If you’re following me on Instagram/Snapchat/Instagram’s-new-Snapchat-knock-off, then you already know that last week I flew to Barcelona and met up with my mom to embark on a 8-day Mediterranean cruise with Carnival.
My mom really enjoys cruises. I will be honest, I don’t love them, but she is handicapped and cruises are a great way for her to travel. This, however, was her first cruise (and trip in general) outside the US and Caribbean. We were a little disappointed to discover that very few of the ship’s excursions (we were on the Carnival Vista) were handicap accessible. When I inquired with the excursions representative on board, he blamed it on Italy/Europe. He said many of the excursions were impossible because of the difficult terrain, lack of handicap accommodations, and modes of transportation.
While I am well aware that the age and historical architecture of places like Italy make installing handicap ramps and elevators difficult, I know first hand that Italians in particular will move heaven and earth to help children, the elderly, and the disabled/handicapped whenever they can. Thus, I was unwilling to take no for an answer. I really wanted my mom to see the incredible Amalfi Coast, and I knew just who to call!
I met my friend Cassandra through mutual friends in Florence. Like me, she splits her time between Italy and the states. Unlike me, however, she has parlayed her love and experiences in Italy into an amazing travel company that specializes in unique local experiences and custom travel planning — Travel Italian Style. When I told her my dilemma, she immediately started thinking of ways my mom could see and experience this special part of Italy.
Within the span of a couple days she had used her local contacts to arrange a private driver, Vincenzo, who picked us up directly from the port in Naples (she even ensured we had a van that could fit my mom’s wheelchair, which Vincenzo lovingly hoisted it in and out of the van all day). She created a custom itinerary specifically geared towards places that I could either push my mom around in or that Vincenzo could directly drop us off at. It ended up being the perfect day for anyone, handicapped or not.
Cassandra suggested we start our day and spend most of the morning in Ravello, since it had a relatively flat pedestrian center we could access and explore. She also suggested visiting the Villa Rufolo. The drive from Naples to Ravello took about an hour. We arrived and Vincenzo dropped us off in the center of town. We took photos (btw my mom is great at taking blog photos), explored the main square, church, and Villa Rufolo together before I left my mom sipping a cappuccino while I hiked up to the Villa Cimbrone and the incredible Terrace of Infinity.
Once we finished exploring Ravello, we headed down to Atrani, which was another wonderful suggestion from Cassandra. Atrani isn’t one of the more famous towns of the Amalfi Coast, in fact I had never been. But it definitely should be on more people’s radars! Just look at those adorable umbrellas and that stunning beach vista. Not only is Atrani adorable, the center of town was accessible by car. Vincenzo was able to drop us off in the main square and could walk over to a delicious seaside restaurant for lunch (also recommended by Cassandra).
Following lunch, Cassandra suggested a couple of hotels we could to stop at for some amazing views of the coast and the town of Amalfi. I thought this was a great solution for my mom. If we could not access or explore all of the towns with a wheelchair, my mom could at least see many of them from above.
Our final stop of the day was my personal favorite, Positano. I knew I wanted to take my mom to Le Sirenuse for drinks on the terrace. Despite being a very posh 5-star hotel, Le Sirenuse is always incredibly warm and welcoming. At one point my mom had three men falling all over themselves to help her down two steps! Vincenzo offered to drive my mom further down into town, but by this point she was pretty spent. After a full day of sightseeing, we hopped back in the van with Vincenzo and he took us back to the port. My mom proclaimed that it was one of the best days of her life!
I have to say that when it comes to helping the handicapped/disabled, the Italians have really impressed me. Between the Amafli Coast and Rome, my mom was treated like a queen. Everyone went out of his or her way to help her. Not only was everyone overly helpful, the men (no shocker there) showered my mom with attention. I cannot count the number of hugs and kisses she received. She pretty much thinks this in normal in Italy and wants to move ASAP. If you or a loved one are handicapped, don’t let the cobblestone streets, stairs, and old buildings of Italy deter you from visiting. I am not saying it is easy, but you will have plenty of support and help along the way from the Italians.
I also cannot thank Cassandra enough for planning such an incredible day for my mom. If you ever have any questions about traveling to Italy, need advice on planning, or want her to create an itinerary that will help you experience Italy like a local, don’t hesitate to contact her. She also offers spectacular women-only trips to the Amalfi Coast and Puglia (I think I will do the Puglia trip next summer!).