Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to find wheelchair-accessible lodging. Granted, many high end hotels and resorts offer excellent facilities for wheelchair-users and slow walkers; however most people completely overlook these accessible and affordable budget lodging options.
Down on the Farm
If you’re travels take you to Italy, consider a farm stay. Not only will you get good value for your money, but you’ll learn more about the local food and customs. Guests are not required to work on the farm, but the proprietors are usually happy to show folks around. Many farm stays also include full- or half-board.
Visit Agritourism Italy (en.agriturismo.com) for a searchable database of agritourism options throughout Italy. You can search the database by location, property amenity or access features. The properties are listed as “accessible”, “accessible with assistance” and “not wheelchair-accessible”, with the criteria for each category clearly defined in the key.
And although farm stays are a fun way to tour the country, it should also be noted that some offerings are very basic. Make sure you carefully review the property amenities, before you point, click and book.
Monasteries and Convents
Monastery stays are another affordable lodging option in Italy. You don’t have to be of a particular faith to stay in a monastery or convent, and it’s a great way to savor a slice of Italian life and stay in some beautiful historic structures.
A good way to find a monastery is to visit www.monasterystays.com, where you can search for a room that is wheelchair-accessible. The properties listed on the website are the equivalent of 3 star hotels, and most include breakfast. The private rooms either include ensuite bathrooms, or shared public facilities.
Typically the lodging part of the monastery is located away from the working part; and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Don’t expect luxury though, as this is definitely a no-frills lodging option. And although many monasteries have wheelchair-accessible rooms, it’s important to inquire about specific access features, so there won’t be any surprises.
Last but not least, you might want to look into CouchSurfing to slash your lodging costs. Billed as an international non-profit network, CouchSurfing (www.couchsurfing.org) was founded in 2004 by a quartet of globetrotting friends. Their goal was to create a system to connect travelers with locals, so they could come together for friendship and a cultural exchange. Today the network has grown to over a million people; people who not only offer up their couches to members, but who also share their little piece of the world with visiting CouchSurfers.
It’s easy to participate in the network. All you have to do is set up your profile at www.CouchSurfing.org. There’s no cost to join, and once you’re a member you can search for fellow CouchSurfers at your destination. Then you exchange e-mails, find out if you’re compatible and proceed from there. If all goes well, you can request to stay on a couch or even meet for drinks or dinner. In many cases, hosts not only offer lodging, but they also show their guests around town and offer insider travel tips. There’s only one hard and fast rule — you can never charge for your couch.
And since couch surfers are a very inclusive lot, you can also search for a wheelchair-accessible couch or room on the CouchSurfing website. The access standards require at least one accessible entrance and wheelchair-access to the bathroom and the sleeping area. Accessible pathways must be at least 32-inches wide, and all steps greater than ½ inch high must be ramped. Although the standards are pretty basic, many homes go beyond the minimum.