Like your mom said when you were little – always use the bathroom when you have a chance!
Here in Italy, that means using it when you’re leaving your hotel, the museum you just visited, or the restaurant you just dined in.
But, if you’re staying hydrated with water from Italy’s public drinking fountains, drinking Italian espresso after every meal, or sipping too many aperol spritzes at aperitivo… you may need to use public bathrooms in Italy.
This post will help you navigate the Italian public bathroom scene.
I’ll also walk you through some of the quirks of private bathrooms in Italy (both in Italian homes and in hotels).
Read more about Bidets in Italy!
Table of Contents
QUICK ADVICE FOR USING PUBLIC BATHROOMS IN ITALY
If you don’t feel like reading the entire post, here are some key things to know:
- You may need to pay to use a bathroom (but it will be cleaner than a free one!).
- Always have your own toilet paper for public bathrooms.
- Don’t be surprised if the toilet doesn’t have a seat.
- “Dov’é il bagno?” is how to ask someone where the bathroom is.
- Italian bathrooms are commonly labeled signore (ladies) and signori (gentlemen).
QUICK ADVICE FOR USING PRIVATE BATHROOMS IN ITALY
Likewise, the main things to know about private bathrooms in Italy are:
- That’s not a second toilet – it’s a bidet, a place to clean yourself ‘down there.’
- Bathtubs aren’t common.
- Showers are usually tiny.
- The little cord in the shower is to be pulled in an emergency (but help might not arrive).
USING PUBLIC BATHROOMS IN ITALY
WHERE TO FIND A BATHROOM IN PUBLIC IN ITALY
You can either use a pay bathroom (scattered throughout cities, at gas stations, and other public places) or ask to use the bathroom at a bar, restaurant, or café.
USING A PUBLIC PAY BATHROOM IN ITALY
If you use a public pay bathroom, you’ll pay a small fee (usually €0.50 to €1.00) by inserting Euro coins into a machine or paying an attendant. Occasionally, the bathroom will be ‘free,’ but you’re expected to ‘tip’ the attendant (€0.50 to €1.00 is fine).
USING THE BATHROOM AT AN ITALIAN BAR, RESTAURANT, OR CAFÉ
If you decide to use the bathroom at a bar, you’re expected to be a paying customer. You can buy something small, like a coffee, a bottle of water, or a pack of gum. You may need to enter a code printed on your receipt to open the bathroom door.
Good To Know: It’s a good idea to use the bathroom first. Why? The toilet may be guasto (broken), and you’ll need to look for another place. If it’s not, you can use the bathroom and wash your hands and then actually enjoy your coffee at the bar.
Good To Know: Most bars, cafes, etc will let small children use the bathroom without paying.
HOW TO ASK WHERE THE BATHROOM IS
It may not always be obvious where the bathroom is located.
In Italy, you can ask ‘where is…?’ by saying, ‘Dov’é…?’
Dov’è is pronounced doh-VAY.
Words for ‘the bathroom’ in Italy:
il bagno – the bathroom
la toilette – the toilet (bathroom)
il WC – the water closet (bathroom)
So, you could ask: “Dov’è il bagno?” – “Where is the bathroom?”
The response may include:
in fondo – in the back / at the end
a destra – to the right
a sinistra – to the left
Good To Know: You may hear an Italian mention ‘il water.’ That’s the actual toilet inside the bathroom.
LOOK FOR THE SIGNS ON THE DOOR
Gender-neutral bathrooms aren’t a thing here yet, except in very small places where there’s only room for one small bathroom.
If there are two sets of bathrooms available, you’ll probably get side-eye from Italians if you don’t use your gender’s bathroom.
The signs on the door may be the traditional male / female icons, or you’ll see ‘SIGNORE’ (LADIES) and ‘SIGNORI’ (GENTLEMEN).
Sometimes the locks on the outside of the door will display ‘occupato,’ which means ‘occupied.’
