tour had, Charlie got to see the top spots in Florence, too.