Welcome to A Road Retraveled! What’s a little bathroom talk among travel friends?
There are many places in Italy that you don’t wish to visit, but there’s one place you won’t be able to avoid: the John. Or rather, the Giovanni in Italian.
Not many people are as comfortable asking about the toilet situation in Italy as they would about the Coliseum….so in this episode we tackle the question everyone is too shy to ask: toilets in Italy.
BONUS feature for this episode on the A Road Retraveled Travel App
Where the slang crapper came from and whose good name was associated with it?….Why are toilets also called John?….Where and how the term Water Closet came about? How long have toilets been around? Where you can see the Greatest Sewer of Ancient Rome – you might’ve been there and not even know it!! Find out the answers to all these questions in the Bonus Feature of this episode on the A Road Retraveled Travel App.
There ARE public restrooms in Italy, but sometimes few and far in between depending on where you are geographically and in relation to touristy centers. Most public toilets are not free, there’s a fee-to pee of somewhere between 60 and 1 Euro depending on where you are (and it may be more or less than that!).
You either pay the bathroom attendant who keeps the toilets clean and replenishes the toilet paper….or, you might find turnstiles at the entrance where you place your coins to get into the bathrooms.
There are also some free public toilets, and don’t underestimate the wisdom behind “you get what you pay for“….*** In the video you will see some of the more “rustic” toilets in Italy that are quite an adventure into themselves to use!
So to be on the safe side, be sure to always carry tissues and a hand sanitizer with you. You never know WHAT you might encounter when nature calls — a throne, or a trench!
There ARE exceptions to the rule, like the FREE bathrooms at the Vatican in St Peter’s Square and next to St Peter’s Basilica inside the bag check area.
These free bathrooms may have long lines during peak hours, but they’re well maintained with an attendant always on duty….because as we all know, cleanliness is next to godliness! (cue angel chorus)*** In the video I show you where the public restrooms are inside St Peter’s Square
McDonald’s in Italy has the same policy as in the US, anyone can use their bathrooms. And anyone becomes everyone who’s ever heard this bit of advice on travel forums, and it seems they all have to go at the same time. More often than not, you’d find yourself standing in line practicing your pee dance, only to discover the bathroom is unkept and toilet paper long gone. Once again, you get what you pay for.
So for the price of an espresso, which is about equivalent to the fees at most public bathrooms anyway, you can use the cafe’s clean and often elegant facilities.
While some hard core toilet rights activists insist that the law states a business cannot forbid non-patrons from using its toilet, it’s considered rude since it costs money to maintain a clean and functioning toilet that’s… not a hole in the ground. And really, with a wide selection of coffee drinks and pastries that are relatively inexpensive anyway, why would you even deny yourself a delicious entry fee to a superior choice of restroom than the public fee-to-pee variety? However, try to go to less busy cafes…otherwise lines may long, and bathrooms sometimes in constant use and not maintained in a timely manner. And for the best coffee experience, look for cafes that sell Illy cofee. They usually have signs advertising the coffee they use.
How to spot Public Bathrooms
Signs indicating public bathrooms are easy to spot, they usually say Toilette or W.C. for water closet. But sometimes you’ll also find signs that read: Gabinetti Publici, which also means public bathrooms, but the word itself is not usually used when asking for the facilities.
How to ask “where is the toilet?” in Italy
When asking for directions to the nearest restroom, you can simply ask: “Mi scuzi, dov’è il bagno?? (pronounced: Me scuzi, doveh eel banio?) Or: Dov’è la toilette? (pronounced: Doveh la twalette)” Which means, “Excuse me, where is the bathroom or toilet”?
And don’t forget to say “Grazie” (Thank you) when you’re pointed in the right direction. Italians are generally polite and friendly people, so a please and thank you go a long way.
In just about every Italian home or hotel room bathroom – no matter how small that they have to sacrifice the shower, you’ll find a bidet next to the commode. It seems to be the law of the land. And for most of us American tourists, the bidet is perfect for washing…..socks.
*** In the video: Whether you find yourself in one of fancier bathrooms or one of the more rustic ones, just be glad you’re not a tourist 2000 years ago in Ancient Rome…. back then, your only option would’ve been one off THESE fine marble receptacles, with no toilet paper, only a communal stick with a sponge at the tip. And probably….still have to pay a fee-to-pee.
I hope you found this video and blog post….useful….for your next trip to Italy.
Thank you very much for watching and see you soon on A Road Retraveled!