Good To Know: If you’re in the bathroom and someone is trying to get in, you can say ‘occupato!’ to say the bathroom is occupied.
PECULIARITIES OF PUBLIC TOILETS IN ITALY
When you open the door, you may see a toilet that looks different than what you expected:
A Toilet Without a Seat – It’s a great workout for your quads.
Why don’t public facilities (both pay toilets and bars/restaurants) have toilet seats? 2 reasons:
- Hygiene – It’s cleaner to avoid sharing a toilet seat with strangers.
- Replacement – They break often (people stand on them) and are difficult and expensive to replace. There are dozens of changing sizes and shapes of toilets to choose from (no joke) and it’s hard to get an exact match.
Good To Know: If you don’t want to work your quads by squatting over the seat, you can imitate some Italians and try the ‘frog’ (squatting with feet on the edges of the toilet) or the ‘mummy’ (covering the toilet edges with toilet paper and sitting on it).
A Hole in the Floor – Also known as a squat toilet or a bagno turco (Turkish toilet). You’re expected to squat to do your business.
There’s also often NO TOILET PAPER. If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this:
Never enter an Italian public restroom without your own spare toilet paper. I like to carry a little pack of tissues (Kleenex).
FLUSHING THE TOILET
There are many ways to flush a toilet in Italy! You may find:
- 2 large buttons on top of the toilet or on the wall behind the toilet – the left button is for #2, the right button is for #1
- A foot pedal on the floor next to the toilet
- A foot button on the floor next to the toilet
- A cord to pull on the wall or above the toilet
WASHING YOUR HANDS
Sometimes, there is no soap in the bathroom in Italy. Always carry your own sanitizing wipes, spray, or gel.
Good To Know: On your way into the bathroom, check to see if there’s a sink and handwashing station outside of the toilet area. Often there are sinks in each individual bathroom, but you’re supposed to use the main sink/soap/hand towels.
If you don’t see a knob or handle to turn on the water, look down. Again, for hygiene reasons, there’s often a foot pedal to push to turn the water on.
USING PRIVATE BATHROOMS IN ITALY
Whether you’re a guest using the bathroom at someone’s home in Italy, or a traveler staying in an Italian hotel, you may notice that the bathrooms here are a little different than what you’re used to:
- Italian bathrooms are small.
- Most Italian bathrooms have a bidet (nope, it’s not another toilet, or a drinking fountain, or a laundry-washing sink).
- Our toilet paper here isn’t soft and fluffy.
Good To Know: Hotel bathrooms in Italy usually come supplied with mini-sized toiletries and hair dryers.
BIDETS IN ITALY
What is the bidet for? It’s to clean yourself ‘down there.’
You can use it after going to the bathroom or if you just need to freshen up.
There are special soaps you can buy (detergente intimo) and you’ll find a small towel hanging nearby to dry yourself when you’re finished.
SHOWERS IN ITALY
Showers in Italy are usually tiny! It’s not uncommon to shower in a space that’s too small to extend your elbows. If you’re tall, you may need to duck a little bit.
Sometimes instead of a shower stall, the shower is in a free-standing bathtub, which may or may not have a curtain or barrier. In this situation, the ‘shower’ is usually hand-held, and if there’s no barrier, be careful you don’t spray water all over the bathroom.
If you see a cord in the shower, don’t pull it. It’s there for emergencies (like if you slip and fall). However, it’s not always connected to
Good To Know: In private homes (and some B&Bs), you may need to flip a switch to turn the hot water on before you take your shower. Your host will let you know if you do, and show you where to turn it on.
BATHTUBS IN ITALY
Bathtubs aren’t common in Italy, in homes or hotels. Why? There’s not a lot of space, and they’re not really part of the culture here.
I remember always taking baths as a little kid in the US, but small children here learn to take showers at an early age. My kids get so excited to take baths when we go to the US!
