Updated: Dec 24, 2019
For people with mobility issues, Italy isn’t always the easiest place to get around.
For a start, there are all those cobbled streets and uneven stone steps to navigate. In some parts of the country, town planning commenced before most other countries commenced, so it can be challenging for those who may need a wheelchair or a walker to get around.
But able-bodied travellers can also face challenges even before they head out to absorb Italy’s wonderful highlights; just in getting in and out of their hotel.
You see, whilst you will find modern purpose-built hotels in Italy, in the larger cities many hotels have been established in older palazzos: palaces built hundreds of years ago and once occupied by the rich and powerful and designed for their lifestyle. Now, this can mean your hotel will have plenty of character. For example, we’ve stayed in rooms with wonderfully frescoed ceilings and others with beautiful marble staircases: echoes of lavish lifestyles in days long gone.
On the flip side, it does mean your hotel is in a building constructed well before anyone came up with the idea of an elevator, let along build one, so if your hotel does have an elevator (and many don’t), it will likely be retro-fitted and often in the stairwell or even on the outside wall.
They will have been fitted it in where they could fit. And when they are inside the hotel, often you will find:
1. they start on the first floor (not the ground floor); and
2. they are small.
The size is largely dictated by the available space. It’s the same reason you often find the bathrooms (and showers) in Italian hotels to be on the small size. To put in a larger lift would require reconfiguring rooms on every floor which would not only be expensive but would also probably not be allowed under local building regulations and the need to preserve historic buildings.
And by small, I mean small. It’s not uncommon for a lift to barely fit one person and a couple of bags stacked on top of each other. And then to travel at a snail’s pace – especially if it’s one of the old-style elevators which resemble a cage and have two doors that each require you to physically open them when entering or leaving the cage.
And the starting on the first floor? Well the entrances to these old buildings are usually a flight of stairs that leads to an open foyer with further staircases leading up from there, so that’s where they need to put the elevator. Which can mean, even if you have an elevator in your Italian hotel, you may still need to climb some steps to get there.
And keep in mind that the numbering of European floor levels starts at zero. That means the ground floor is referred to as '0' (or sometimes 'terrazzo') not '1'….
So what this means to you is that if you need (or want) to book an Italian hotel with an elevator, don’t just accept it has one that meets your needs simply because the website says it has one. Contact the hotel directly and find out which floor it starts on (and whether it goes to all floors). It might also be worth asking how big it is.
But if an elevator is more of a bonus to you that a necessity, just treat it as part of the experience. I enjoy riding in those old-style elevators: it’s like a step back in time. And as far as I’m concerned it can take as long as it likes. After all, I’m on holidays.….
Join us on one of our guided tours of Italy!