The Toilets Of Italy
For a Jew or a Muslim to travel through Italy is to tempt the wrath of God or
Allah, because those Italians know what to do with the pig. If you think you
know prosciutto, or sausage, or salami -- you don't. To put it in perspective:
the meat selection in the display case at a GAS STATION we stopped at was better
than most supermarkets in America.
Italian toilets, however, are another story. I won't say that American toilets
are necessarily better -- I want to, but I won't, because I'm not sure if I'm not
biased by 25 years of a particular style. Suffice it to say, Italian toilets are
different -- and in my opinion, aren't nearly as conducive to pooping enjoyment as
the American style.
As far as I can tell, most residential Italian toilets are deep, steep bowls with
a few inches of water at the bottom of a dark recess. Compared to American
toilets, with large, shallow, gentle bowls, Italian toilets swallow up logs into
their dark recesses -- denying one the immense pleasure of admiring one's work.
But beware, for the Italian toilet is fraught with peril. If your ass is not
positioned directly above the water hole, your poop will hit the sides and roll
or slide their way down the slope. Since there's no water, there's nothing to
eliminate friction -- which means that any poop that doesn't hit the water will
leave a long, undulating smear.
That's why, omnipresent along side every toilet is a toilet brush -- a shit-stick
specially designed to scrape off the smears the admittedly impressive torrents of
flush water cannot blow off.
Americans, or at least me, are not used to having to clean smears after every
use. When we got to our first hotel, not familiar with the protocol, I left
smears all over our bathroom (a toilet shared by all six rooms on our floor). My
girlfriend, a seasoned European traveler, returned to our room after her
constitutional, and chastised me for leaving my shit all over the toilet.
Sheepishly, I returned to clean.
One good thing about Italian toilets is that flushing is fast, violent, and easy
to repeat. Italian toilet tanks are often mounted on the wall, much higher than
American tanks -- so water comes out in a rushing surge. This is useful for
removing a stubborn poop that has clung to the side of the slope, effusing its
rancid stench with no water to act as a smell barrier as it refuses to roll down
to its new home.
What's more, you can flush for as long or as short as you want. Rather than
simple levers, I encountered many flushes with on/off mechanisms -- the water will
keep going until you turn it off, facilitating hands-free removal of
less-persistent poop smears, as well as quick, simple courtesy flushes.
Every hotel bathroom we encountered had a bidet. Like any PoopReporter, I'm a
big fan of the bidet (in America, we call them buttsinks), so I was excited that
I could use them everywhere I went. The problem was that they were unlike any
bidet I had seen:
Most bidets I've seen spray up. These don't -- it seemed that all they could do
was fill the bowl. Were they footsinks or something -- not bidets at all? It
wasn't until we reached my girlfriend's Italian cousins' house when I saw a bidet
post-use -- drain pulled up, filled with water.
I guess they fill them, squat over, dip their hands and clean themselves.
Although I can see the sanitary benefits, Italian bidets don't offer the
incredible bliss of a hot jet of water shooting up your crack. I'll stick to
French style, thank you.
Leaving the hotels, I found that most restaurants offer sitters, although quite
often without seats, implying that the stoop n' poop is common practice in this
country. However, I found one restaurant with this aberration:
This baffled me. Jenny's cousins had taken us to their favorite place, a
restaurant on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so this wasn't a touristy place --
we got the impression that, like in America, touristy places can get away with
providing cheap facilities. So why would they have a toilet like this?
Especially, since a) clearly Italians are aware of the benefit of sitters, and b)
the women's room, right next door to the men's, had a perfectly normal toilet.
Most heavily-touristed cities in Italy have well-maintained public facilities.
In these, men and women share sinks, with separate alcoves for each sex to do
their work in private. In some, bored looking men or women collect .50 euros
($.50) for the privilege; in others, collection is automated. In Venice, one
public toilet we came across had five or six cans of air freshener stacked neatly
by the entrance to the stalls; stupidly, I did not get a picture.
Finally, I took these pictures -- pictures that may or may not reflect the state of toilets in Italy, but are interesting to PoopReporters nonetheless.
An 18th-century toilet in an 18th-century castle outside Trieste.
Typical accommodations at a typical tourist restaurant.
Pull left to flush -- and it'll keep flushing until you turn it back.
I came across quite a few sinks worked by foot pedals.
Many hotel bathrooms consisted of the toilet, the sink and the shower in one big, non-partitioned room. Everything got wet.
The bathroom on the train from Venice to Florence. Cramped! Stinky!
The bathroom of Jenny's Italian cousins, presumably the typical residential setup.
My left shoe, after a typical night of good wine and bad aim.