Good To Know: Many hotels do have a few rooms with bathtubs. If you’d like to have one during your stay, make sure you ask when you reserve (and don’t wait until your arrival to ask)!
BATHROOMS IN ITALY WITH KIDS
Most establishments will let your small children use the toilet, or let you change your baby in a private space.
Changing tables are rare. Sometimes it’s easier to use a portable changing mat and change your child’s diaper outside than trying to navigate a small, dirty bathroom.
Luxury hotels usually don’t mind if you discreetly use the bathroom with your small child or baby.
If you’re visiting Italy while potty training, you can travel with a portable potty, and don’t stress if you need to use nature’s bathroom in an emergency.
ITALIAN BATHROOM VOCABULARY
|WC||water closet (bathroom)|
|guasto||broken / out of order|
|detergente intimo||intimate wash|
|carta igienica||toilet paper|
Bathrooms in Italy FAQ
Why do Italian bathrooms have two toilets?
That’s not a second toilet – it’s a bidet, a handy device that helps you clean or freshen up your private parts.
Why are all the toilet seats missing in Italian public bathrooms?
Seat-free toilets are seen as more hygienic because strangers aren’t sharing the same toilet seat. Toilet seats are also often broken by patrons and are expensive and difficult to replace.
How do you ask, “where are the bathrooms?” in Italian?
Dove sono i bagni?
What do Italians call bathrooms?
You’ll hear Italians call the bathroom the WC, toilette, or bagno.
What are the bathrooms like in Italy?
Public bathrooms in Italy usually have seatless toilets and you usually have to pay a small fee for the service. While using a free bathroom may sound tempting, know that they’re usually dirty – it’s worth the small fee to be able to use a clean bathroom!
Are there roadside rest stops in Italy?
If you’re driving on the Autostrada (a toll road), you can stop at roadside rest stops that have gas stations, restaurants, toilets, and more. A common brand of rest stop here is Autogrill.
Do public bathrooms in Italy have toilet paper? ›
Usually, public toilets in Italy have toilet paper and soap holders but they tend to be empty as not replenished nearly as often as needed.Why do toilets in Italy have no seats? ›
Apparently, the toilet seats are there originally but, then, they break. The seats break because people stand on them. People stand on them because they are not kept clean enough to sit on. Eventually, after being broken repeatedly, they are no longer replaced for one of two reasons.Is a bidet required by law in Italy? ›
While today the bidet has somewhat fallen out of use in France, it has been adopted as fundamental part of life in Italy. In fact the bidet is now so ingrained into Italian culture that it's a legal obligation to put a bidet in every bathroom that is built on domestic or hotel property.Do I need to bring toilet paper to Italy? ›
A few pieces of tissue… that can double as toilet paper: You don't really need to bring this from home, of course — Italy does have toilet paper! — but it's a smart thing for ladies, particularly, to throw in their purses before leaving the hotel in the morning.Do you dry off after using a bidet? ›
Pat dry with toilet paper
Since you're already clean from your bidet, you won't need much toilet paper to do so–just enough to remove any excess water. Use a gentle pat-dry motion instead of a wipe to avoid any irritation. That's all there is to it.
- All forms of asbestos fibers.
- All products containing the biocide dimethylfumarate (DMF)
- Animal skins.
- Atlantic red tuna fish (Thunnus Thynnus) originating from Belize, Panama, and Honduras.
- Biological Substance Cat B, UN3373.
- Books: hardback/paperback non-comm.
Europeans tend to dress much less casually than we do in the States. Let's just say that wearing shorts is a good way to advertise that you're a tourist. Steve suggests dressing “for the occasion” and making sure you present yourself neatly.
