The Romans invented plumbing, so at one time they were the world leaders. It has been all down hill since then. I have been amazed at the condition of toilets in Italy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Italy, want to travel there as much as possible, and dream of living there. But, I have always been surprised at the lack of modernization of the toilets at so many restaurants, cafes, and even hotels.
“Squat Pot” Toilets in Italy
Many travelers associated squat pots with Asia and other developing regions. A squat pot involves a ceramic hole in the ground, with two spots on either side showing where your feet should be. You place a foot on each side, and precariously perch to do your business, squat style. It takes some practice, but I have become an expert.
My first squat pot experience was not in Asia though. It was across the street from the Coliseum in Rome, at a Volkswagen promotional office. It was not in Asia, and not in the developing world. It was in Rome in 2000.
But, since that first squat pot in Rome, I continue to occasionally find squat pots in Italy, and not just in the countryside. I have seen them in bars in Milan and Turin, major cosmopolitan cities.
“No Seat” Toilets in Italy
In addition to the occasional squat pot, what is more prevalent is a toilet with no seat. I am not sure what the purpose of this is, as I have not asked a local to explain. Can it be to save money on the cost of the seat? To encourage people not to sit down? To avoid messy men from leaving their mark?
There was even an Italian restaurant in Ubud, Bali, owned by Italians, that had a no seat toilet for their customers. I swear, that might be carrying the authentic Italian theme a little too far. Please folks, install a seat. It just seems cleaner.
Hotel Bathroom Toilets in Italy
I made a comment to someone years ago who had spent time living in Germany about the state of European plumbing, he looked at me dumbfounded. I was referring at the time to the lack of showers in England and Ireland, and the number of wet bathrooms in Italy, along with a lack of hot water, and other travesties for an American traveler.
I have found most apartments that we have stayed in to be more modernized than my initial claim years ago. But, many hotels in Italy have yet to catch up.
Yeah, I am sure there are newer, boutique properties where plumbing is taken into consideration, as are things like comfortable beds, air flow, proper electric outlets, and room to walk around the room a bit. But, when we checked into our hotel in Modena, which was apparently booked solid during our stay, I thought how does this place still do so much business?
The toilet was placed so close to the shower that neither of us could sit facing forward, and instead needed to prop ourselves sidewise. The bidet does not have such a concern. Who designed this bathroom at this supposedly top notch Modena hotel?
Accessible Toilets in Italy
There has been some modernization of bathrooms and toilets in Italy to comply with accessibility standards. I am all for accessibility for the elderly and those in a wheelchair. In fact, I have always been stunned by how un-accessible much of Europe is with stairs, cobblestones, rickety streets, and narrow doorways.
It seems, though, that standards have been taken a bit too far as many of the toilets I used during our recent trip were set to some sort of high accessibility standards. This meant that my feet could not sit firmly on the ground, and I am pretty tall for a woman. Instead, I was perched on tippy toes as I tried to, well, take care of business.
Again, I love Italy and will return over and over again. I just can’t comprehend how a country like Italy can be so modern in so many ways, can turn out high tech Maseratis, and the best food and wine, but still has yet to master the toilet. Be prepared for toilets in Italy.
Planning a Trip to Emilia Romagna?
Looking for more travel tips on Emilia Romagna, and how to eat the best food in Italy? My book The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy, is available on Amazon now. If you are a NOOK reader, it is also available for download on Barnes and Noble.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.