Visiting the Vatican in a wheelchair.

A Vatican tour is top of the list for most visitors to Rome, but what if you’re a wheelchair user? Rome is not the most wheelchair friendly of cities, as anyone who’s ever tried to make their way through the centre on public transport will tell you. But there are ways to get around, and with a bit of extra planning and support, anything is possible – even an in-depth tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.

Wheelchair access at the Vatican

The Vatican may be the smallest city in the world, but the museum is vast. Some of the buildings are very old, dating back to the 16th century or earlier, and it hasn’t been possible to make every part accessible for wheelchair users. However, the vast majority of the Vatican, including highlights such as the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, can be accessed.

The Raphael Rooms, accessible also to visitors in a wheelchair

To reach the Vatican with public transport, take the metro to Cipro (line A), which has lifts and smooth floors. Alternatively, take a taxi and tell the driver to take you to the ‘Musei Vaticani’ (Vatican Museums), which is the starting point for Vatican tours.

All kinds of wheelchairs are permitted in the Vatican Museums, including mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs. You can rent a wheelchair free of charge, but we recommend bringing your own; if you rent a Vatican wheelchair, you have to return it before you enter St Peter’s Basilica.

Once you’re inside, your Vatican tour will be mostly straightforward – you can move from room to room easily, admiring masterpieces from antiquity and the Renaissance. The main challenge comes at the end of the museum, after you’ve visited the Sistine Chapel. Most visitors proceed directly to St Peter’s Basilica, taking the route known as the scala regia, or the old Pope’s staircase (which you can see at the top of this page). This staircase is used by the cardinals during the papal conclave, and provides a handy shortcut for visitors. If you’re able to walk short distances, you might find it more convenient to fold up your wheelchair and take the shortcut to reach St Peter’s. Otherwise, to continue your Vatican tour you’ll have to go out of the Vatican Museums (the exit is back near the entrance) and take the long way through the piazza to enter the basilica – a 15 minute detour. Don’t worry about waiting in line for the Basilica: if you’re in a wheelchair they’ll let you skip the line (but you’ll be able to bring only one or two people with you).

Vatican tours: group tour or private tour?

visiting the vatican in a wheelchair
St. Peter’s Basilica, picture taken early in the morning.

If you’re thinking of visiting the Vatican in a wheelchair, you should definitely choose a private tour. Group Vatican tours follow the standard route, rather than the wheelchair-friendly route, so if you book a group tour, you’ll end up separated from the group for most of the time. The average group tour guide may not be prepared to adapt the tour for your needs, and of course, the larger the group, the harder it is for the guide to give you individual assistance.

Roads to Rome Private Tours have plenty of experience of organising tours for wheelchair users. We’ll also make sure that you visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel at quieter times, away from the crowds. If you’re a wheelchair user or if you are traveling with somebody in a wheelchair, you should definitely consider taking an early morning Vatican tour, which will allow you to enter before most of the people.

Tips for planning your trip to Rome as a wheelchair user

Here are some extra tips for making the most of your visit:

  • Use taxis. Public transport in Rome is stressful for everyone, and buses (and some metro stations) are not easy to use. Taxi companies have plenty of vehicles that are suitable for wheelchair users, and drivers tend to be helpful.
  • Enjoy the piazzas. Famous squares such as Piazza Navona, Piazza della Rotonda, Piazza del Popolo and Campo de’ Fiori have smooth paving. You can soak up the atmosphere over a coffee or cocktail at an outdoor table in a bar without having to worry about any accessibility issues.
  • Research attractions beforehand and plan accordingly. The Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill are especially challenging for wheelchair users, so you may want to give them a miss. The Colosseum, on the other hand, has smooth floors, lifts and accessible toilets. The most important museums and art galleries are generally accessible too, with ramps and lifts.

Read more: Accessible Rome (Romewise)