It's important to stay hydrated (and caffeinated) when you're traveling. Rather than spending your hard-earned Euros on bottled water, bring your own and refill it. Whether you go to Rome, Venice or Florence (or all three in this 9-day 7 Wonders of Italy trip) you'll find ample opportunity to keep your bottle full.Why can't you go out with wet hair in Italy? ›
In Italy, if you go out without drying your hair, you'll risk getting a “colpo d'aria” – or, literally, a “blast of air”. This is said to cause anything from a sore neck to indigestion.What is bidet etiquette? ›
When you first use a bidet, clean off with toilet paper first before attempting the bidet spray. You don't need to use soap to use a bidet. Some people do use the bidet like a mini-shower after a bowel movement, sexual intercourse, or for freshening up, but it isn't a requirement.
How do you use a bidet after pooping? ›
Straddle the bidet, sitting on the rim and align the anus with the column of spray water. Note that most bidets don't have seats, but are still meant to be sat upon; you just sit directly on the rim. Gradually open the spray valve until adequate pressure is achieved to flush the remaining feces from the anus.Should I bring jeans to Italy? ›
Jeans are a good choice or skirts in light fabrics. Match your bottoms with a quality tee or pretty blouse, and don't forget a sweater and light jacket for layering on cold days and evenings. Bring a waterproof outerwear item, such as a light trench coat, for unexpected rainstorms.Do I need to carry cash in Italy? ›
First, understand that Italy is a very cash-oriented society, so make sure you never end up with zero cash in your wallet. To buy small things, like coffee, you'll need cash. You'll also need cash at all outdoor markets, for most taxis, and at many restaurants.What is the string in Italian showers? ›
When you are traveling in Italy you will see strings hanging down the wall over tubs and shower stalls. This is actually an alarm system required by building code, especially for hotels and other places renting out rooms or apartments to travelers.Is there a downside to using a bidet? ›
Up to 43% of female bidet-users had altered vaginal microflora, with an increased risk of bacterial vaginitis. It was found that users with genital or anal discomfort prefer to use a bidet and there is a correlation with subjects having urological infections, vulvar pruritus and also hemorrhoids.Why do Americans not use bidets? ›
Bidets haven't ever been widely embraced in American culture. A common origin story for this reluctance is that bidets were seen as lascivious because they were used in brothels as a form of emergency contraception.Is a bidet better than wiping? ›
When it comes to benefits, bidets are a no-brainer. They're cleaner, gentler, and more eco-friendly than toilet paper. And wiping less means you'll be saving money on your shopping bill, as well.Can you wear flip flops in Italy? ›
Don't Bring Flip-Flops.
And yes, this is a real thing, Italian's just don't wear flip-flops. While in Italy it is important to steer away from these types of shoes, especially if you will be in a big city like, Florence or Milan visiting churches or museums all day.
How to Use a Bidet in Italy. Essentially, you need to get the water to the temperature you prefer, and then drop your trousers. The best way to use a bidet is to straddle it, so you may even want to take at least one leg out of your pants so you don't get stuck in a very awkward balancing act.Why does Italy have squat toilets? ›
France and Italy are an exception and have some squat toilets remaining in old buildings and public toilets because they used to be the norm there in the early 20th century. In BMW Welt in Munich, the public restrooms have some stalls with squat toilets.
What are some strange laws in Italy? ›
It is illegal to build sandcastles or sand structures on the beach in Eraclea. It is illegal to feed the pigeons in the city center in Lucca. In Milan, there's an old law that requires people to constantly smile while in public places (though exceptions are made for hospital workers and those attending funerals).Do I need to carry my passport at all times in Italy? ›
By law you must be able to show some form of identification at all times. In most cases a photocopy of the data page of your passport should suffice, but in this case you may also be asked for a second form of photo ID. The police will normally ask for your full passport if you are stopped while driving.What purse to carry in Italy? ›
Sometimes I come home with a few. But I always use a specific kind of purse when I'm traveling (in Italy and elsewhere) – a cross-body purse. Wearing a purse across your chest can be a key part of travel safety. A cross-body bag makes it harder for a would-be thief to grab it and run.
