We received an invitation to spend two weeks in Italy with very little advance notice. We knew that the itinerary would involve much walking, and based on our research we assumed we would not be able to see many things because our walking is so limited.
After much discussion we decided to at least take our mobility scooters and see if they might make it possible for us to see some of the sights. We decided if they were not useful we would just leave them in our hotel room.
Our flight with Delta Airlines involved one code-share flight on Air France from Florence to CDG. This became a serious problem because Air France did not want to permit us to check our scooters. I spent over three hours on the telephone obtaining permission to check our scooters, and was notified that we had to be at the airline terminal four hours prior to our departure.
When we arrived at 6am there was no one working for Air France so we waited at the check-in counter for a bit more than one hour. Eventually a gentleman approached us and ask if we were the passengers who wanted to check scooters. We said we were, and he explained that they had to be boxed. We then watched as several employees wrestled our dis-mantled scooters into large cardboard boxes.
I do not know what happened to the boxes but when the scooters came out in Atlanta they were not in boxes and their various parts were taped to the main body of the scooters. My scooter sustained some minor damage which Delta addressed promptly upon our arrival at our home airport.
I was generally pleased with the process of transporting the scooters to and from Italy, but in the future I would attempt to avoid using any airline other than a US carrier familiar with mobility scooters.
The other transportation issue we had was when we went from Rome to Florence via train. We had to apply to bring our scooters 24 hours in advance. This involved physically going to Termini in Rome and finding the tiny office for disabled passengers. Lots of paperwork was filled out, and we were instructed to arrive 60 minutes before our train on the following day.
When we arrived at Termini we were directed to a waiting room. We waited there for about forty minutes and then two men came with a lifting device that they used to take our scooters to the train and lift them into a special car with wheelchair accommodations. The rail trip was pleasant and uneventful.
Transportation from the train and airport was a bit challenging. In Rome I made an advanced reservation with Rome Cabs. They provided a small van. The driver met us at the airport even though our flight was nearly two hours late. The driver put the scooters into the van and easily transported us to our apartment.
In Florence we took a taxi from the train to our hotel. We took our scooters apart, and both of them fit into the trunk of the taxi along with most of our luggage. Transportation on the ground was not a problem.
As for our success, Italy proved much easier for our scooters than we expected. There were occasional curbs that were too high for our scooters and we had to lift them by hand over the curb. We were with other family members who helped us do this. On a couple of occasions where we were alone we were able to manage on our own, but someone always offered to help.
We were able to fully explore the Coliseum and to a more limited degree the Forum. We easily reached the Pantheon. We were not permitted to take our scooters into the Vatican, but the Vatican did have wheelchairs which our family members were able to push. My only comment about our Vatican experience is that the wheelchairs were in dreadful repair, and very difficult to push. Our daughter really earned the calories she consumed in her evening meal after pushing us through the Vatican all day.
Florence was generally even easier than Rome. We had virtually no problem with curbs. It was easy to get into most of the churches and museums. The Galileo Museum was an exception. They would not let us use the mobility scooters, but did have one wheelchair. It was difficult to use this wheelchair because the lifts were not operating, and there were multiple levels.
Restaurants were generally accommodating. On a few occasions we just left our scooters near the entrance to a restaurant or small shop, took our keys and returned to find our scooters safe.
The only other surprise was the elevators. I had carefully researched to locate places to stay that did not involve stairs. Both of the places where we stayed had elevators. I did not realize how exceptionally small the elevators would be. They were smaller than a phone booth, and we had to take our scooters apart to put them on the elevators. This process takes no more than ten minutes and was not a huge inconvenience, but it would be nice if elevators were a bit larger.
We avoided the problem of the typically small size of European hotel rooms by renting a self-catering apartment in Rome, and reserving a suite in Florence. In both places we had room for our scooters.
Our conclusion is that it takes some extra work to arrange for our scooters, but it makes seeing a city possible. Our experience in Italy was great, and we would certainly take our scooters again if we return.