Italian bathrooms: No love lost for the loo

From holes in the floor to toilets without lids, Italian bathrooms range from abysmal to just plain awful. Toilet paper is nay, unknown and you can just forget toilet lids.
By LESA DEASON CROWE, For The Oklahoman Modified: April 8, 2014 at 5:34 pm •  Published: April 9, 2014

Hello, Lesa Crowe here, your hostess with the mostess with your WTH Moment from The Oklahoman.

Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I started a video blog called, “WTH Moments with Lesa Crowe” when I got ticked off at The Oklahoman about their special circular for “seniors:” a word that makes me shudder and get tremendously resentful. I felt it missed the mark when it came to active human beings such as ourselves and as such, I pretty well went off on them about it. Well, lo and behold, the darned video went semi-viral and got a lot of notice, particularly from The Oklahoman. And believe it or not, they called me and asked for a meeting.

At that meeting, the lovely staff at The Oklahoman asked my opinion about what they could do to make their circular better and as I have no lack of opinions, I offered a lot of ideas. One of the first things I said was to pick a theme and stick with it. Health. Retirement. Finances. Dealing with your kids and their kids. Healthy eating and exercise. Somewhere down the line, I must have piped up with the word “travel.”

Travel was foremost on my mind because I’d just gotten back from a 30-day trip to Europe. My dear, darling knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal husband works in Iraq 90 days on and 30 off, so I get to fly over and travel with him on break. This last round, we stayed almost exclusively in Italy, or as I call it, “The Land of a Million Bad Bathrooms” which I shared with those nice people. To my complete and total surprise, they thought my story was funny, so they said, “Hey, write an article for us about the bathrooms.”

Serves me right for opening my mouth.

So with your kind patience, I will share with you the sum total of my knowledge about traveling overseas. It comes down to this. You only need to do three things while you’re over there. You have to sleep, eat and go to the bathroom. Everything else is optional.

Sleep is easy. Use airbnb.com and you won’t spend an arm and a leg on accommodations. And the places are nicer.

Eating? All I can say is get thee to google and pull up common food items from the region you are traveling in and learn how to read their names in their language. That way, you will not be sitting in the world famous Boboli Gardens in Florence, order what you think is tuna and get squid that blinks at you.

But I digress and back to the subject at hand — things you must know about bathrooms in Europe.

KNOW YOUR TERMINOLOGY

First, their bathrooms have funny names. Do not ask for directions to the bathroom, restroom, or God forbid, the potty. Waiters will not know what the heck you are talking about and stare at you funny.

In London, ask for the toilet, washroom or the ladies/gents. Everywhere else it’s the toilet, lavatory or the WC. WC stands for water closet, derived from the fact that when indoor plumbing was invented, many clothes closets in houses were converted to hold a toilet, hence, water closet.

COINAGE FOR THE CAN

Second, you have to pay to pee. Be grateful you do.

In a majority of European cities, bathrooms are everywhere. Train stations, restaurants, bars, parks, even city centers.

European bathrooms are often guarded by rather hefty matrons whose job is to keep them clean and clean they do. They are (rightfully) proud of their jobs and their spotless facilities and as such, will stare you down with a stone face and nasty attitude if you so much as darken their doorway without a euro.

But do not fear. A quick flick of a half euro in a conspicuously designated bowl will make even the most hostile bathroom attendant your immediate friend, and she will graciously and quickly help you find the perfect place for a moment’s repose.