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Accessible Rome - "Walking" Tour, Piazza Navona to the Spanish Steps

Mary Murphy-Hanson

Accessible Rome: Getting around Rome in a wheelchair, for the disabled traveler. Read Wheelchair Travel for some basic information.

The center of Rome has many of the world's greatest fountains, piazzas and churches. This "walking" tour takes you from Piazza Navona to the Spanish Steps.

Piazza Navona

This accessible walking tour begins at Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) in the center of the Piazza Navona.

Piazza Navona is a large oval piazza with a small road around the outside and a curb around the entire circumference of the central area. The curb varies in height from three to four inches to over eight inches. The lowest place on the curb is in the northwest corner of the piazza; there are no cutaways. Once you have gotten over the curb the central piazza is flat and easily traversed. The three fountains on the piazza are easily approached.

<< map showing route from Piazza Navona to the Pantheon to be inserted >>

San Luigi dei Francesci

To continue the tour, from Piazza Navona exit heading east at the northeast corner of the Piazza. There is a pedestrian sign. Cross the Corso Rinasciamento and continue east until you reach Via Scrofa. Detour south on the Scrofa (street name changes) for one block to the church of San Luigi dei Francesci (the French church in Rome). This is the home of Caravaggio's triptych "The Calling of Saint Matthew". There is a ramp in the front of the church that allows easy access.

The Pantheon

From San Luigi continue east until you are at the Piazza della Rotonda. The Pantheon is located at the south end of this piazza.

Access to the Pantheon is tricky because there is a quite steep (if small) hill at the entrance. The grade is at two angles and you can easily tip. The best way to enter the Pantheon is to come directly at the center of the front from the piazza.

Mary in the Pantheon

Mary in the Pantheon

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Before you head on to the Trevi Fountain, lets take a small detour to the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Facing the Pantheon, go along the right side. Turn right on the road at the back of the Pantheon go for less than a block. You will see Santa Maria Sopra Minerva on your left. In front of the church is the Bernini Elephant statue with the obelisk on its back.

To access the church go around the back and up a small side street. There is a doorway that you can go in and this will get you into the church alongside the altar (one step). If it is not open, send someone into the church and have them request that they open the door. There is a ramp on the right of the altar that allows access to the rest of the church.

Trevi Fountain

Return to the Pantheon. To continue to the Trevi Fountain exit at the north east corner of the Piazza della Rotunda. There is a pedestrian pathway with smooth bricks. This is a unique path because it is signed in Braille and the path is equipped with sensors that work with specially modified canes that will beep if the blind stray off the path.

<< map showing route from the Pantheon to the Spanish Steps to be inserted >>

After heading east for about three blocks you cross the Via del Corso, a busy main shopping street. Continue due east to the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is another beautiful, giant fountain of Rome. The rim of the fountain is three steps down from the piazza and there are no ramps. So while you can see the fountain you won't be able to turn around and throw your coin in over your right shoulder (a tradition in Rome). Unless you are like me and just give it a great big hoist into the air and let the coins fall where they may.

Mary at the Trevi Fountain

Mary at the Trevi Fountain

Spanish Steps

At the Trevi Fountain the tourist path ends but it is possible to continue on to the Piazza Spagna and the Spanish Steps.

There are no sidewalks or zona pedonale (or minimal) for portions of the journey between Trevi and the Spanish Steps; you just have to share the road. When you reach the Spanish Steps, you will find another fountain - the sinking boat, designed by Bernini during a time of drought. The political commentary is pretty hard to miss with the boat having a papal beehive symbol.

Facing the Spanish steps, on the left you will see the signs for the Metro. Go toward the metro and to the right you will see the wheelchair symbol overhead and elevator doors. No this elevator doesn't take you to the metro (the Spanish Steps are inaccessible from the metro), but it does take you to the top of the Spanish Steps. Push the button for the second floor. As you exit the elevator you will find yourself on a platform facing 40 or more steps. There is a button to summon someone with a key to a stair lift. When we did this, we were blizzarded by Italian and we timidly replied "sedia rotale ascensore?" A guard came out, lowered a stair lift and took me up the last 40 stairs. It is worth it because you are now at the top of the Spanish Steps overlooking Rome.

One of our favorite restaurants in Rome is at the top of the Spanish Steps - Ciampini. With the steps at your back proceed to the left about 50 yards. This is where we learned about strawberries and pepper and about cave cheese and pears. They also serve a wonderful prosecco. There is one step into the restaurant and the restroom is not accessible (too small).

Accessible Restrooms

There was an accessible public restroom at the Spanish Steps but it is now closed. There is a McDonalds to the right of the steps but it has no accessible restroom.

Resources

Slow Travel Photos - Accessible Rome: Photo essay to go with these pages.


Mary Hanson is a wheelchair traveler with four months experience navigating Rome in a wheelchair. When she isn't visiting her heart in Rome, she resides in Phoenix with her husband Tom and her mutt Beau-dog.

© Mary Murphy-Hanson, 2005

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