It is improper to put one's hands on one's lap, or to stretch one's arms while at the table. Resting one's elbows on the table is also considered to be poor manners. Do not leave the table until everyone has finished eating. Drinking beverages other than water or wine with a meal is quite uncommon.Can you wear sneakers in Italy? ›
What is this? In Italy, we do not wear sneakers in the office but we do wear them if we travel, if we are sightseeing and in any informal situation. Do not go for a less comfortable shoe out of this misconception, sneakers are perfect for Italy (see below for tips on stylish ones).What are the donts in Italy? ›
- Don't ask to share your pizza.
- Don't ever cut up spaghetti.
- Don't order Fettuccine Alfredo.
- Don't put cheese on pasta with seafood.
- Don't order a cappuccino after 11:00 a.m.
- Don't expect a hearty breakfast.
- Don't expect to dine early.
- Don't overtip.
In whatever restaurant you have to pay for water in Italy. Whether you order a bottle of water in restaurants or half a bottle in a café, you have to pay for it.What kind of suitcase should I take to Italy? ›
Make sure to choose a lightweight design and don't pack very heavy items as you may need to lift and carry it. Wheeling a suitcase this size across the bridges of Venice could be a bit tricky, and I recommend taking a water taxi to your accommodation or staying close to the train station in this situation.What to wear on a plane to Italy? ›
Layers are key: As with any flights, layers are particularly important on long flights. It's impossible to tell if the AC will be stalled while you sit on the runway, so start with a simple cotton shirt, and be sure to bring a more stylish cardigan or sweater to layer on top.Do they wear deodorant in Italy? ›
Deodorant is not common in Italy and is very difficult to find, so pack your own ahead of time. Some people suggest bringing a silk scarf along to cover your arms for a church but you will only look silly. Remember above all churches are places of worship; if they have art there that's only secondary.
How do you shower in Italy? ›
The Italian concept of a shower is to stick a nozzle into the wall and a drain in the floor. Curtains are optional. In many cramped private baths, you may have to rescue the toilet paper and find it safe harbor outside the bathroom before turning on the shower and drenching the whole room.Can you have ice in Italy? ›
No Ice in drinks:
Ice in drinks is actually an american concept, and ice was invented in the USA. So while ice is part of our DNA it is counterintuitive to Italians in that it is too cold, very cold! Ice tea in italy is served very cold with no ice. Occasionally with a little ice lemon granita.
Position Yourself at the Bidet
Position yourself to use the bidet by straddling the bowl. It's acceptable to sit on the rim of the bowl, but many users will squat or “hover” over the bidet.
The bidet is used after using the toilet. If you are using a bidet toilet or bidet toilet seat attachment, you can stay seated. If there's a freestanding bidet next to you (standalone bidet separate from the toilet), get up and straddle the bidet so that you are facing the water controls.Do you use a bidet after pooping? ›
When do you use a bidet? Use a bidet after you poop, but before you wipe. Sure, you can wipe first, but most people who use a bidet find it easier and cleaner to just use the bidet. This is because the water pressure will adequately clean your bottom without the need for toilet paper.What jeans are popular in Italy? ›
- Jeans with cuffs. Cuffed jeans are back straight from the 2000s. ...
- Patchwork Jeans. ...
- White jeans. ...
- Skinny jeans. ...
- Straight jeans. ...
- Wide jeans. ...
- Two-toned jeans.
However, sandals are acceptable beach attire for all of the gorgeous beaches in Italy, and they're far more comfortable on the sand. Men should keep the sandals for the beach generally. However, a stylish pair of sandals are great for women when they visit a seaside town.Will my cell phone work in Italy? ›
Almost all phones should work in Italy. Just check to see if your mobile phone supports GSM 900 and GSM 1800 frequencies. If travelling from outside the EU, it is worth making sure you have an international call package with your mobile phone provider before visiting Italy.Is it better to use cash or credit cards in Italy? ›
USE YOUR CREDIT CARD
Also, stores are more willing to give you a small discount on price if you pay cash! MasterCard and VISA are the most commonly accepted cards. You will get a better exchange rate by using your credit card, as opposed to exchanging US dollars in Italy.
