Wheelchair Friendly Milan
I went to Milan as I was going to Dublin next and Milan is where my plane ticket was booked from. Milan is interesting and has a lot more to offer if you look a little deeper. However It is a big city lacking a bit of Italian charm that you find in the smaller Italian towns.
Accomodation: I stayed at Ostello Bello Milan . It was probably the best hostel I stayed at, the only reason being is that I got heaps of free food. Breakfast AND dinner was included. Plus the kitchen had a range of snacks on offer. In terms of accessibility Ostello Bello had one large hostel room with a really good accessible bathroom. The lift access to the room and the rest of the hostel was also great. The only problem was there was a massive step to get into the hostel. I had to stand (sit) outside and a ring a buzzer for quite a while until someone came and helped me. After I explained this massive foresight in their design they were very apologetic but also didn’t do anything about it
Transport: Because the was hostel pretty much in the centre of Milan I didn’t really need to catch much transport. However on the second day I did go to Verona and to get there I had to catch a train from my hostel to the central station then a train from the central station to Milan. The train stations were all very well sign posted and the people friendly. Finding lift access down to the station was the only difficult part . On the platform the step into the train was low so you could get into the train without a ramp.
Overall Accessibility: Parts of Milan and Verona were very cobblestony which made it difficult to get around. In the old parts of Milan the kerb and guttering wasn’t very good and the tpedestrian path was too narrow for a wheelchair and I ended up travelling in the road.
Day 1 – A horror bus ride and walking around Milan
I travelled to Milan by bus. A very long very rough bus ride. This consisted of one bus from Salzburg to Munich where border control took a couple of passports for inspection and then another bus from Munich through the Swiss alps to Milan. I thought I would get some sleep on the bus, however because my core balance isn’t great and because the roads through the Swiss alps aren’t exactly straight, every time we went around a corner I almost fell out of my seat into the aisle. I ended up tying myself with my jumper to the seat to make myself more secure, which kind of worked.
I arrived in Milan at my hostel and realised I didn’t make a booking. All was quickly resolved and I fell asleep on a sofa in the common room and awoke to someone serving me cake.
After some rest I decided to walk around Milan. I headed straight to the Duomo, which is the worlds largest Gothic cathedral and took 5 centuries to be completed. There is a large line outside waiting to get in, however as a wheelchair user you get to skip the line and get free general entry which also gets you into the adjacent museum. You can pay extra to go up to the roof however it is not accessible. The inside of the cathedral is almost as extravagant as the outside and is absolutely amazing. I then continued wandering around the famous shopping streets and looking at the ridiculously priced items. Fortunately/unfortunately I had to do most of my shopping through the window as almost every fancy shop had a huge step to get in. You would think if you were selling handbags for thousands of dollars they could afford to put in a ramp.
On my journeys around Milan I walked passed the Opera House, the Castle Sforzesco and the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazia. The church is home of the infmaous Last Supper. However if you want to see the famous painting it will set you back almost 40 Euro.
The day was finished off with unlimited pasta at the hostel meeting other fellow travellers.
Day 2 – Verona, Romeo and Juliette
Got up early to go and trace the love story of Romeo and Juliette in Verona. I caught a train from my hostel to to Milan central station and then another train to Verona which took about 1.5 hours. The accessibility on both trains were pretty good. I didn’t phone ahead to organise my access onto the train I just arrived and the station staff phoned ahead to get someone to help me off in Verona.
I started off at the Roman Arena which is like a mini colosseum. Again entry is free for wheelchair users. Some bits are inaccessible but there is an accessible path that leads to the centre of the arena however it is a bit uneven. It was a beautiful sunny day and i wandered around the lanes and pedestrian promenades of Verona and into the christmas markets. Its was absolutely beautiful and really felt like Italy (unlike Milan which feels like a big city). Verona has its own Duomo (cathedral). The main entrance is not accessible and there is no signposting to direct you to the accessible entrance. Therefore I found an American couple who went and asked inside for me and eventually I got inside the cathedral.
The last stop was Juliette’s Courtyard and the infamous balcony. It is absolutely filled with tourists and to be honest is a bit underwhelming. The courtyard itself is made up of these really uneven cobblestones which makes it difficult to get around. From the courtyard you can look up to the balcony imagining you are the love struck Romeo. You can buy a ticket to go inside Juliette’s house and stand on the balcony however there is no lift access so it is unaccessible. The passageway leading to and the courtyard itself is full of peoples love messages and really just looks like graffiti.
In short Verona was a beautiful quintessential Italian town, however I wouldn’t go there just to see Juliette’s balcony as it’s fairly underwhelming.
Day 3 – Walking tour of hidden Milan
I decided to finish my time in Milan with a walking tour. Although I had seen alot of Milan on my first day I was told the walking tour covers alot of Milan that is not necessarily in the tour guides. It was really good and after being initially a bit disappointed in Milan it definitely showed me another side to the city.
Some of the interesting things we saw that aren’t really well talked about included an original Roman church, Milan University which used to be a hospice and a church with a chapel made completely out of human bones.
In the evening I walked down to the canals and wandered around and that was Milan.