By buying a lot of euros in advance, you will get ripped off exponentially. By carrying a lot of cash when in Italy, you will make yourself incredibly vulnerable to theft, either from your person, or from your accommodation. Almost every store and restaurant in Italy accepts credit or debit cards.
What is a ribcage shower? ›
Turns out the rib cage (or needle) shower was a luxurious bath fixture made of chrome in the early 20th century that featured such technological advances as lower shower sprays and a temperature gauge.What is Italian slang for toilet? ›
If you spend some time in Italy, you'll come across another slang word for toilet: cesso.What is a shower slider? ›
Today I want to talk to you about sliders in a shower, the ones that we typically use everyday that hold the shower wand for you to move up and down to adjust to the right height of the bather. This is a typical slide bar. This slide bar is mounted vertically.Do bathrooms in Rome have toilet paper? ›
You will often find that bathrooms in Rome don't have any toilet paper. In general, when sight-seeing in Rome, I'd suggest always carrying pocket kleenex packets, some cleansing wipes, and hand-sanitizer. All of these items are easy to buy here, at a pharmacy or grocery store.Do European bathrooms have toilet paper? ›
While Europeans do use toilet paper, WCs may not always be well stocked. If you're averse to the occasional drip-dry, carry pocket-size tissue packs (easy to buy in Europe) for WCs sans TP.What countries can you not flush toilet paper? ›
While Americans in particular are used to flushing their used toilet paper down the pipe, they must break that habit if they are traveling to Turkey, Greece, Beijing, Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Bulgaria, Egypt and the Ukraine in particular. Restrooms will have special waste bins to place used toilet paper.Do you flush toilet paper in Rome? ›
Can you flush toilet paper in Rome? Yes you can - there are European countries where this is still a no-go, but in Rome you can flush a small amount of toilet paper. Remember - never flush wet wipes!What's considered rude in Italy? ›
It is improper to put one's hands on one's lap, or to stretch one's arms while at the table. Resting one's elbows on the table is also considered to be poor manners. Do not leave the table until everyone has finished eating. Drinking beverages other than water or wine with a meal is quite uncommon.How does a bidet work for a woman? ›
A handheld bidet, also called a bidet shower or bidet sprayer, is a nozzle that stays attached to the toilet. This type of bidet is manually placed near your private area to clean your genitals and anus after using the toilet, sexual intercourse, or for freshening up.Why do Europeans use toilet paper and not water? ›
One of the reasons some countries have always favoured toilet paper, it appears, is the climate. Most countries in Northern Europe are cold for a good part of the year, and although we live in the 21st century and water heating is available today, it's just a habit that's been passed down the ages.
Why is European toilet paper pink? ›
It is said that pink was the regional preference at the time; how they came to this conclusion, is a mystery! It is thought that this colour was selected to compliment the bathroom décor – pink bathroom anyone? Of course, white toilet paper is available in France (it's also cheaper), it's just much less common.Why do Mexicans not put toilet paper in the toilet? ›
In Mexico, if there is a septic tank, it is probably far smaller than those in the United States—especially if it is in rural areas. Therefore, flushing toilet paper in Mexico would require the septic tank to be cleaned more frequently.Do you have to pay to use public restrooms in Italy? ›
Public bathrooms in Italy usually have seatless toilets and you usually have to pay a small fee for the service. While using a free bathroom may sound tempting, know that they're usually dirty – it's worth the small fee to be able to use a clean bathroom!Do you flush toilet paper in USA? ›
These Items belong in the trash can. The only thing you should ever flush down a toilet is human waste (urine and feces) and toilet paper. Here's what you shouldn't flush: Bags / wrappings and cardboard.